The depression is here — it’s just invisible
Commentary: The crash wasn’t sudden, but it’s still a tragedy
By Al Lewis
Aug. 1, 2012
DENVER (MarketWatch) — The Great Depression that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claims to have averted has been part of the background radiation of our economy since at least 2008.
It’s just that like radiation — it’s invisible.
We’ve called it the recovery, the jobless recovery, the slogging recovery and more recently the fading recovery. We’ve measured modest growth in our nation’s gross domestic product to record that our so-called Great Recession ended in June 2009. And now we are saying that if this disappointing growth suddenly disappears, as currently feared, we will be in a new recession.
There is nothing more depressing than hearing about a new recession when you haven’t fully recovered from the last one. I take heart in suspecting that in a still-distant future, historians will look back with clarity and call this whole rotten period a depression.
The precise definition of a depression, of course, remains as debatable as anything else in the field of economics. By some definitions, it is a long-term slump in economic activity, often characterized by unusually high unemployment, a banking crisis, a sovereign-debt crisis, surprising bankruptcies and other horrible symptoms we can find in the headlines almost every day.
It is easy to avoid seeing all of these events as constituting a depression if you somehow have kept your livelihood intact all this time. But it’s important to remember that not everyone has to stand in a bread line during a depression.