Paul Krugman lit into Jeb Bush in Friday's column for the New York Times, calling the Republican presidential contender "a high priest of voodoo economics" whose plan to revitalize the American economy resembles Governor Sam Brownback's disastrous "experiment" in Kansas.
Bush has promised that, if elected, "he would double America's rate of economic growth to 4 percent," which would be an impressive feat given that not even economists "know very much about how to raise the long-run rate of economic growth."
But unlike economists, Bush believes he has the answer -- and he's basing it on the misguided belief that "the growth in Florida’s economy during his time as governor offers a role model for the nation as a whole." Krugman finds that "kind of funny...because everyone except Bush knows that during those years, Florida was booming thanks to the mother of all housing bubbles."
When the bubble burst, the state plunged into a deep slump, much worse than that in the nation as a whole. Taking the boom and the slump together, Florida’s longer-term economic performance has, if anything, been slightly worse than the national average.
The key to Mr. Bush’s record of success, then, was good political timing: He managed to leave office before the unsustainable nature of the boom he now invokes became obvious.
But Mr. Bush’s economic promises reflect more than self-aggrandizement. They also reflect his party’s habit of boasting about its ability to deliver rapid economic growth, even though there’s no evidence at all to justify such boasts. It’s as if a bunch of relatively short men made a regular practice of swaggering around, telling everyone they see that they’re 6 feet 2 inches tall.
To be more specific, the next time you encounter some conservative going on about growth, you might want to bring up the following list of names and numbers: Bill Clinton, 3.7; Ronald Reagan, 3.4; Barack Obama, 2.1; George H.W. Bush, 2.0; George W. Bush, 1.6. Yes, that’s the last five presidents — and the average rate of growth of the U.S. economy during their time in office (so far, in Mr. Obama’s case). Obviously, the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, but surely there’s nothing in that list to suggest that conservatives possess some kind of miracle cure for economic sluggishness. And, as many have pointed out, if Jeb! knows the secret to 4 percent growth, why didn’t he tell his father and brother?