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1.8% GDP growth isn’t good enough

By Ezra Klein,

GDP growth in the first quarter of the year was 1.8 percent. In normal times, that’d be disappointing. In a recovery, it’s downright terrible.

What we need right now is something different from, and faster than, normal growth. What we need right now is catch-up growth. We’ve spent years underperforming economically. We’re 7 million jobs below where we were when the recession began. Like a man who has been starved for a year, getting back to normal won’t cut it. We need to get back to better than normal. We need to be above trend.

In his statement yesterday, Ben Bernanke seemed unconcerned by this “transitory” quarter of slow growth. Most of the factors depressing the economy — the weather, an uptick in imports, a decrease in defense spending — are unlikely to stick around, he said. Others, like a drop in construction and what Bernanke called “just a bit less momentum in the economy” might be with us for longer. But here’s the bottom line: “Recovery” means a “restoration to a former or better condition.” Our economy isn’t anywhere near its former condition, and 1.8 percent GDP growth isn’t enough to get us there.

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