A joint white paper from the Hoover Institution and the American Enterprise Institute economists John Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, John B. Taylor, and Kevin Warsh contends that tax reform, regulatory reform, spending restraint, and "budget reform and monetary reform" can "raise the economic growth rate to 3 percent."
They may or may not be right, but what strikes me is the modesty of the goal. They are aiming low. For comparison's sake, President Kennedy aimed, ambitiously, for 5% growth and achieved it, and the George W. Bush Institute organized a conference in 2011 on the topic of how to get America's GDP growing at a 4% annual real rate.
As recently as June 2015, Messrs. Hubbard and Warsh were opining in the Wall Street Journal under the headline "How the U.S. Can Return To 4% Growth."
Now we are down to a measly 3%? As a goal? And if Washington manages to accomplish everything, when it doesn't seem to be able to do anything?
Hoover and AEI are fine institutions, and Hubbard and Taylor are fine economists (I don't have anything against the other two, I'm just not so familiar with them). But I wish they'd be a little more ambitious with their goals. Reagan got annual real GDP growth of 4.5% for 1983 and 7.2% for 1984. Three percent growth as a goal is less of a "Make America Great Again" agenda and more like "Make America Slightly Better Than Mediocre Again."
Part of this is the legacy of President Obama, who managed to define downward people's expectations of what is possible, growth-wise. And part of it is the politics of the Trump movement, which seems thus far to have somehow ruled out one of the best ways to increase national GDP growth — a big increase in legal immigration — in favor of a focus instead on increasing per capita GDP, out of a misguided fear that increased immigration might depress the already depressed wages of low-skilled workers.