The Great Recession has lasted long enough to creep into our consciousness and establish a new lower baseline for optimism.
It's located somewhere in the basement of our national house and is now predicated on the idea that anything better than dismal is, henceforth, to be redefined as welcomed news. Send up a hurrah because we're all still above ground and breathing air.
If labor or banking or a company's financial report is not as bad as expected the economists heave a sigh of relief. If a giant like GM emerges from bankruptcy bruised and battered with bondholders and creditors left in the dust we are all expected to cheer because they emerged at all.
The Federal Reserve Board is helping out by carrying this new tradition forward and coming out with the statement that the jobless rate is now at 9.4 percent, a 26-year high, and is expected to surpass 10 percent by the end of the year.
Michigan, home to the three big automakers, has already slid past 15 percent.
However, the comments that accompanied the decree were surprisingly upbeat. They sounded a little surprised, in fact. The unemployment numbers are not as bad as expected, so their conclusion is that something they're doing must be working after all. In light of these figures they've decided that the Great Recession is slowly coming to a halt.
Keep in mind that a recession is noticed in hindsight after three consecutive shrinking quarters and the end is announced after the same signs but in the opposite direction. Still shrinking but in smaller quantities doesn't count, unless they're trying to change that standard as well.
Credit is still tight as particularly small-to-mid-size businesses with a moderate-to-good record continue to struggle to find lines of credit that are necessary for them to thrive. Despite turning over forklifts of money to the banks so that the credit crunch would be eased, the banks are reluctant to lend much of it out. It's unfortunate there wasn't a clause in there somewhere that would have enforced the implied intention. Ah well, hindsight.
Unfortunately for the smaller businesses, which are seen as the backbone of the American economy, they have also never been deemed as too big to fail. No bailouts and no government sponsored spa breaks.
However, minimum wage is about to go up and there is the proposed bill for universal health care to add to their bottom lines, so there's that to look forward to over the summer months.
Perhaps, it's time for a new kind of Million Man March, but this time filled with the ranks of all those overlooked business owners. Show up on the steps of the Capital and create one stronger voice out of the millions of hardworking Americans.
Come with a new kind of constitution that spells out the contributions and what is expected in return. Try out a contribution to health-care coverage based on earnings rather than number of employees or rules about ongoing loans to businesses that will make it easier to plan and, perhaps, create new jobs.
All too often in the past, businesses that weren't GM or AIG joined local or regional groups to create change on a state level, which is a laudable goal. However, when it came to having a national voice they didn't seem to be able to get beyond the borders of where they were based.
But, if the way that American business has gotten shoved around lately has shown anything, it's that the time has come to stop just complaining and take a page out of other voting blocs' handbooks.
Make yourselves into an entity too big to be ignored, show up and this time, earn some well-deserved respect. Then, we will know the Great Recession is really coming to an end and a lasting recovery is upon us.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com, or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.