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Still the same old economy, stupid

Swiss dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt would have had a field day with the US election. Much of his work dealt with man watching as blind fate wreaked havoc with his plans.

The election Wasco fits right in there. Both major parties spent months, if not years, preparing one of the dullest campaigns in memory. They differed over tax cuts and spending plans but both rooted their strategies firmly in the belief that the economy would continue to be strong and that there was an ever-growing surplus of trillions of dollars to be redistributed.

Now matters are very different. The careful campaigning has given neither a mandate and simply tightened gridlock in Congress while the economy no longer looks so rosy.

Profit warnings, an increase in bad loans, equity market collapses, a rise in debt market defaults and high oil prices are signs that the next few months might be the turning point between a blip and a recession. We may look back in a year and see no more than a series of vaguely related problems that we shrugged off, or we may see the beginning of the slide.

Much of the problem in not recognizing them is psychological: the boom has gone on for so long that it's hard to imagine an end.

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