11% Growth

A few days ago, I read this post at Craig Newmark’s place and its been niggling at me ever since. Craig links to an article in American Spectator by R. Emmett Tyrrell:

Actually, the economy is chugging along in a healthy and protracted period of growth. For the past five years, per capita gross domestic product has grown at 11%. We are living through a vast global economic boom, and the Democrats seem completely unawares. In 2008 their presidential candidate will be moaning that we have lost a war and are economically in a hell of a mess. The Republican will only have to point to a healthy economy and the success of General Petraeus’s splendid army to win. Then the Democrats will whine that the Republicans stole the election from them. That is my prediction, and I base it on the evidence.

Now, I don’t dispute the very large possibility that the Dems will engage in some form of stupidity and lose the 2008 presidential election. And with luck, both the economy and Iraq will look a bit better by next year.

But I don’t understand this statement at all: “per capita gross domestic product has grown at 11%.”

I’ll leave out the obvious questions… Why not adjust for inflation? How does that compare to any other five year stretch? Does the author’s first name also have a two or more sets of duplicate letters in a row? No… my question is what does he mean? That’s the percentage change over five years? Annualized? What is he talking about?

From line 1 of NIPA Table 7.1, we learn that GDP per capita (to use his measure) was $35,476, in 2002 it was $36,296, in 2003 it was $37,626, in 2004 it was $39,735, in 2005 it was 41,869, and in 2006 it was $44,007.

Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but I’ve played with the numbers two or three times over the past few days and I just can’t find that 11% over five years. The best I can do… $44,007 (i.e., 2006’s value) is about 11% greater than $39,735 (2004’s value). Similarly, the change from 2003 to 2005 is about 11%. But that doesn’t strike me as what the guy means (especially since that relationship doesn’t hold for any other two year stretch involving GW.)

Someone tell me what I’m missing here.