Credit isn't readily available to many common borrowers, or if it is it's only at usury rates. Jumbo mortgages (those higher than $417,000 to $729,750, depending on the market) offer a perfect illustration. When credit is functioning well a jumbo mortgage rate runs about a quarter of a point higher than a so-called conforming mortgage rate. (Conforming mortgages are backed by the government.) But that difference, or spread, has been more than a point (and often way more) for many months. The spread between Treasury bonds and corporate bonds is similarly out of whack, suggesting that anyone who does not have the government standing behind them must pay dearly for borrowed money. In a typical recession, low government rates lead to low private lending rates too, and that stirs businesses and consumers to spend a time tested antidote to recession ills that simply is not working right now. "We may be selling a few plasma TVs," says Michele Gambera, chief economist at research firm Ibbotson Associates. "But we aren't selling many cars and major appliances, and businesses are not making capital expenditures as you'd expect."