It was the early 2010s. The worldwide monetary disaster had develop into the stuff of historical past books, and the recession it had prompted was lengthy over. However the US economic system was nonetheless haunted by a collection of continual, interrelated issues: too little spending by customers and companies; too few jobs; and too-low inflation.

The end result was an economic system that functioned beneath its potential for years, with grave human prices.

Final yr, when the federal government sprang into motion to reply to the financial disaster attributable to the coronavirus pandemic, it was with these experiences in current reminiscence. Key policymakers in Congress, two presidential administrations and the Federal Reserve have been decided to keep away from repeating missteps that had extended the issues of a decade in the past.

The excellent news is that they succeeded. The unhealthy information is that it more and more seems they have been, in key respects, combating the final warfare. Their give attention to the challenges of the final disaster has fueled among the challenges of this disaster.

A decade in the past, the federal government spent too little cash to maintain People’ incomes from plunging. This time, the federal government pushed sufficient money into the economic system that incomes rose above their prepandemic development, and households have, on common, bolstered their financial savings.

In that disaster, state and native governments, which didn’t get a lot in the best way of bailouts, have been a drag on the economic system for years. This time, their bailouts are so expansive that many states are deciding what to do with report surpluses.

Final time, that insufficient spending prompted a continual scarcity of demand for items and companies, which means there have been extra potential staff than jobs. Now, with sturdy demand fueled by authorities motion, there are employee shortages and surging wages. After years through which the Federal Reserve centered on making an attempt to cease inflation from falling persistently beneath its 2 p.c goal, inflation is now far above that focus on, round 6 p.c.

Extra broadly, the final financial disaster was a couple of glut of practically all the pieces — together with manufacturing and transport capability. Now, the central problem is about shortages and provide constraints which are inflicting excessive inflation and different frustrations.

“We’ve had a one-two punch of very straightforward financial coverage and terribly supportive fiscal coverage to struggle this demand shock,” mentioned Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. economics at BofA World Analysis. “The issue is we at the moment are dealing with a provide shock.”

In equity to the individuals setting coverage via the previous two turbulent years, for the primary months of the pandemic, the character of the financial disaster appeared to have related dimensions to the final one. When thousands and thousands of individuals have been dropping their jobs and incomes have been plunging within the spring of 2020, the central downside actually was a collapse in aggregate demand and a possible deflationary spiral much more extreme than the one in 2008 and 2009.

The value of Could 2020 oil futures, for instance, truly turned negative briefly in April 2020, which means somebody with storage capability may primarily be paid for taking oil. A variety of commodity costs prompt sustained recession-caliber circumstances. And thru the top of 2020, bond costs prompt that inflation would stay extraordinarily low for years to return.

The federal government response was, in impact, aimed toward stopping that. The Fed pumped $120 billion of money into the monetary system every month via its quantitative easing program of bond purchases, pledging to maintain rates of interest close to zero far into the longer term.

The Fed additionally centered on a brand new framework for coverage that had been within the works for years, often called “versatile common inflation focusing on.” It was primarily making an attempt to guarantee those who it was severe about not letting inflation fall persistently beneath its 2 p.c goal. It did so by making clear it could be snug permitting inflation to overshoot that degree within the aftermath of a downturn.

However there have been huge variations between the financial surroundings of the 2010s and that of 2021. Amongst them: Fiscal policymakers this time took much more aggressive motion to stimulate progress, whereas within the 2010s the Fed was, in impact, making an attempt to offset the results of fiscal austerity.

“The Fed thought that it needed to make up for weak fiscal coverage when the alternative was the case,” mentioned Jason Furman, the Harvard economist.

Now, the Fed is simply beginning to taper its bond purchases and continues to be holding charges close to zero, amid low unemployment and excessive inflation. Leaders of the central financial institution, whereas acknowledging the ache attributable to inflation, say they anticipate provide disruptions to heal over the approaching months.

