Democrats and Republicans are dug in like soldiers at Verdun over what to do about the sputtering U.S. economy. Exhausted by the political stalemate, they've been reduced to magical thinking, hoping that things will eventually get better by themselves. But time isn't on America's side. The country is suffering its highest average duration of unemployment since at least 1948. "The longer this goes on, the greater the danger that the cyclical downturn becomes structural. People and things that lie idle start to lose their productive value. Then you're into all sorts of troubles," says Karen Ward, senior global economist at HSBC Holdings (HBC) in London.
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