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Economic growth slows in the first quarter of 2018

As a political matter, Donald Trump set economic targets that he's almost certainly not going to meet. This came into sharper focus today.

About a month ago, Donald Trump told an audience in Ohio that the United States currently has the strongest economy in the nation's history. "There's never been an economy like this," the president said.

Even at the time, the claim was ridiculously untrue. It looks a little worse now.

The U.S. grew in the first quarter at the slowest pace in a year owing to a big pullback in consumer spending, but the economy held up better than expected owing to solid business investment and a smaller trade deficit.The U.S. expanded at a 2.3% annual pace in the first three months of 2018, somewhat slower than the average 3% gain in the prior three quarters, the government said Friday.... Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 2% increase in gross domestic product.

Just so we're clear, 2.3% growth isn't bad news. On the contrary, it's evidence of a healthy economy that's moving right along at a decent pace.

But as a political matter, the president set economic targets that he's almost certainly not going to meet. As we discussed a few months ago, Trump routinely promised “4% annual economic growth” – and in some cases, he suggested his policies could push growth to as high as 6%.

At the time, those assurances seemed bizarre, and it’s now obvious that the president never should have made these promises. Not only will he fail to deliver the results, but the exaggerated goals end up putting decent economic growth in a less favorable light.

And yet, the White House continues to make the same boasts, reality be damned.

As for the image above, the chart shows GDP numbers by quarter since the Great Recession began. The red columns show the economy under the Bush and Trump administration; the blue columns show the economy under the Obama administration.