There are still a number of pundits who refuse to call the current economic crisis a depression. But many of them have agreed to at least label it a recession with a capital R. And all but a few of these savants admit things are getting worse, not better, and that an upturn could be a couple of years away. Some analysts predict it could take as long as ten years before the economy begins to resemble the America of the 1990s.

Unemployment, at last count, stood at 8.1% and on its way to 10 percent. This figure does not include those who work part-time and would rather be working full-time. Nor does it include those who have given up looking for work, and since they no longer collect unemployment, have been removed from the statistical digests. Beyond this is the “divide” between those who haven’t been able to find work and those who refuse to accept available jobs they feel are beneath them. As a result we find a few truly “desperate” individuals with college degrees accepting jobs for which only a high school diploma is required.

Not to worry the pundits say. Soon this will pass and those who lost their high paying executive jobs will be right back in the corner office. But will they? Some of the damage done by this damnable Recession is permanent. People who lost their upscale homes, country club memberships, and prized luxury cars will never return to the Land of Beulah. For them, it’s like losing an arm or a leg – it ain’t ever gonna grow back. Children whose path to the Ivy League has been detoured by lack of tuition may instead receive diplomas from community colleges or trade schools. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld might say. But for those whose values and status in life depend on labels, a disagreeable day of reckoning lies ahead.

Unanswered, then, is just when the recovery will begin. The Washington Post’s weekend headline was that job losses are drowning the “stimulus.” The stimulus was designed to save or create 3.5 million jobs, but we have lost 4.4 million jobs since the start of the Recession. Critics of the president say he is trying to do too much too soon – or that he simply lacks the experience and training for such a soaring game plan.

Whether the challenge be a Depression or a Recession, “Much depends on the presence of one or more outstanding individuals willing to assume responsibility and leadership,” says Nobel economist Milton Friedman. The National Journal asked a number of leading economists whether President Obama’s economic forecast is too rosy. For example, Obama estimated that the economy would grow 3.2 percent in 2010, and then grow at greater than 4 percent in 2011.

Economist Mark Bloomfield feels there is a lack of focus on the economy and that Obama is instead concentrating on a broad political and social agenda. James K. Galbraith, who teaches economics at the University of Texas, finds fault with the theory that there is a natural rate of unemployment and that we will return to this rate (4.80 percent) even if no action is taken. And Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution thinks the administration’s hopefulness and forecast of economic growth over the next couple of years is designed to gain support from the public and is dangerously over optimistic.

A sense of humor helps. One wag noted that economists predicted eight of the last three depressions. Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate of a major American political party, calls all the recent forecasts and prophecies “A new version of voodoo economics… but that would give witch doctors a bad name.” Milton Friedman, in yet another observation, says as the downturn continues, the hole deepens. “The job of recovery is not simply delayed, it becomes more difficult. Recovery will not return the economy to its former state. Many Americans who once could get credit, as well as those who never should have, will find it impossible or more expensive to obtain.”

The latest view from the White House is that other nations need to take action to bolster their economies if recovery and growth is to take place in the U.S. “We can do a really good job here at home, with a whole host of politices, but if you continue to see deterioration in the world economy, that’s going to set us back,” Obama told reporters.

So there you go Iceland, New Zealand, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Portugal…the ball’s in your court.

CHASE HAMIL

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