The American economy’s been in bad shape for a long time. Normally after a recession you get a quick bounce-back recovery—real long-term economic growth is hard, but putting a bunch of unemployed workers back to work is, relatively speaking, easy. But instead of a catch-up recovery we spent 2010 and most of 2011 suffering from sluggish growth. Even before suffering though the deepest recession in postwar history, we had just ambled through the weakest period of growth on record. In retrospect, the boom economy of the late 1990s seemed less like the dawning of a New Economy and more like a brief bubble-driven vacation from decades of despair.