Weigel

Poll: 48 Percent of Americans Fear Another Great Depression Soon

CNN polls 1,015 adults and asks the economics question in an interesting way: “Is another Great Depression likely in the next 12 months?”

Forty-eight percent of voters say it is. Only 51 percent say it isn’t. And look at the trend – the 48 percent number is up from 41 percent in 2009 and 38 percent in 2008.

This might be a good time to read Zachary Goldfarb’s Tim Geithner profile , on how the Obama administration approached austerity over job growth.

Lawrence Summers, then the director of the National Economic Council, and Christina Romer, then the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers , argued that Obama should focus on bringing down the stubbornly high unemployment rate. This was not the time to concentrate on deficits, they said.

Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget director, wanted the president to start proposing ways to bring spending in line with tax revenue .

Although Geithner was not as outspoken, he agreed with Orszag on the need to begin reining in the debt, according to current and former administration officials. Some spoke for this article on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Even before the president had been inaugurated, Geithner had been urging him to set a target for the budget deficit that would require shrinking its size to 3 percent of the U.S. economy. At that level, the national debt would eventually become manageable.

How this works if we careen into another depression is anyone’s guess. By “anyone,” I mean, “people who remember what happened in 1937.”