It’s time to game-plan against an economic crisis.

With a volatile stock market down between 7 and 9 percent (depending on which index you consider) just since Oct. 3, and with Bank of America saying 14 of 19 bear-market signals have been triggered already, the question becomes how policymakers should respond if the whole economy starts to stumble.

I’ve been predicting all year that October, quite specifically, would see the beginning of significant economic problems, risking a full-blown crisis. Despite a 400-point Dow bounce-back on Thursday, the overall numbers for October remain horrible; furthermore, both Amazon and Alphabet/Google issued disappointing reports after Thursday’s closing bells on Wall Street, foreshadowing a steep drop upon Friday's market opening.

If the volatility and downward trend turns into a rout, panic could set in. To fight it off will require smart, strong action. To be smart, policymakers must understand what’s causing the problems.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer, usually perspicacious about these things, agrees with me that two of the biggest causes are President Trump’s trade threats and Trump’s irresponsible verbal attacks on the Federal Reserve. Then, amid a host of other contributing factors I’ve identified, by far the largest and most dangerous is the worst combined public and private debt load in the United States and around the world since World War II.

Ordinarily, times of full employment in the United States are associated with low annual deficits, because tax revenues should be up while the need for social spending is down. Instead, a profligate White House and Congress (controlled by supposed fiscal conservatives) just posted a stunningly high Fiscal Year 2018 deficit of $782 billion. If this is the baseline deficit when the economy has been roaring (or soaring on a sugar high), and if total national debt already exceeds 100 percent of gross domestic product, then there’s no room for resort to the usual (wrongheaded) Keynesian fiscal stimuli to goose things up again.

And if interest rates, even after some recent hikes, are still well below the post-1960 norm, there’s little room for monetary stimulus either.

Today, deficit spending and easy money can’t help solve an economic downturn; they are the causes of the impending downturn because at some point the layers upon layers of debt, on which the economy precariously rests, start to collapse upon themselves.

The answers, then, are to reverse course on spending: Let the Fed respond to market signals rather than presidential browbeating, and stop fighting trade wars that depress the vibrancy of economic exchange.

Trump and only Trump can do the latter two things. First, stop what Cramer calls the “gigantic game of chicken” he is playing with the Fed, which has the counterproductive effect of making it harder for the Fed to adjust course without looking like it is losing its crucial independence. Second, suspend the tariffs against China. The tariffs are hurting both their economy and ours, both directly and via the stock markets that are being harmed by flagging Chinese demand.

The most important stratagem, though, will require both Trump and Congress to act. It entails dramatic, rapid action against both short and long-term drivers of government debt.

In November, in a “lame-duck” session of Congress, lawmakers should suspend all procedural hurdles and pass a 2020 budget, and a budget reconciliation package, that not just freezes but actually cuts every line-item from the 2019 budget and spending bills by one percent. In effect, just suspend the entire Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations process, with savings forced across the board in one big swipe.

(Procedural wonks will say that only “mandatory” spending or taxes, not “discretionary” appropriations, can be passed through “reconciliation” procedures that avoid the need for 60 Senate votes to overcome a filibuster. Those strictures may be implicit, though, but not explicit in the applicable Budget Act — and, trust me as a former House Appropriations staffer, there is a way to do this; but that would require another full column, probably a boring one, to explain.)

Meanwhile, the president and Congress should announce the formation of a bipartisan Entitlements Reform Commission, modeled on President Ronald Reagan’s successful 1983 Social Security Commission and on President Bill Clinton’s almost-successful Medicare Commission, to put both of those programs on more sustainable paths.

These two moves — a dramatic pause in appropriations hikes, combined with a sign of seriousness about entitlements — would lessen the markets’ growing concerns about deficits and long-term debt, allow the Fed some breathing room, and show a firm, steady hand on the economic tiller. Result: stability and confidence, in place of volatility and panic.

This economy need not fall into crisis. Only stalwart action can keep it from doing so.

Quin Hillyer (@QuinHillyer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a former associate editorial page editor for the Washington Examiner and is the author of “The Accidental Prophet” trilogy of recently published satirical, literary novels.