Despite the overwhelming amount of commentary about the Great Depression and the recently labeled Great Recession, the United States has survived twelve or more panics, crashes and recessions since its founding in 1776. From the land speculation bubble of 1796 to the beginning of the Great Depression, the political answers to these troubled times was, for the most part, to allow the fiasco's to run their course. Allow the market to fix the problem. Sure, the government put people in jail, others skirted to the hills to save themselves from the vicious mobs who trailed them but overall the government did not intervene with stimulus. The purpose seemed to be that the government wanted society to learn from its missteps despite how painful it may have been.
It was not until the Great Depression when Lord Keynes advocated for ‘temporary' deficit spending by the government to help fuel business investment that government intervention became so popular. Up until the Great Depression of 1929, the United States ran a national debt that was typically about 15-18% of GDP. Post the Great Depression, this number climbed to about 120% in 1946 and 1947 just after World War II. The estimated national debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to be about 102% as of 2015, up from 55% or so in 2000.