Depression Within a Depression

by: James Quinn

In recent months, worshippers at the altar of Keynes have been hyperventilating over the possibility Congress will run a deficit of “only” $1.5 trillion in 2010. They have issued dire proclamations about a replay of the 1937-1938 Depression within the Great Depression. White House favorite and #1 Keynesian on the planet, Paul Krugman, declared that not borrowing an additional $100 billion to hand out to the unemployed for another 99 weeks would surely plunge the country into recession again:

Suddenly, creating jobs is out, inflicting pain is in. Condemning deficits and refusing to help a still-struggling economy has become the new fashion everywhere, including the United States, where 52 senators voted against extending aid to the unemployed despite the highest rate of long-term joblessness since the 1930s. Many economists, myself included, regard this turn to austerity as a huge mistake. It raises memories of 1937, when F.D.R.’s premature attempt to balance the budget helped plunge a recovering economy back into severe recession. – Paul Krugman in NYT

So did Roosevelt’s attempt to balance the budget in 1937 cause the second major downturn in 1938? I’m a trusting soul, but I prefer to verify what is being peddled to me by any economist, especially Paul Krugman.

Ghost of Keynes Past

Today’s Keynesian economists have convinced boobus Americanus that the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve being too tight with monetary policy and the Hoover administration not providing enough fiscal stimulus. Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama used this line of reasoning to ram through an $850 billion pork-laden stimulus package, as well as the purchase of $1.2 trillion of toxic mortgages by the Federal Reserve.

The only trouble is that this storyline is a complete sham.

The fact that colossal stimulus spending, zero interest rates, the purchase of over a trillion in toxic assets by the Fed, and the loosest monetary policy in history have done absolutely nothing to revitalize the economy, has proven that Keynesian policies have been a wretched failure. This is not a surprise to Austrian school economists.

Keynesian policies failed during the Great Depression, and they are failing today. An economic catastrophe caused by loose monetary policies, crushing levels of debt, and appalling lending practices cannot be solved by looser monetary policies, issuance of twice as much debt, and government commanding banks (or, in the case of Fannie and Freddie, “commandeering”) to make more bad loans.

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