Refreshing Pawlenty’s memory

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty unveiled economic plan yesterday, about which nothing good can be said. It’s genuinely laughable and the sort of agenda that should, if substance mattered in politics, force Pawlenty from polite company for a long while.

But before it’s forgotten, there’s one last element I wanted to focus on.

As Pawlenty sees it, the domestic goal should be economic growth at 5%. As for the former Minnesota governor argued yesterday, “It’s been done before: Between 1983 and 1987, the Reagan recovery grew at 4.9 percent annually. Between 1996 and 1999, under President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress, the economy grew at around 4.7 percent annually.”

Now, there’s quite a bit wrong with this. For example, Pawlenty is saying we’ve achieved 5% GDP growth before, and then points to two examples of the U.S. falling short of 5% GDP growth. It doesn’t speak well of Pawlenty’s reading comprehension skills. For that matter, I don’t doubt President Obama would love 5% growth, but reaching such a goal so soon after the most brutal recession in generations is impossible without a massive stimulus package.

But the most notable angle to keep in mind has to do with taxes. As Pawlenty sees it, $7.8 trillion in tax cuts ought to work wonders. But look again at what he considers the best recent examples of growth: the mid-80s and mid-to-late-90s.

Matt Yglesias posted this chart that helps highlight what Pawlenty is talking about:

What Pawlenty doesn’t seem to realize his ideal periods of growth followed tax increases. Indeed, this is terribly inconvenient for Republicans, but (a) the weakest period of growth in recent decades came after the Bush tax cuts, and (b) Reagan and Clinton oversaw higher tax rates than Obama’s.

So why is it, exactly, that Pawlenty believes more massive tax breaks would magically produce extraordinary growth? Perhaps because he has no idea what he’s talking about?

Ed Kilgore added, “It says a lot about today’s GOP that the purveyor of this economic nonsense is usually regarded as a safe, semi-moderate, and above all tediously conventional pol.”

It does, indeed.