The Economix Blog over at the NY Times has a great chart up tracking growth and decline of the public and private sector. One of the key conclusions from David Leonhardt:
Over the last two years, the private sector grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, while the government shrank at an annual rate of 1.4 percent.
Given all we’ve heard about the poor economy this is an astonishing statistic. While 3.2 percent is not an astonishing number it would represent healthy growth. However, the overall growth numbers include both government and private sector, so we wound up at a much lower 2.3 percent. In the last quarter of 2011 the private sector grew at an extremely healthy 4.5 percent while government shrank at 4.5 percent leaving us with 2.8 percent overall growth.
Leaving the numbers behind, essentially we have an economy in which there is healthy private sector growth and the government is shrinking and acting as a drag on overall growth.
Republicans can claim that this is necessary in the long-term and will ensure future prosperity. That is a cogent argument. (And depends on the initial size of government and not only its growth/decline). But it is important to note that the economy of the last two years represents the accomplishment of a Republican goal, to shrink the government and allow the private sector to grow.
As a final note of interest, leaving aside the fact that Presidents receive more credit/blame for the economy than they deserve, presiding over solid private sector growth while shrinking the public sector would make Obama a very successful president by most conservative standards.