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WASHINGTON -- It's not the first time that government economic engineering has produced a time bomb with a short fuse.

Back in 2011, few lawmakers thought deep and indiscriminate spending cuts, totaling about $85 billion and now starting to kick in, were a smart idea.

The cuts are a reality largely because President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner failed to find a way to stop them.

MORE: Budget cut impact predictions map

History shows a long trail of unintended consequences from government actions - or inaction.

President Franklin Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 and believed the Great Depression was winding down.

Roosevelt and Congress thought it was time to cut free-flowing government spending and raise taxes. The Federal Reserve tightened its financial reins. But the fragile economy couldn't withstand the blows and the Depression roared back.

By TOM RAUM
Associated Press