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Recession Over! Sailors Kiss Nurses in Times Square!

Huzzah! The worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression is “probably over,” according to equivocal Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who, you’ll recall, refused to declare the implosion of the U.S. economy a year ago a “recession” pending further evidence, like, say, the presence of at least three of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

But now the thing-that-dare-not-speak-its-name is over! (Probably.) And what chance, after all, did the Godless Recessionists have in the face of President Obama’s twin economic stimulus bombings – his answer to Fat Man and Little Boy? FIRST, he continued the red-carpet-bombing strategy of the previous administration by dropping additional billions of dollars on our wealthy bankers. Take that, evil-doers! THEN, to prove he meant business, he unleashed a second wave of shock-and-awe-shucks billions on the automotive industry. There’s more where that came from, scumbags! Don’t make me open up a can of “Cash For Clunkers!”

And just like that, the Recession died, not with a bang but with a… wha…?!

Wait a minute, it’s over?! Not according to the facts, or as I like to think of them, faceless hordes of suffering humanity:

      The jobless rate is 10.2%, a 26-year high.

      Personal bankruptcies are up 24% year-to-year.

      Foreclosures of U.S. homes exceeded 300,000 for each of the past eight months, and one in four U.S. mortgages is "underwater" or "upside down," or insert your own colorful negative equity euphemism here.

Um… Huzzah…?

Why do we remain in such an unflushed toilet of dubious statistics, despite the O-bombs scoring direct hits? partly because the banks, instead of loosening credit, took the devastating blow of all that stimulus money and used part of it to buy other banks and, flush with even more customers – and despite federal interest rates between zero and .025% – proceeded to raise borrowing rates, penalties and fees to levels that would shame a Mafia loan shark. Even after banks reported record windfall profits in the second quarter of 2009, credit remains tighter than a G.I. Joe’s kung-fu grip on America’s collective esophagus.

As for auto manufacturers, having suffered the pummeling of a combined $100 billion assault from the U.S. Treasury (motto: “Actually, you, the taxpayer”), GM and Chrysler have since slashed union benefits, laid off workers, closed domestic plants, and continued to outsource manufacturing to foreign laborers. They also discontinued entire product lines, thereby freeing themselves from contractual obligations to dealers and sticking them with the crappy cars already on their lots. And now, demonstrating the stick-to-it-ness that made America indomitable (with the possible exception of the auto industry), the auto industry continues to manufacture the same kinds of cars and trucks consumers have continuously rejected – the equivalent of ratcheting up production of rabbit ear antennas as the national switch to digital TV loomed closer.

So rejoice, Americans! Even though your own individual circumstances remain unchanged, precarious or hopeless, we won the war against the evil Recession! Sure, there are casualties: homeowners, car dealers, car owners, seniors, recent college grads, anyone with a credit card, recently downsized, under-employed... or, worse yet because of the stigma of invisibility, “uncounted jobless,” those who simply stopped looking for work, or are excluded from statistics because they stop counting you when you die from exposure, despair, lack of health care, or as a result of a knife fight over the worldly possessions in your shopping cart.

But for the rest of us, “Recession” is a thing of the past. Like prosperity.

Inflation?! Watch your back, buddy, or you'll get more of the same!

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A Modest Proposal for a film by Kurt Engfehr and Ken Pisani.
2006 Ken Pisani and Kurt Engfehr.  All rights reserved.
All "Blogging Poorly" posts  Ken Pisani.