We can't call it a recession anymore—the group of economists that determines such things has declared that the recession officially ended in June 2009. But it sure doesn't feel like a recovery. A year after the recession ended, the unemployment rate is more than three percentage points higher than it was at the worst point of the 2001 recession, and two points higher than the worst point of the 1991 downturn. So today's "recovery" is worse than the recessions of yore.
Many things have changed permanently, so maybe it's time to come up with some new economic terms to describe what we're going through right now. In the '70s they endured "malaise," a moody type of thing that will forever be associated with Jimmy Carter's fussy pessimism. Japan soldiered through a "lost decade" in the '90s, and for their trouble, they ought to be able to keep sole claim on that descriptor. "Stagnation" captures what many of us feel, but that's just part of the problem.
What we need is a more grandiloquent phrase to describe an era characterized by hardships we never planned for, falling living standards we can't control, broken promises, political dysfunction, and the nagging frustration that comes from not knowing whom to blame (certainly not ourselves). Here are my suggestions. Leave your own in the comments following this story, or E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Precession. The dark moment right before the next recession hits.
Permacession. Something's not right, forever.
Russession. Life seems better, as long as you drink a lot of vodka.
The Postprosperous Era. Getting ahead is so yesterday.
Rationalizationomics. I don't really need material things to be happy. No problem just living out of this box here.
The Middling Ages. Mediocrity suits me just fine.
The Paleomodern Era. Literally "old" and "new" at the same time. Posting Facebook updates about your homeless nights on a park bench.
Barbellism. There's rich and poor and little in between.
Revenge of the Trailer Parks. They don't seem so bad any more.
Trickle-Down Syndrome. The endless wait for the rising living standards that were supposed to result from the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. Maybe if we just extend them for another decade or two…
Stimulaxation. Trillions of dollars of government spending runs right through the economy.
The Letdown Years. You worked hard, raised good kids, saved for retirement, then went broke. Life's not a Hallmark card.
Baffluenza. The bafflement that comes from realizing we once believed chrome kitchen appliances would make us happy.
China Envy. Oh, to have a government that works.
Refudiationism. Whoever Sarah Palin blames, that's who did it.
Greenspam. An era of wishful thinking that turns out to be flim-flam.
Loanership Society. You don't own that home, you're only borrowing it from the bank for a while. Eventually, they'll want it back.
Ambitionesia. Forgetting what it's like to feel motivated.
Job holiday. The whole country isn't laid off, it's just relaxing for a while.
Double-Dip With Sprinkles. Recessions keep happening, but Washington makes us feel better with a $9 monthly tax rebate.
Pawnopoly. Pawn brokers take over all the mall space abandoned by bankrupt chains.
Povertainment. We learn to appreciate the simple pleasure of taking our kids to the Dumpster for fun.
Farmageddon. When all else fails, get some goats and start growing your own food.
Mepossession. Reclaiming control of your life. How do you do that again?
Promotion Fatigue. It's soooo tiring trying to get ahead.
Freecession. Everybody can have a job, as long as they work for free.
Goldman Sacession. Goldman Sachs is doing fine and that's all that matters.