Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

America's Economic Crisis: Now for the Non-Recovery

We were warned. But when the worst recession in seven decades smacked us in the face, all the gruesome auguries did little to dull the pain. As unemployment soared to 10.2% — the highest rate since 1983 — spendthrifts became tightwads, a new age of austerity dawned, and the era of easy money lurched to a close. With the financial system coaxed back from the brink, the Obama Administration injected massive sums into the sagging economy with stimulus packages and incentives like the wildly popular (if myopic) Cash for Clunkers program. But even as experts grasped for green shoots — a process that for a while required a high-powered microscope — the wreckage piled up. Long an icon of the rusted state of U.S. manufacturing, Detroit was battered badly — its economy cratered, Fiat bought a stake in Chrysler, and GM plunged in and out of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Wall Street's behemoths — nursed back to health by savvy bets with taxpayer money — notched healthy profits and doled out prodigious bonuses once more. Buoyed by government subsidies, the U.S. appeared to emerge from the recession by posting modest growth in the third quarter, but for many of us, the downturn's effects will linger.