Once I get stuck on something, it takes me a while to stop.
Julian Sanchez has an interesting quick history of the phrase “grow the economy.” Turns out that Clinton introduced the phrase to our political parlance. Think it's inconsequential whether “grow” is transitive or intransitive? Think again:
“This is subtly but importantly different from arguing about whether a particular piece of legislation will, say, ‘promote economic growth.’ In the one case, ‘growth’ is fundamentally something economies do (or don’t do), and policy can be seen as helping or hindering matters. In the other, the economy is basically cast as inert—growth is something governments do to them.”
I'm with my dictionary on this one: grow should be transitive only in the context of hair and farm crops, e.g., “grow a beard” or “grow some corn.” And I'm a little bit iffy on the farming use. Claiming to “grow” the economy, or church membership, or a business's profits, implies that one is claiming to be the principle of growth for that thing. In the case of facial hair, this is very nearly true, and with crops the farmer works so closely with the land that it's a great metaphor.
But when the representatives of the government say they are “growing the economy,” such a claim isn't just hubris. It's simply false.