Will Pawlenty Be Pressed On Economic Plan?

Written by David Frum on Thursday June 16, 2011

Questions are being asked about the realism of Pawlenty's economic plan: massive tax cuts he has said can produce five percent growth.

The day after the New Hampshire Republican debate, Tim Pawlenty made the rounds of the morning talk shows to answer questions about his debate performance.

Much of the questioning focused on Pawlenty's decision to back off his criticisms of Mitt Romney's Massachusetts healthcare plan.

Less attention has been paid to a question that probed even deeper into the heart of the Pawlenty presidential campaign: doubts about the realism of Pawlenty's economic plan: massive tax cuts to produce five percent growth.

Here was Pawlenty's answer to that question on Fox & Friends:

Pawlenty: I say it’s not only achievable but it’s needed. It’s backed up by Larry Kudlow, John Taylor, the economist at Stanford, and Steve Forbes and others. We have to get this country moving again. We have a country stuck in neutral or reverse and we have to put it in drive or overdrive. President Obama is someone who accepts an anemic level of growth. He doesn’t even have a plan. You can’t find him on what he’s going to do about government spending reform and he doesn’t have a plan to get the economy moving. The plan that he did try failed, and now we have to try something different. What I’m proposing is to grow the economy by shrinking government.

Pawlenty offered a fuller statement on CNN.

And respected economists like John Taylor at Stanford, by the way, Steve Forbes wrote yesterday that my plan actually would work and five percent growth is achievable but it starts with this premise — what we’re doing now isn’t working. President Obama’s got the country on the wrong track. Millions of Americans are hurting and are underemployed or unemployed. And we need to try something positive and optimistic about job growth in this country. My plan lays it out. I’m the only one in the race with a plan, and I presented that last night. But it includes massive tax cuts to try to stimulate the economy, it includes reducing spending, but also regulatory reform, permitting reform energy reform, health care reform, and if you do those things and shrink government we will grow the private economy and grow jobs in this country. Reporter: The question was asked but I will ask you again, I know there were six other people on the stage with you last night, why didn’t that work in the Bush era then? With the massive, massive tax cuts that obviously didn’t lead to job growth or we wouldn’t’ be at 9.1% unemployment right now. Pawlenty: If you look back at the history of tax cuts under John Kennedy, under Reagan, under President Bush, the second, you just isolate on the effects of those tax cuts, they do grow government revenues and they do stimulate the economy. But you’ve got to also look at what else happened during those eras. We’re not proposing to also raise government spending. We want to reduce government spending and reform government in a more pro jobs, pro growth direction. And if you do that you’ll have a better result. And the folks who have looked at my plan, like I said John Taylor, Steve Forbes, these are credible, seasoned people, said not only is it going to work, but it’s necessary to get the country out of the doldrums that President Obama has us in.

Pawlenty here relies heavily on the argument from authority: Kudlow, Forbes and Taylor. Of these three, it is John Taylor who has had the most sway. But notice : Taylor did not in fact say that five percent growth for 10 years was achievable. He said on his blog that five percent for 10 years was a worthy target to aspire to -- rather different.

I think the goal makes a great deal of sense. It would focus policymakers like a laser beam on the great benefits that come from higher growth and on the pro-growth policies needed to achieve it. As with any goal, if you take it seriously, you’ll choose policies that work toward that goal and reject those that don’t.

And who would disagree with that?