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We're barely two weeks into the Obama presidency, and a year or more into the global recession, and already the backlash is beginning.

Even worse, from the far corners of the world, we can see the first suggestions of the most pernicious of all possible outcomes materializing. Forget the first 100 days and the honeymoon of a new American leader. The world wants results now, or else.

In Britain, protests are spreading over the use of foreign workers in industries from power plants to oil refineries. Russia awakened last week to protests ranging from Communists in Moscow demanding widespread forced nationalization of industries to workers in Vladivostok seeking an end to tariffs on imported cars.

In France, Christine LaGarde, the nation's brilliant but beleaguered finance minister, laments that the world "situation right now carries two major risks -- social disturbances and protectionism." The term "social disturbances," of course, is a gentle euphemism for a backlash against foreigners.

And in the US Congress, there already are strong rumblings of protectionism. The "Buy America" rule attached to the $819 billion stimulus plan now working its way through the Senate is only a short step from new tariff barriers, not to mention the retaliation such measures would provoke from our major trading partners.

Try to remember America's last depression. Yes, we indeed may be headed in that direction. Though a depression is a 10% contraction in GDP, we just hit minus 3.8% for the fourth quarter of last year.

The one measure that could indeed catapult us that final leg into full-fledged depression would be to revisit the errors of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff -- that catastrophic move by a group of Congressional know-nothings in 1930.

Thousands of factories went idle as total world trade plunged by two-thirds between 1929 and 1934
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