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Coming out of the Great Recession - Martha Carr

There is a common adage that it takes about two months to form a habit and six months to really learn something, so that the action becomes a pattern.

The Great Recession has now dragged on for over three years, so for many of us, it has become a new way of life.

Most of us have moved past the stage where we compared every new action to what we could do just a few weeks ago, then a few months ago, and have given in to a new landscape. That's a good thing because no one can be happy in a perpetual state of mourning what's lost.

Besides, there are blessings in everything, but we'd have to take our focus off of the cheaper toilet paper and the chicken and soup casserole to notice.

The new reality of 2011 is that we all cut corners without thinking about it, shop in different stores when we shop at all, and instead of dining out, we've learned as a nation how to make food go farther. The rapidly rising price of gasoline not only makes running our cars more of a luxury, it has had the added effect of making food cost more. Other goods and services will become more expensive over the coming months for the same reason, but food is always a more immediate barometer of the effects of fuel costs.

The economic gurus have said that based on official rules, the Great Recession officially ended almost two years ago, in June of 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which was good news in more of an offhanded sort of way at the time.

Most of us were still suffering the worst of the effects of losing jobs, homes and savings. It's only been very recently that some of that has trickled down to the average American who needed the basics.

It was kind of like being told that the bottom had been hit even though we knew there might be some more hard knocks ahead.

There's still a lot of financial cleanup to go before most of us can start telling tall tales about how bad we really had it without wincing over the parts that are actually true.

The biggest mess continues to be the housing market. Now that the tax incentive has ended for first-time homebuyers, they've dropped out of the market in droves. On top of that is the backlog of homes being held in foreclosure that can't be sold, and are currently in limbo on banks' balance sheets.

Banks again hold a lot of the blame for the brand-new mess. Many of the larger banks used third party companies to process the foreclosures without checking to see if they were doing things even close to legally, much less ethically.

As a result, many people were rushed into foreclosure based on manufactured paperwork and sadly, many Americans lost their homes unnecessarily, because the collection agencies' only incentive was the fee they'd collect, and not a resolution.

Eventually, one of them tried to foreclose on a few people who knew a thing or two about the law and double-checked behind them, and lo and behold, they found mismanagement, fraud, sloppy paperwork and greed. It's the same debacle that got us here in the first place, and it now threatens to send us right back.

The financial institutions would have us believe that these individual middleclass homeowners have to suffer and give up the roof over their heads so that the rest of us don't lose our shirt. However, before we all fall for that one again think AIG, bailout, bonuses and spa vacations on taxpayers' money.

Even if these homeowners made poor decisions to buy a home they couldn't afford in the first place, they deserve the same protection under the law that the financial institutions are so quick to whine and cry about to Congress at the first hint that the year-end bonuses aren't coming.

At some point in the coming weeks, they'll be trotting over to Capital Hill to plead their case and ask all of us to believe that the sky is falling if they can't dump these houses. That's when all of us should get up off of our couches, show up in droves and protest that we're no longer their write-off or their cocktail party joke.

Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know about how your family is doing coming out of the Great Recession. www.martharandolphcarr.com.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.