From the comments

This is from Mark A. Sadowski, who makes some other good comments in the same thread:

Marcus Nunes’ post caused me to reread E. Cary Brown’s “Fiscal Policy in the “Thirties: A Reappraisal” (American Economic Review, Vol. 46, No. 5, December 1956, pp. 857–879) and Larry Peppers’ “Full Employment Surplus Analysis and Structural Changes” (Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 10, Winter 1973, pp. 197–210), both of which are mentioned in the Douglas A. Irwin’s paper on gold sterilization and the recession of 1937-38 which Marcus discusses in his excellent post.

Peppers’ paper shows how to calculate cyclically adjusted budget balances from Brown’s paper. By my arithmetic, according to Brown’s data the cyclically adjusted general government balance increased by 3.0% of potential GDP in calendar year 1937. Peppers only looks at the federal budget, and he finds that the cyclically adjusted federal government balance increased by 3.5% of potential GDP in calendar year 1937 and another 0.1% in 1938 for a total of 3.6% of potential GDP.

According to the April 2013 IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) the U.S. general government structural (cyclically adjusted) balance will increase by 3.9% of potential GDP between calendar years 2010 and 2013. And the March 2013 CBO estimates of the cyclically adjusted federal budget balance show it will rise by 4.6% of potential GDP between fiscal years 2009 and 2013.

So apparently we have repeated the fiscal mistakes of 1937 with approximately a 30% bonus and yet the economy has not plunged into a renewed depression.

We know what Scott Sumner would say.  Furthermore he would be right.  It’s called “monetary offset.”

Still looking in vain for that darned liquidity trap Krugman keeps talking about!


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