My Britannica Blog colleague Mark J. Perry laid out some telling statistics last week, contrasting the current downturn with the nasty recession of the early 1980s. For example, the prime rate was 20.5 percent in 1981 compared with 3.25 percent now.  Inflation was 14.8 percent in 1980 — it was essentially zero in December 2008.His point was echoed in a Jan. 21 column by New York Times‘ David Leonhardt, who argued, as the headline put it, “the economy is bad, but 1982 was worse.” Yet it’s  important that we understand how today’s economic disruption is different and dangerous. It’s not all in our heads, as some critics of the media might have it. As Leonhardt concedes, we have yet to see how badly the unemployment and housing sales rates go this time. We have yet to hit bottom. I’ll add some other ways our situation is different from 1982, and even from 1932. This takes us beyond “worse” or “better” arguments, to focus on the distinct nature of this recession…
By John Talton, Jan 26, 2009, Britanica.com

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