With the Fed supposedly steeling itself at last to remove a little of its emergency ‘accommodation’, it has suddenly become fashionable to warn of the awful parallels with 1937, as the highly-respected Ray Dalio of Bridgewater has notably done.
That year, the story goes, the nation’s ascent from the depths of the Great Depression was aborted because the Fed ‘tightened’ and the government ‘cut spending’: a sharp recession was the immediate and highly avoidable result. Therefore, we are told, we must not act today.
We strongly refute the analogy: Fed actions were marginal and largely technical in nature while the real fiscal story was the rise in taxes, not any slashing of regular outlays
Far more instrumental in the slump was the nature of those taxes – being steep, ideologically motivated increases in levies on wealth, profits, and capital.
Also to blame were the government’s tolerance of labour militancy and its concerted campaign against ‘tax avoiders’, ‘economic royalists’ and the ‘top sixty families’ – all of which frightened and discouraged the entrepreneurial classes. This fear intensified greatly when the Supreme Court was neutered as means of seeking relief from the state’s attacks.
It is in such displays of pitchfork populism by financially and intellectually bankrupt governments that we – in the age of Piketty, of the organized deprecation of the ‘1%’ and of the abuse of the ‘Fair Share of Tax’ slogan – need to draw the most pertinent comparisons
The real Ghost of ’37 takes the form of such mean-spirited and, counter-productive politics: the spectre should not be conjured up to excuse the central bank from further delaying its overdue embarkation on the long road back to normality and policy minimalism.
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