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Again With the Depression? Great.

That other depression seems to be inspiring nostalgia, if only rhetorically.
That other depression seems to be inspiring nostalgia, if only rhetorically. (Associated Press)

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By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

These are good times for a Great Depression.

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President Obama visited a struggling hamlet in Indiana yesterday and gave a speech that would not be mistaken for a pep talk. We're in "an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression," he said, and without quick action, "our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse."

Lawmakers, too, were feeling blue. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said on the Senate floor yesterday that "we will get close to the Great Depression" without action, while Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) spoke of an economy "perched on the edge of a cliff" that without help will fall "off the side to a deep depression."

"We're only a few steps away from spiraling down to a depression," Sen Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on television Sunday. "The risk of doing nothing could lead to a Great Depression."

If the economy isn't already in a depression, Americans themselves are likely to be if they've been hearing their leaders drop the D-bomb again and again.

Returning to the White House, the president held a prime-time news conference last night to report on his findings in Indiana. He spoke of "the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression," a "full-blown crisis," the "winter of our hardship" and the danger of turning "a crisis into a catastrophe."

The first questioner, Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press, asked Obama to explain his statement in Indiana that the downturn may not be reversible. "Do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?"

"This is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill recession," Obama answered. "We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

You don't say.

Last week, the president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank said she saw "the same type of dynamics taking place that do happen in a depression," while the head of the International Monetary Fund said that the leading economies are "already in depression," and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pronounced his country in a depression before downgrading that to a recession.

Here in town, the talk has been similarly dour. "Our economy is dark, darker, darkest almost," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told ABC News.

Conservatives accuse Democrats of "talking down the economy" (Sean Hannity) and "ever-heightening hyperbole" (the Washington Times) aimed at passing Obama's stimulus proposal. But there is a problem with that accusation: Republican officials agree that, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said yesterday, "the economy is in serious trouble."


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