Of course, to say that deleveraging is the key factor governing the speed of recovery is not to say that it's the only factor. There's the euro crisis, electoral uncertainty, the fiscal cliff, and many other things.
What explains the slow recovery is "not just the balance-sheet issue," says Beth Ann Bovino, deputy chief economist for Standard & Poor's. "Partly it's a crisis of confidence. People are afraid to borrow and spend."
But Bovino, for one, is relatively positive about prospects for 2013. She notes that household default rates are down across the board, home prices may be bottoming out, and job creation has been stronger during this recovery—financial crisis notwithstanding—than it was at the same point following the 2001 recession. "This so-called jobless recovery," she says, "might not be as jobless as people have been saying."