Something similar happened under Ronald Reagan. Unemployment peaked at 9.7 percent early in the Reagan administration. Like Harding and earlier presidents, Reagan did nothing, despite outraged outcries in the media.
The economy once again revived on its own. Three years later, unemployment was down to 7.2 percent - and it kept on falling. The country experienced 20 years of economic growth with low inflation and low unemployment.
The Obama party line is that all the bad things are due to what he inherited from Bush, and the few signs of recovery are due to Obama's policies beginning to pay off.
But if the economy has been rebounding on its own for more than 150 years, why has it been so slow to recover under the Obama administration?
The endless proliferation of anti-business interventions by government, and the sight of more of the same coming from Barack Obama's appointees in the federal bureaucracies, creates the one thing that has long stifled economic activity around the world - uncertainty about what the rules of the game are and how those rules will continue to change in a hostile political environment.
Both history and contemporary data show that countries prosper more when there are stable and dependable rules, under which people can make investments without having to fear unpredictable new government interventions before these investments can pay off.
A great myth has grown up that President Franklin D. Roosevelt saved the American economy with his interventions during the Great Depression of the 1930s. But a 2004 economic study concluded that government interventions had prolonged the Great Depression by several years.
Obama is repeating policies that failed under FDR.
Despite demands that Mitt Romney spell out his plan for reviving the economy, we can only hope that Romney plans to stop the government from intervening in the economy and gumming up the works, so that the economy can recover on its own.
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California. His website is www.tsowell.com.