Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty struggled to come up with an answer Sunday after a Fox News host pointed out that the five percent growth required by his economic plan has only historically come after tax increases.
In a speech at the University of Chicago Tuesday, Pawlenty revealed an economic plan that gives big tax cuts to wealthy Americans and corporations while requiring growth that is historically unlikely.
"You say you can pay for the tax cuts because the economy is going to grow by five percent over the next decade," Fox News' Chris Wallace noted. "Governor, question: Since the United States began measuring GDP -- basically the growth of the economy -- in 1929, when have we ever had 10 consecutive years of five percent growth as you project in your plan?"
"Well, this is an aspiration," Pawlenty explained. "It's a big goal and it's a stretch goal... I don't buy into the declinist view and attitude of President Obama that we are going to settle for anemic growth or average growth or America is going to be a laggard. We are going to lead the world economically and all other respects."
He continued: "We have achieved five percent growth twice in recent history of this country. Once under Reagan, once under Clinton. Now, was it sustained for 10 years in those circumstances? No."
"Is it declinist to doubt the five percent number or is it just realist to doubt the five percent number?" Wallace asked. "You talk about the fact that for a few years in the 80s and a few years in the 90s that we did have average 5 percent growth -- or close to it, it was 4 point something. But the fact is, the difference is, in both of those occasions that was coming directly out of a recession, not after a year, a year into a weak recovery. And actually, in both of those cases, it came after a tax increase, not a tax cut."
"But Chris, as I said, this is an aspirational goal... of course the conservatives like the plan, President Obama and the liberals don't. That's predictable," Pawlenty said.
"That's not quite fair," Wallace interrupted. "There are a lot of conservative who doubt the number. And if you don't get your five percent growth -- which you now say is just aspirational -- then it means an even bigger deficit."
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler noted that while both Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had years of near five percent growth, their average over eight years was only about 3.5 percent.
"The last president to achieve consistent growth above 5 percent was John F. Kennedy a half-century ago, when the baby-boom generation was on the verge of entering the workforce," Kessler wrote. "Now, that generation is heading into retirement, leaving fewer workers to carry the burden."
"This plan isn't optimistic," The Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote Tuesday. "It isn't a bit vague. It's a joke."
"I don’t know which is worse: The thought that Pawlenty knows that and went forward with this pandering, fantasy-based proposal anyway, or the thought that he doesn’t know it, and he really thinks this could work."