Josh Barro | Neither the Private nor the Public Sector is Doing Fine

The public sector continues to shrink; in the second quarter, government GDP declined at a rate of 1.4 percent. But even when you look at private sector figures alone, they are unimpressive: Real private sector growth was 2.4 percent in the second quarter and 3.2 percent in the first quarter.

Those would be OK — not stellar — rates in normal times. But the economy is supposed to grow extra fast during an economic recovery as formerly idle workers return to the workforce. In 1983, the last time we were growing out of a very severe recession, real private GDP grew 8.8 percent.

This is why Barack Obama’s “doing fine” comment about the private sector struck such a sour note. It’s true that the private sector is growing faster than the public sector, and that layoffs in state and local government are dampening the economy. But avoiding public sector cutbacks would not get us anywhere near where we need to be on private sector growth.

The problem hasn’t changed since I wrote about it in the fall. President Obama doesn’t have a plan for economic growth other than fiscal stimulus, and he can’t get any more of that from Congress. The president won’t engage on monetary policy or housing policy, and he has turned up the volume on his hare-brained industrial policy ideas that would only make the economy worse.

 

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