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It’s easy to say we’ll miss W. after he’s gone. It’s harder to say why, however, without resorting to cliches. Here’s a feeble effort:

* We’ll miss having an obvious, high-profile target for our political self-righteousness. The comedians will surviveĀ  W’s passing. But what about the everyday blowhard writing letters to the editor?

* We’ll miss the air of superiority we felt in believing ourselves smarter than the man in the oval office. No one feels that way about Obama, at least not yet. Quite the opposite. People are placing great faith in his intellectual ability to get the country out of its current jam.

People at least knew where they stood with Bush, either with him or against him. Maybe it’s for the best that we melt the polarizing style of contemporary politics. And maybe we really are prepared to give Obama time.

But patience is a virtue best left untested. While it may be the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, our attention spans may be at their shortest since, oh, Moses shattered the ten commandments in anger at an unfaithful people.

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If Circuit City can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of us? Well, at least I might get a good deal on a wireless mouse and a new wristpad for my keyboard. The old one is coming unglued (as you can see below, it looks like a blue mystery-meat hoagie).

pad

What’s good for the consumer these days might not be so good tomorrow. I keep hearing about how bad this economy is (the worst since the Great Depression?) , and it’s a cliche that a recession is when a neighbor is out of work and you have to write about it, a depression is when you are out of work. But I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

Maybe it’s because I work from home and have no one to talk to to stoke my fears. Or maybe it’s because people in general err to the positive or the negative, and the muddlesome truth is impossible to tease out.

All I know is a lot of people are losing their jobs with little prospect of getting a new one. I doubt their bank accounts will carry them through whatever’s coming. They can sell off assets, but the more people go that route, the less they’ll earn. More supply, lower prices. At least newspapers might see a small uptick in classified sales. Good luck collecting payment.

Someone should study winning bids on ebay to see if the average is up, down or unchanged. Yes, it’s a lot of apples to oranges, but still. There must be some method that could cut through the madness. Reading this makes me wonder what other statistical nuggets ebay might be able to cough up, if pressed.

Thus, the question. Do I buy a new wristpad or wrap duct tape around what I have? Or should I spare the duct tape to repair a more valuable asset down the road before posting it on ebay?

You’ll be fine. That’s the soothing advice a parent gives a 4-year-old who bangs his head on a coffee table. I would expect a little more from the leader of the free world, but that seems to be the basic White House message on the economy.

It’s technically correct that we “got through” the Depression. But it wasn’t because Americans elected FDR to be cheerleader-in-chief. It’s because FDR threw hundreds of ideas at the problem. Right, and then we fought a big war.

The bailout clearly isn’t going to be the end-all and be-all of too many economic crises on this planet. Nor is another interest-rate cut going to do the job. Haven’t we already had several hundred of those in the last decade?

If the crisis is truly one of confidence, then no technocratic solution will work. And nor will jawboning about giving those technocratic solutions more time to take effect. It’s ironic that a president who prides himself on taking action is now reduced to words in support of other people’s actions.

It’s stressful, no? Maybe we all could use a retreat to a nice spa, not just the frazzled execs at AIG.

President Bush got the first part right. Our eagerly awaited rebate checks will certainly help me cope with rising gas and food prices. The economy, I’m not so sure about. It’s nice to have extra bread in my wallet, but it won’t make a difference if there’s no bread on the store shelves.

The problems right now are clearly broader than people not having enough money to spend, though that is certainly part of it. The trouble is that economic downturns don’t hit like a tsunami. They seep in, barely making a dent in our strong and understandable hope that things will always get better.

It’s too bad people didn’t have color cameras during the Great Depression. That sort of cataclysm seems impossibly remote to people surrounded by HDTVs, SUVs and 3,000 square feet of luxury housing. But what if it isn’t? I hope we don’t have to find out, But I also fear, given our optimism and complacency, that we won’t find out until it’s too late.

These photos are from the Depression (courtesy the Library of Congress). The people are generally thinner than us, but they had less to eat. Hmm. Maybe times ain’t so different after all…