What are we recovering?

The mall was oddly croweded for a ghost town. The weakest shops at the Independence Mall had already disappeared and others were following it. In front of the Best Buy there were plenty of cars but stepping insde there weren't many carrying shopping bags or taking things up to the counter, just browsing.

My younger brother rolled his eyes, he had seen the same behavior when he worked at Circuit City. People thinking about what they might be buying if their credit card limits hadn't been slashed, and if they weren't trying to save up money in case they lost their jobs.

While recently there have been a few sparks of hope, the American economy is still in the doldrums but government wants to fix that.

The problem isn't that AIG is paying out retention bonuses to its executives or that banks aren't loaning people money, at least not in my estimation.

The problem is the consumption society, that the happy times we're looking back on are not a rational goal. It's rather like the recovering addict in the throes of detox looking back on his first hit of heroin. The pain might go away, but at the end of the day the problem isn't really gone. I

n this analogy we might easily replace heroin with cheap credit through home equity loans and credit cards, where the average American household was artificially suspended thousands of dollars over the edge. The boom was largely in part fueled by debt far beyond the ability of consumers to cover, hidden by financial chicanery like minimum monthly payments and arcane fees that don't clearly correlate to any known cost.

It was also partly powered by perky real estate agents and mortgage lenders attesting to the boom that would never bust, and the common American wisdom that real estate always goes up. With that the people of America went out and shopped for cars, plasma televisions and millions of other every day objects.

It was money that ultimately drained out of the American economy, only to be lent back to us so that we could spend it again. To return to that seeming prosperity isn't a laudable goal, it's an easy expedient. For America, the future of the country might be in restoring our symbiotic relationship with China but wouldn't it b better to take advantage of the current crisis to reforumlate how we approach the economy and how we can truly prosper?