Recession reflection: Is this America's Lost Decade?

What with the continued malaise over bloated unemployment figures, the slumping housing market, the Great Recession's incessant hangover and consumers avoiding retail therapy like the plague, one can't help but pose the million-dollar question (even if its value has plummeted to $76): Has America entered a "Lost Decade?"

You have to give it serious thought when earlier this month, 30,000 people showed up to receive an application for subsidized housing in Atlanta. After suffering through hours in the blazing hot sun, flare-ups broke out and chaos ensued. More than 60 people required medical attention and 20 were taken to the hospital. Lost, indeed -- and for those who fell ill, perhaps the latest loss in a string of losses.

The term recalls what happened in Japan a while back, and now, when Average Joes on the street start throwing around the comparison to Japan's Lost Decade, you have to believe the economy has landed in the toilet. With the exception of professional economists, the phrase remained obscure during the past few years, even while jobs were eliminated and home values collapsed. In fact, when President Obama in February 2009 suggested the United States might have its own "lost decade," it didn't really send folks to Wikipedia to figure out what he was talking about.