Some notable economists have defined a recession that lasts longer than 2 years as a depression. I believe this is one of those times. But "they" call it recession because it sounds better.
A recent NY Times article comparing the Great Depression to today says, "Even by the highest estimates — which include people discouraged from looking for a job, thus not registered as unemployed — the jobless rate reached around 16 to 17 percent. It’s a jobs disaster, to be sure, but not the same scale as the Great Depression."
Two points on this statement:
1) People aren't "discouraged" as the BLS reports. When unemployment benefits run out, the government has no way to know if people are actually still seeking work. This is a myth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPA (household survey) is extremely flawed, and I can give you 6 million reasons why (HINT: Their called the "99ers".)
2) We had 12 million unemployed in 1933 - and now we have 14 million unemployed in 2011. We have MORE people unemployed now than then; and while although it may be a smaller percentage of the population as a whole, we're still taking about millions of REAL people with no income at all to live on.
The article also stated, "The heavily leveraged sector more than 100 years ago was not housing but rather agriculture — a different play on real estate."
Yes, since the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl (which was 80 years ago, not 100) people left the farms and moved to cities during the early Industrial Age. A great many of the farms that people lived on were foreclosed by the banks. Now today it's their suburban homes that are being foreclosed on. So it doesn't really seem like a "different play" on real estate at all. We hated the banks then as we do now.
The banks do everything they can to get you to deposit your money with them, but when you try to take out cash or close your account, many times they give you a hard time. If you're a penny short in your checking account they might charge you $25 for an overdraft fee. And they never offer you a free toaster anymore!
Our banking system is one of the biggest flaws in capitalism. They control the money supply; they manufacture recessions and depressions, and they take the risks that subjects everyone else to stock market crashes, business failures, job losses, foreclosures, and personal bankruptcies. And banks finance wars and other nefarious enterprises just for profits.
Much stricter regulation of the banks (or complete nationalization of the
banking system) is needed; but since the banks literally control our system of
government, this will never change. Already we see a very weak Frank-Dodd bill
that's under fierce attack by people who accept campaign contributions, and we
have the Republicans blocking Elizabeth Warren from heading the Consumer
Protection Agency. It was the GOP sponsored Gramm-Leach-Bliley
Act was the main contributor to this last recession.
ALSO: The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) puts out politically biased reports as does our CBO (congressional budget office). They are supposed to be nonpartisan, but that too is a myth. After-the-fact we'll have historians that usually generate much better data, as they don't solely rely on what the government tells them (like myself).
The NY Times article mentioned "registered as unemployed". People can't "register" anywhere if they're unemployed, unless they are in the state system for receiving jobless benefits (or if they sign up for a job service like MONSTER). Once they exhaust all their jobless benefits, they are no longer counted in the U-3 unemployment rate. And after a short time, and for no good reason given, they are no longer even counted in the U-6 rate either (such as the "99ers"). These people fall through the cracks until the Social Security office and the IRS can report activity on someone's SS number, and that's only AFTER they are either rehired, file a tax return, apply for Social Security retirement or disability, or maybe if they die.
By the end of this year, unless the funding for federal extended jobless benefits is continued, we will have about 10 million people with NO INCOME AT ALL to live on. But if by some miracle the Republicans begin feeling compassion for human beings (or another tax break for the rich is offered) and the funding IS extended, there would still be about 6 million "99ers" who have already exhausted all their qualifying weeks of jobless benefits.
And then (like me) they become eligible for food stamps and state Medicaid. That's why the Republicans accuse Obama of being the "food stamp king". And many people (like me) may apply for SS disability because either they are disabled, or because their jobless benefits expired (and then hope they qualify or the fund doesn't go broke); and some people will retire early at 62 with reduced benefits and pensions. Most people (like me) have already lost their life's savings. The long-term unemployed are generally older (like me) and won't have time to rebuild any of their retirement savings that were lost.
Homes were foreclosed on; belongings were either sold or left behind; spouses divorced; upswings in domestic violence were reported; and children were taken away by social and child protection services. Child support couldn't be paid. Many lost their self-respect and dignity and sought mental help. Identities and reputations were trashed; the jobless were insulted and accused of being lazy, drunks, and drug users; years of credit histories were ruined; and many lives were lost to suicide.
But no matter how you slice and dice it, or sugar-coat the numbers, millions of people's lives (like mine) were permanently shattered over the last two years.