Here's how Trump's 3% economic growth target stacks up against past presidents

The White House has pinned its budget agenda on hitting — and maintaining — a 3 percent economic growth target. But recent history suggests that's a tall order, and the U.S. risks inflating its debt if the growth falls short.

Of the last 11 administrations, only six have presided over periods of sustained growth averaging more than 3 percent. And since 2000, the U.S. economy has slowed to an average growth rate below 2 percent.

President Donald Trump's budget also assumes higher tax revenue — even after deep cuts in both individual and corporate tax rates — based on the idea that an acceleration in growth will create a larger base of revenue subject to taxes.

It's not the first time that strategy has been tried. Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush implemented deep tax cuts early in their administrations, only to see big increases in borrowing to make up for the lost revenue.

Even if Trump's proposed budget is approved by Congress — an outcome now considered unlikely — the budget wouldn't come back into balance until 2027, putting the government $3.8 trillion deeper into debt by then.

All that means Congress will soon have to increase the government's borrowing limit to avoid defaulting on the Treasury's debts.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had expected the government to hit the legally mandated debt ceiling — currently about $20.1 trillion — in early September. But Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Thursday said receipts were coming in more slowly than the Treasury had anticipated.

Mulvaney was on Capitol Hill for the second day of hearings on the White House budget, which proposes big cuts on social services and increasing defense spending.

Democratic lawmakers and many private economists have expressed skepticism about the budget and its ambitious 3 percent growth target.

"The numbers don't add up," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told Mulvaney Thursday.

Mulvaney repeated the administration's view that a combination of tax cuts, deregulation and other pro-growth policies make the 3 percent target attainable. Without that growth, he warned, it will become increasingly difficult to cut budget deficits.

"I have news for you, both parties: If we do not get to 3 percent growth, it is unlikely we will ever balance the budget again," he told a House panel Wednesday.


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