When most Americans hear the word "recession," they think of a short-term economic downturn that usually lasts about two or three years. Interest rates rise, inflation goes up, the housing market deteriorates and the unemployment rate shoots up. We are told that most recessions are a normal part of the economic cycle. Eventually, interest rates fall, the housing market improves, unemployment numbers go down and inflation eases. Things return to normal in a reasonable amount of time. That's what people are used to.
But the recession that began in 2008 was no ordinary recession -- it was a whole new breed of recession, one that we've never seen before -- a mega-recession, for lack of a better term. If an ordinary recession is a 1 and a depression is a 10, this was a 5. Or more. A run-of-the-mill recession can be fixed in two to three years. It stands to reason that it will take longer to dig ourselves out of a mega-recession.
After all, the Great Depression began in 1929 with the stock market crash, and did not end, arguably, until 1942, when the nation's factories geared up to produce weaponry for World War II. It took 13 years to fix.
After Herbert Hoover failed to make a dent in the crisis, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took over in 1932, and immediately introduced an array of jobs programs, many of which were either voted down by a gridlocked Congress or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But the jobs programs that survived the opposition were temporary fixes and only minor growth was achieved.
All in all, FDR tried to fix it for 10 years.
If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan think there is an easy fix for this mess, they are mistaken. These are uncharted waters.
So let's stop calling it a recession. It wasn't.