The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

September 2, 2009

A year after meltdown: Tough questions, choices

NEW YORK — Where do we go from here?

A year after edging dangerously close to free fall, there are signs the economy is regaining a foothold. But Americans' sense of financial security is badly shaken and the nation confronts questions that defy quick or comfortable answers.

Without easy credit, what does life hold for a nation of consumers?

With nest eggs broken, will older workers need to rethink retirement?

With old institutions gone � and the government propping up others � what will replace them?

The anxieties reach deeper than those stirred by all other recessions since World War II, when businesses, workers and consumers took reassurance from signs economic life was returning to normal. Instead, the U.S. is at an unsettling economic moment, facing the possibility that some old expectations may no longer apply.

After more than a decade of building dreams atop a bubble � first in technology stocks, then in housing � there is no clear route forward. Moving on, economists say, the country will have to redefine expectations, accepting that the bubble-fueled growth the country became accustomed to is neither something to aim for nor count on, but evidence of an economy that was out of balance.

"The problem is we're longing for something we shouldn't have even wanted," said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa.

If a slow climb out of recession is in store, as many economists believe, it could take years to answer questions about the future. Until then, the greatest comfort may be in knowing that we are far from alone in our doubts.

That much is clear to Stephen Sullivan, a Metuchen, N.J., accountant who lost his job last fall and at 62 is still searching for work. He sees it in the faces of others like him who meet each Wednesday night for his church's unemployment ministry.

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