The Rites of Recession

It may already be upon us, and it could be painful. But it's not the biggest economic issue in town

Brian Ulrich for TIME

American consumers, like these in Chicago, may finally be pulling back

Every day it's looking more like a recession in the U.S. The December economic numbers (released in January) have been mostly bad: unemployment up, to 5%; retail sales down 0.4%; industrial production flat. The housing market, where all the trouble started, is still in the tank. Banks are reporting big new losses and layoffs. Stock prices are plummeting. Presidential contenders are starting to focus on the economy on the campaign trail. It's ugly out there.

So let's just say it is in fact recession time for the world's biggest economy. What does that mean, exactly?

To be pedantic about it, that...

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