AP's Josh Boak Does Bogus 'Fact Check' on Jeb Bush's 4 Percent Growth Goal

June 17th, 2015 11:41 PM

It seems as if the establishment press has ruined virtually everything connected with journalism. The whole idea of "fact-checking" is certainly no exception.

The thoroughly misnamed Politifact pioneered this particular form of disinformation. The Associated Press, apparently determined to give that web site a run for its money, devoted a writeup to "fact-checking" (i.e., virtually ridiculing) a goal, namely 2016 presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's belief that the U.S. economy is fully capable of achieving annual growth of 4 percent — even though it's been done before nationally, and was accomplished in the Sunshine State during Bush's own tenure.

In an item treated as a "Big Story," the AP's Josh Boak did the extremely dubious honors (bolds are mine):

FACT CHECK: Why Bush's growth forecast is a stretch

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush says there's "not a reason in the world" why the U.S. economy can't grow at 4 percent annually.

Actually, there are a bunch of reasons it probably can't.

Many economists say the U.S. economy is ill equipped to grow consistently at even close to 4 percent.

... In his campaign announcement on Monday, Jeb Bush said "there is not a reason in the world why we cannot grow at a rate of 4 percent a year. And that will be my goal as president - 4 percent growth, and the 19 million new jobs that come with it."

The pledge originated from a plan by the George W. Bush Institute to achieve growth averaging 4 percent for a decade.

See how Boak "cleverly" kept Ronald Reagan's name out of the discussion:

... the historical odds of doubling growth from its current level are low.

Only four of the 16 presidential terms since World War II have experienced annual economic growth averaging more than 4 percent after inflation, according to research published last year by Princeton University economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson.

President Harry Truman reaped the peace dividend as U.S. manufacturers helped rebuild nations devastated by World War II. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations enjoyed a boom because of tax cuts. And President Bill Clinton benefited during his second term from low interest rates and what eventually became a tech-stock bubble.

Give Boak credit for breaking from the leftist orthodoxy by documenting the actual fact that the tax cuts which took effect in 1964 during LBJ's administration boosted the economy. But he erred in saying that the cuts were responsible for growth during Kennedy's administration, which of course ended in November 1963. That said, the cuts were JFK's idea.

Boak's exclusion Reagan by only considering full presidential terms was arbitrary and bogus. Additionally, 4 percent annual growth for a full decade is not as outlandish as Boak would apparently want readers to believe.

This is seen in the following two tables:


Though they did not coincide with presidential terms, the Reagan era turned in the two best four-year performances since 1980, and the only two which exceeded 4-1/2 percent. Boak "somehow" omitted the fact (this is a fact-check, right?) that the final four years of Bill Clinton's second term benefitted greatly from a 1997 reduction in the capital gains tax. The tech bubble overinflated primarily because Clinton's SEC stopped doing its job, and let overexuberance over Internet start-ups which barely had a business idea, let alone a business plan, go virtually straight to the stock market for funding. Most of the bubble's burst conveniently occurred after Clinton left office.

As to the Bush 43 Institute's 10-year, 4 percent growth plan, the ten years ending in 1990, which included the eight years of Reagan's presidency and the first two of George H.W. Bush's, got the closest of anyone to reaching that goal. I should also note, as seen here, that annual compound GDP growth during eight-year period from 1983 to 1990, the first eight years after Reaganomics became a reality before Bush 41 set matters back in 1991 by agreeing to increase income taxes, was 4.10 percent — the only time we have seen a result above 4 percent since 1980.

As to the person making the prediction, many negative things have been written about Jeb Bush's current positions on immigration, trade and education. Readers will note, however, that there aren't too many people criticizing the Florida economy during his eight years as its governor. That's largely because it grew sharply during his two terms, while job growth was off the charts. The "fact" that "fact-checker" Josh Boak missed the information contained in the following chart shows how truly inadequate his effort really was:


Florida's economy grew at a compound annual rate of 4.35 percent while Jeb Bush was governor, including a truly torrid three-year stretch of almost 5.5 percent.

Maybe Jeb Bush really does know a little bit about how to grow an economy. To the predictable "well, that's nice for Florida, but it doesn't apply to the rest of the country," I would ask, "Why not?" Far from being a small experimental lab, Florida during the Bush era was the nation's fourth-largest state. Now it's third, leapfrogging New York in the past year or so.

Demonstrating that who was in charge in Florida at the time was quite relevant, it didn't take then-Republican, now-Democrat Charlie Crist long to make it all crash and burn after he became the Sunshine State's governor. Florida's decline began only months into Crist's term, well before the nation's recession kicked in.

But of course, Josh Boak's "fact check" wasn't a fact check at all. It was an exercise in casting serious doubt on a Republican presidential contender's key economic goal. It was also about contending that attempting any kind of change from the deficit-driven, country-bankrupting, over-regulated "new normal" of the Obama era is an exercise in futility.

No it's not.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.