The third quarter’s 3.5 percent growth rate drew cheers from a White House eager for data validating its economic policies. Certainly, growth is better than recession. But a number of analysts quickly pointed out the third-quarter figure was heavily inflated by one-time government spending — cash-for-clunkers, new home buyer tax credit — that overstated the truth health of the economy. One analyst told Reuters’ James Pethokoukis real economic growth probably was closer to 2 percent, which is poor compared with the way economies coming out of recession have performed historically.
The real test will be how much the economy grows without special government spending. While the $787 billion stimulus nudged the economy away from a possible depression, Pethokoukis writes, it wasn’t structured (two-thirds spending, one-third tax cuts) to launch a robust recovery. As a result, a number of experts think high unemployment will persist and be a drag on more rapid growth — allowing those who called for more tax cuts to say, we told you so.