Comparing collapses … and recoveries

Good historical analysis from Mike Darda:

Here we should look to three historical examples where aggressive monetary expansion was wedded to an aggressive fiscal policy: the U.S. during the mid-1930s, Germany through the 1930s, and Japan in the early 2000s. In each case there was a recovery, although policy errors led to significant setbacks. These episodes can help assess U.S. growth prospects, and the risks to a sustainable recovery.

The Great Depression in the U.S. came in two stages, a downturn from 1929-33 in which real GDP collapsed by 26.5% and unemployment rose to 25% from 3%, and a relapse in 1937-1938, with a 3.4% decline in real GDP and a rise in unemployment to 19% from 14%.

The first stage of the depression was associated with a collapsing equity bubble (1929), protectionist tariff legislation (1930), contractionary monetary policy (1931) and a sharp rise in tax rates (1932). Between 1934 and 1937, however, there was a rapid recovery, in part due to the severity of the downturn that preceded it. Real GDP expanded by 9.5% per annum, while the unemployment rate fell 11 percentage points.

The recovery was spurred in no small part by monetary policy. In 1933-34, the dollar was devalued against gold to $35 per ounce from $20.67 per ounce, which allowed the Fed to push reserves into the banking system. This allowed the Fed to finance FDR’s deficits with the printing press. After falling at an average rate of 6.7% per year from 1930-33, the Consumer Price Index rose by an average 2.7% per year from 1934-37.

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