Donald Trump pledges 4% economic growth. How realistic is that?

Donald Trump talks the economy in New York
Donald Trump talks the economy in New York

Donald Trump wants to return the U.S. economy to the good old days of Bill Clinton.

Of course, that's not the way he puts it.

In a campaign speech Thursday, Trump said his economic proposals would boost the U.S. economy to grow at a pace of 4% a year.

It's been a while since the economy hit that target. Specifically, it was during the Clinton administration.

During Clinton's eight years as president, the economy grew an average of nearly 4% a year. Growth came in 4.0 in 1994 and then topped that each year from 1997 to 2000. It hit a high of 4.7% growth in 1999.

Trump, speaking at the Economic Club of New York, said it's time "to reach" for 4% growth.

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"I think we can do better than that," he said about that target, although he said his economists didn't want him to promise that.

Others have been critical of Trump's economic plans. Oxford Economics, a British forecasting firm, estimates his proposals would cut $1 trillion a year from the U.S. economy, a much bigger hit than occurred during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.

The big expansion during the Clinton years was fueled in large part by a technological revolution -- the widespread adoption of personal computers and the internet.

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But that kind of sustained, rapid economic growth is relatively rare. The U.S. has only four or more straight years of 4% growth three times since the end of World War II. Besides the Clinton years, those periods were from 1962 to 1966, and from 1950 to 1953.

Trump's plan calls for lowering taxes, removing "destructive" regulations, increasing U.S. energy production, and negotiating new trade deals in favor of American businesses.

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Economic growth has been weak since the recession ended in 2009, ranging between 1.6% and 2.6% a year. It has slowed to about 1% each of the last three quarters. Trump denounced it as the weakest recovery of the last 70 years.

But the Great Recession was the most severe hit to the economy since the Great Depression, and the damage it did was global in nature. Even though the U.S. has recovered at a modest pace, it's got one of the strongest economies in the developed world.

--CNNMoney's Patrick Gillespie contributed to this report.

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