Laying out an economic policy at the start of his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Tim Pawlenty called
for a 5% annual economic growth rate, more than twice the pace since the official end of the 2008-09 recession. The kindest reaction
came from the Wall Street Journal
editorial page, which allowed that the goal is "worthy as an aspiration," while noting that the fastest growth in recent memory came during the booms of the mid-1980s and late 1990s. In both cases, American economic growth was a bit less than 5%, and those booms lasted four and three years, respectively, while Pawlenty wants the American economy to grow 5% per year for a decade
Less kind reactions came from other directions. On the right, Megan McArdle called
Pawlenty's ideas "crazy." From the center, Clive Crook said
Pawlenty's ideas were "heights of nonsense." And on the left, Ruth Marcus contended
that Pawlenty's proposal "runs the gamut from delusional to reckless."
I'll note for the record that even though there's no record of sustaining a 5% growth rate for anything close to ten years, there is a political precedent in calling
for one. The 1960 Democratic platform stated
, "We Democrats believe that our economy can and
must grow at an average rate of 5% annually, almost twice as fast as our
average annual rate since 1953. We pledge ourselves to policies that
will achieve this goal without inflation." The precedent is not completely reassuring, however. As McArdle reminds us, John Kennedy took the growth goal more seriously than the sound money one,
attempting to "actually act on his promise by inflating the hell out of the dollar."