It was the early 2010s. The global financial crisis had become the stuff of history books, and the recession it had caused was long over. But the United States economy was still haunted by a series of chronic, interrelated problems: too little spending by consumers and businesses; too few jobs; and too-low inflation.
The result was an economy that functioned below its potential for years, with grave human costs.
Last year, when the government sprang into action to respond to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it was with these experiences in recent memory. Key policymakers in Congress, two presidential administrations and the Federal Reserve were determined to avoid repeating missteps that had prolonged the problems of a decade ago.
The good news is they succeeded. The bad news is that it increasingly appears they were, in key respects, fighting the last war. Their focus on the challenges of the last crisis has fueled some of the…