“We perceive the difficulties that prime inflation poses for people and households, significantly these with restricted means to soak up increased costs for necessities resembling meals and transportation,” Chair Jerome Powell mentioned in a information convention in early November. “Like most forecasters, we proceed to imagine that our dynamic economic system will alter to the provision and demand imbalances, and that because it does, inflation will decline to ranges a lot nearer to our 2 p.c longer-run purpose.”

An preliminary surge of federal spending in spring of 2020, significantly the $2.2 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, helped customers and companies keep away from the sorts of steep collapse in revenue that had appeared possible when the economic system first shut down that March. Then, in December 2020, a bipartisan majority handed one other $900 billion support bundle, adopted by the Biden administration’s signature $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March.

These two mixed meant practically $3 trillion was being pumped into the economic system in 2021, at a time estimates of the “output hole” — the shortfall from the economic system’s potential — have been far decrease, within the lots of of billions of {dollars}.

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats argued it was a smart technique to cut back the chance of a protracted disaster for households affected by the pandemic.

“I feel the value of doing too little is far increased than the value of doing one thing huge,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen mentioned in a February tv interview. “We expect the advantages will far outweigh the prices within the longer run.”

In an look on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday, she acknowledged excessive inflation had prompted financial ache — however argued that inflation would fall because the pandemic-induced distortions to spending patterns pale.

“When labor provide normalizes and the sample of demand normalizes — and I might anticipate that, if we’re profitable with the pandemic, to be someday within the second half of subsequent yr — I might anticipate costs to return to regular,” Ms. Yellen mentioned. She added, “I simply suppose it’s vital to place inflation in context of an economic system that’s enhancing lots from what we had proper after the pandemic and is making progress.”

State and native funds are a first-rate instance of how federal motion, not like within the early 2010s, was oriented towards overdoing it slightly than underdoing it. Within the earlier recession, states suffered steep income losses via a number of channels. Individuals misplaced their jobs, paying much less revenue tax. Funding losses meant much less capital beneficial properties tax. Falling actual property values meant decrease property taxes. And plunging client spending meant much less gross sales tax.

In that episode, the federal authorities confirmed little inclination to backstop state funds. As a result of states typically can’t run funds deficits, that pressured native governments into austerity mode, inflicting additional job losses and slowing the restoration for years.

This time, just about all the pieces has been completely different. The federal authorities has backstopped individuals’s incomes, serving to maintain revenue tax income flowing; the inventory market has boomed, fueling capital beneficial properties; actual property costs have risen; and folks have been spending extra on bodily items, supporting gross sales tax income.

On prime of that, the American Rescue Plan included $350 billion to help state and native budgets, reflecting Democrats’ fears of the type of extended funding disaster of a decade in the past. Add all of it up, and state and native governments are as flush with money as they’ve ever been — at a time of inflationary pressures and labor shortages.

In California final yr, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that “we’re confronted with a steep and unprecedented financial disaster.” Now, the state is determining what to do with a “historic funds surplus” as Mr. Newsom called it, within the tens of billions of {dollars}.

“The Biden administration was very attuned to job losses within the public sector and wished to forestall that from taking place,” mentioned Tracy Gordon, who research state and native finance on the City Institute. “By the summer season it was turning into clear that states weren’t doing as poorly as we thought.”

It’s a pure tendency to use the teachings of historical past to the current. And the problem was a shifting goal. The character of the disaster morphed in a comparatively quick time from a collapse of demand and a possible deflationary vortex to a supply-constrained interval of extreme inflation.

“We fought the final warfare in a number of respects,” mentioned Mr. Furman, a veteran of the Obama White Home. “One in every of them was considering of this as a requirement downside, not a provide downside. One other is considering that we all the time need to do an excessive amount of when there truly is a correct amount.”

The problem now — for the Biden administration, Democratic allies and the Fed — is to discover a manner out of the inflationary, supply-constrained surroundings that creates a extra snug economic system sooner slightly than later, and with out by chance inflicting a recession within the course of.