News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett Opinion

November 28, 2009

MARK BENNETT: Americans have been experiencing tough times of late, but this country has a lot going for it

TERRE HAUTE — This month, inside a church on Terre Haute’s south side, a minister reminded the congregation of the wealth we enjoy.

Few of us probably feel that way, especially after a nearly two-year recession has made the phrases “pay raise” and “job security” seem as out of date as a 45-rpm record. Us, wealthy? Now? Say what?

Yet, most people on Earth live on less than 2 bucks a day, he said.

In fact, according to a report by BBC Radio World Service, nearly half of the world population survives on less than $1 each day. A life under those circumstances likely means few opportunities to better themselves, and exposure to hunger and illnesses. Jobs, education and hope are hard to find, not to mention safe water, functioning showers and toilets, and reliable electricity, according to a United Nations summary.

Thanks to the American spirit and ingenuity, those problems aren’t the norm here. We’re not used to living in such conditions.

There is no doubt the Great Recession — which began in December 2007 and finally has begun to end — has been unforgiving. Its most wounding aspect, especially in Indiana, is unemployment. While a gradual recovery takes hold in the rest of the economy, the job market won’t bounce back for at least another six months, and by then, the recession will have claimed 8 million U.S. jobs, according to Bill Witte, an economist at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

And clearly, this recession’s grip is far stronger than any in recent memory. That grip is loosening very slowly, compared to other recessions.

“The strength of the recovery is usually proportional to the depth of the downturn,” Witte said at the annual IU Kelley School of Business Economic Forecast. “But we don’t think that’s going to be the case this time.”

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