According to the Commerce Department’s newest estimates, economic growth in America has been less than was assumed based on previous data:
Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.6 percent.
The GDP estimates released today are based on more complete source data than were available for the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 3.2 percent.
This is bad news for President Obama, whose re-election prospects are going to rely heavily on decent economic recovery. But, in isolation, slow growth almost two years from the election shouldn’t be a big problem.
Potentially, though, if these previous overly optimistic economic assumptions played a role in Obama’s recent decision to embrace pro-austerity cuts, this could create real long-term problems. If Obama assumed the economy was growing steadily, he might have thought it could easily handle some immediate cuts that are basically just PR stunts to show how “serious” Obama is about the deficit. Given that the economy isn’t as strong, this, as well as previously sought immediate cuts, are going to be more damaging.
If this did happen, it wouldn’t be the first time the Obama administration made really bad decisions on the basis of overly optimistic economic assumptions. The administration’s very public claim about how the too small stimulus bill was supposed to assure unemployment only grow to 8 percent instead of nearly 10 percent being the prime example.