Senator Marco Rubio’s speech to the just-concluded Conservative Political Action Conference pointed to what should be the American Right’s chief message on domestic affairs: Vibrant growth immediately must be restored to this country’s tepid economy.
“We have a $16.5 trillion national debt, and it’s only scheduled to get bigger,” the Florida Republican told CPAC last Thursday. “That problem has to be solved, and you can only solve it — the only real approach that solves it — is the combination of fiscal discipline and rapid economic growth. There is no tax increase in the world that will solve our long-term debt problem.”
While reviving robust economic growth is at least in the backs of the minds of nearly every free-market conservative, it should stay up front and constantly roll off the tips of their tongues. Moving the growth rate from negative to decidedly positive and energetic territory will make it far easier to address unemployment, the national debt, and the lingering misery that currently bedevil America.
Preliminary estimates indicated that economic growth actually shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, though we later found out it grew slightly. After the Great Recession of December 2007 through June 2009, Obama’s combination of breakneck government spending, jaw-dropping borrowing, asphyxiating new regulations through Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and the EPA, and a strident hostility to business and the successful all have militated to keep economic growth weak, at best.
Since World War II, economic growth has averaged 3.3 percent annually. However, in the last four years, growth has crawled forward at just 0.8 percent annually. That is a rate of expansion roughly 75 percent slower than what Americans have experienced since U.S. G.I.s defeated Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo. Empty store fronts, languishing innovation, and a 7.7 percent unemployment rate are all symptoms of this stunted-growth syndrome.
What would happen if America were cured of this disease?
Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recently explained to the Manhattan Institute how America would look if economic health returned. (Full disclosure: I have participated in several events sponsored by the Chamber.)
“If the economy grew at a 4 percent rate,” Donohue told his audience at Manhattan’s Harvard Club on February 22, “we could create 10 million additional jobs during the next decade. We could return the economy to full employment through growth alone, with no rise in government spending.”
Donohue added: “With 4 percent growth, the government would collect more than $3 trillion in additional revenue over the coming decade and we’d see a 30 percent reduction in the ten-year budget deficit. Exports would boom, household income would increase, 3 million people would rise out of poverty, and charitable giving would skyrocket by about $200 billion.”
Republicans and conservatives should repeat to Democrats and liberals Tom Donohue’s simple words that encapsulate this matter’s importance:
“Growth won’t solve all of our problems, but we can’t solve any them without it.”