Tuesday, June 14, 2011


He's being hailed as one of the "serious" GOP candidates this coming election season (in contrast to the crazies like Bachmann, the celebrity candidates like Sarah Palin, or the novelty candidates like Herman Cain), but one look at his economic proposals should belie any claim to seriousness. Pawlenty's economic "plan" consists of little more than continued gutting of regulations and a lowering of effective tax rates, then crossing your fingers and hoping for a miracle in the form of 10 years of steady economic growth at a rate that hasn't been seen in country since we were massviely ramping up our military industrial production to fight Tojo and the Nazis:

Let’s start with a big, positive goal. Let’s grow the economy by 5%, instead of the anemic 2% currently envisioned. Such a national economic growth target will set our sights on a positive future. And inspire the actions needed to reach it. By the way, 5% growth is not some pie-in-the-sky number. We’ve done it before. And with the right policies, we can do it again.

Between 1983 and 1987, the Reagan recovery grew at 4.9%. Between 1996 and 1999, under President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress the economy grew at more than 4.7%. In each case millions of new jobs were created, incomes rose and unemployment fell to historic lows. The same can happen again.
Growing at 5% a year, rather than the current level of 1.8%, would net us millions of new jobs. Trillions of dollars in new wealth. Put us on a path to saving our entitlement programs. And balance the federal budget.

How do we do it? In short, we create more economic growth. By creating more economic freedom. We should start by overhauling the tax code. Its currently an anti-growth, nine thousand page monstrosity. That’s chock full of special deals for special interests. It’s main goal, seems to be to generate campaign contributions. Not jobs.

I think my favorite part of Pawlenty's ridiculous proposal is the notion that if you just tell people to grow the economy at 5%, by gosh they'll do it! Thus the Paulenty Plan is one part Supply Side Vooodo, and one part Maoist Great Leap Forward. It's also amusing that, as evidence that 5% growth over 10 years is possible, he references two substantially shorter periods of less than 5% economic growth. Paul Krugman, for one, points out that we haven't seen this level of economic growth since the Second World War (a period diuring which corporate tax rates ran as high as 95%, BTW), and former White House deputy Press secretary Bill Burton delivered the most fitting reaction to Pawlenty's plan when he mocked it thus:
“Do you think Goolsbee and Sperling are sitting around the White House like, ‘Oh, why hadn’t we thought of that?’” Burton said of Obama’s economic advisers. “I mean, it’s not just pie in the sky. It’s a whole floating bakery.”
But almost as sad as Pawlenty's economic plan is his response to his critics:
Obama's economic team doesn't have a plan, so their spokespeople attack ours. The idea that they don't believe in the American people enough to say that we can grow the economy at 5% GDP really says everything.

This statement reminds me of nothing so much as the courtroom scene in Animal House, where the Delta House defense attorney, in a singular act of disingenuous sophistry, interprets the school's proposed sactions against his fraternity as an attack on the United States of America:
Otter: Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests - we did.
[winks at Dean Wormer]
Otter: But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen! [Leads the Deltas out of the hearing, all humming the Star-Spangled Banner]

So with a disingenous rhetorical twist, criticism of Pawlenty's absurd economic plan becomes a lack of faith in the American people. It's enough to make one wonder why Pawlenety settled for just 5% economic growth? Does he himself not have enough faith in the American people to expect 10% annual growth? And if 10% is possible then why not 20%? Oh, ye of little faith!

This sort of thing makes for a funny movie, all right, but it's just pathetic (and potentially dangerous) demagoguery coming from a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America.

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