When I was getting divorced a few years back, my former wife and I spent most of our time arguing over—what else—the past. The only practical benefit? We became better arguers.
As a nation, we now seem to be having an economic argument about the past. Did a recession begin late last year? Or early this year? Or not at all? I'm not sure what we get out of this, especially since a recession, if we're in one, will be more than six months old by the time we're even sure it exists.
If we learn way after the fact that growth in gross domestic product went from positive to negative, should we all...do something? Will I curtail my vacation plans this summer if there's breaking news that a recession began last winter? Are the strategic planners at McDonald's waiting for the official signal before they offer a $1.99 Recession Special?
While we're waiting to find out what happened, a turbulent new economy is forming around us. So as we dust off the economic textbooks and research what constitutes a "recession," there are some new economic concepts we should be boning up on as well. Such as:
Narcicession. An economic phenomenon characterized by consumers who believe that basic economic principles apply to other people, in other countries, and other eras, but not to them.
Denialation. A period following a narcicession, when consumers fail to understand why their net worth and standard of living are falling.
Fauxnancier. An investing genius who knows way more about making money than you or I do, except he doesn't, actually.
Can'titative analyst. A mathematical whiz who can't explain where several billion dollars suddenly disappeared to.
Masters of the Puniverse. Investment bankers who used to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and now must get by on a few million.
Magicware. Sophisticated software that analyzes complex investment vehicles and makes risk disappear.
Auditarium. Soundproof room at banks where auditors are quarantined.
Benopoly. An economy in which only the Federal Reserve holds risky securities.
Econogloss. Presidential pronouncements that paint the economy as stable. Must be reapplied frequently.
Mortgage breaker. A lending institution that peddles mortgages designed to self-destruct.
Homeblower. A consumer who thinks that financing a house with a mortgage requiring 60 percent of his monthly take-home pay will work out, somehow.
Got others? Email Flowchart@usnews.com.