And it hasn’t just been theorizing. In 2008, George W. Bush and Nancy Pelosi engineered the tax rebate stimulus, in which everyone received a check in the mail—paid for, eventually, with fresh new money. Studies have found that this stimulus worked quite well; it was just overwhelmed by the Great Recession, and we only received checks once. Mill, Keynes, Friedman, and even Bernanke might argue that we should revive a similar stimulus again—only this time, on a much bigger scale, and on an ongoing basis. Free Money Glitch
Way back during the post-World War II era, the economy was booming. Unemployment was very low, productivity was up, and workers’ wages were growing steadily in real terms—that is, even after adjusting for inflation. Along with the cost-of-living adjustments written into many job contracts, that meant wage-price inflationary spirals were always on the horizon. As a result, for about thirty years, from the mid-1940s through the ’70s, the main problem for economic policymakers was not growth or unemployment, it was simply keeping inflation in check. Since it’s very hard to cut wages, the Fed did that by repeatedly inducing small recessions. The idea was to create enough unemployment to slow both aggregate wage growth and the ensuing spending. Despite the often-uncomfortable abruptness with which the economy bounced from recession to rapid growth, this was still the greatest economic boom in American history.
What’s more, there is no reason to think that our aggregate demand problem will be cured without some kind of aggressive change. The economist Brad DeLong has calculated that reasonable estimates of the current and future damage to our economy from the present crisis are greater than those from the Great Depression. “Unless something—and it will need to be something major—returns the U.S. to its pre-2008 growth trajectory, future economic historians will not regard the Great Depression as the worst business-cycle disaster of the industrial age,” he wrote in the journal Project Syndicate. “It is we who are living in their worst case.” Already our current weak economic expansion is near the length of the postwar average, and a new recession may strike at any time, which would erase the pitiful gains of the past five years. (God only knows what is cooking in the dungeons of Wall Street.) If we change nothing, we could be stuck in our current situation for decades. Japan has been mired in a similar trap for almost thirty years. Free Money In Minutes