The tax cuts and the profligate budget just agreed to by both parties have already massively increased the deficits the federal government is likely to incur over the next decade. Two developments allowed this to happen. The first is Trump’s takeover of the Republican party and its abandonment of any willingness, at least at times, to fight for its core beliefs—balanced budgets, minimal spending, sound money, small government. The second is the agreement of both parties that bipartisan deadlock can be broken only when they agree to each other’s demands—Republicans for more money for the military, Democrats more cash for social programs.

In a recession, the government would be able safely to increase spending and deficits, as Keynes would recommend, only if it had taken his advice and run surpluses in good times. Which it hasn’t. Nor will the Fed be of much help: Even after a few quarter-point rate rises it will be operating from a base of interest rates so low that there would be little room to lower them further.

In short, American policy makers go naked into their battle with the next recession.