The nearby chart is an update of one I showed on this page in early July. It depicts how the stock market over the last year and a half has followed a path eerily similar to that of 1937. This week corresponds on the chart to mid-August 1937, when the cumulative effects of massive hikes in personal and corporate tax rates, severe monetary tightening, and aggressive business-bashing by the Roosevelt administration tipped the economy into the "depression inside the Depression." From there, stocks were in for the longest and second-deepest bear market in history.
Thankfully, we're not repeating all the mistakes of 1937. But Congress and the Obama administration are flirting dangerously with one of them by failing to extend the expiring low tax rates for all Americans. What's worse, we're close to repeating the mother of all policy errors, the one made not in 1937 but in 1930—the one that started the Great Depression. We're on track to resurrect the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.