OFF THE GRID

Great Recession: All’s Well That Ends Well?   

Aug 5, 09 | 7:39 AM   byMichael Wolff
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So it’s almost official. The recession is almost over.

The Dow has put in its best performance in years. Houses are starting to sell. Banks are paying bonuses again.

But what does this mean?

It means, some pessimists believe, a W curve. It’s going up, only to come down again—to go up again (presumably).

Or it could mean nothing at all. Rather, things are so bad that they can no longer get much worse, hence they seem better—and if they seem better, they get better.

Or, it’s the broken clock analysis. Certain politicians and media people have started to say the recession is over because it will eventually be over and then they’ll be able to say they were prescient—and if enough people say it’s over, that helps make it over.

Or the recession, which was triggered by a great confluence of psychological factors resulting in the flight of once dependable but suddenly horrified consumers from the market, is now being reversed by similarly potent psychological factors. That is, people are bored by the recession—and spending again is a way to feel less bored, which, in turn, makes markets go up and people spend more.

So what’s it all about? What’s the lasting effect? Is there a lasting effect?

The Republicans hope that they can use the stimulus measures of the Obama administration to brand the president a socialist—but so far, that appears to be regarded by the greater public as a puzzling label, even quaint, making the Republicans sound rather old fogeyish (most of the country, after all, barely knows what socialism is).

The lefty-Democrats—do-gooders, greens, anti-capitalists—had hoped that the silver lining of the recession would be a change in consumer mentality. Our very desires, in this theory, will be undermined by the recession.

But, for better or worse, by saving the banks and pumping the stimulus dough into the economy, and swallowing unheard-of deficits, the Obama White House will have flexed its socialistic muscles to save capitalism. With capitalism saved, we can go back to spending with only slightly less abandon than we have been accustomed to.

Nothing much changes; everything gets back to normal. The right wing and the left wing stay aggrieved. I breathe a sigh of relief.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.
   

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