You can't say it's not ambitious. Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club Wednesday, Jeb Bush laid out the foundation of a presumptive presidential run, and one of the principles is growth.
"I don’t think the U.S. should settle for anything less than 4 percent growth a year—which is about twice our current average. At that rate, the middle class will thrive again," Bush said. "And in the coming months, I intend to detail how we can get there, with a mix of smart policies and reforms to tap our resources and capacity to innovate, whether in energy, manufacturing, healthcare or technology."
That seems both unrealistic and politically curious. Let's start with the number. That's not quite as aggressive as the 5 percent goal Tim Pawlenty set (and was mocked for) during the 2012 Republican primary, but it's still pretty high. In a July 2014 paper, Alan Blinder and Mark Watson considered growth rates by presidential administration. Here are the basic numbers:
Percentage GDP Growth by Presidential Administration
One thing that jumps out is that the growth rate under Obama is fairly anemic, as Bush implied. (The economic collapse likely accounts for much of the poor showing in Obama's first term and George W. Bush's second.) The other thing that jumps out is how few presidents have achieved average annual growth of 4 percent or more. Harry S Truman benefited from the post-war peace dividend. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson enjoyed a booming economy; Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford faced stagflation and its aftereffects. In his second term, as the economy boomed and the tech bubble inflated, Bill Clinton nosed barely above 4 percent.