That graph above? It should feel familiar. It's a snapshot of our great muddle of a recovery.
The line tracks a measure of U.S. economic health from 2003 to today, accounting for GDP and indicators like employment growth, consumer confidence, and the stock market. It's a story of slowish growth, followed by a deep plunge, a heartening bounce-back (especially for financial markets) and, finally, the muddle.
That's America's story, but it's not exclusively an American story. It describes just about every advanced economy's two-step recovery: (1) Bounce back and (2) Back to zero. That has been the story for Canada, held back by a weak U.S.; for Australia and Japan, held back principally by a weakening China; and for the strongest economies in Europe, which are buying fewer goods from China, which is hurting Australia, and around we go.
As the Brookings Institution reported this month, the advanced world's economic recovery is sliding toward stagnation, in unison. [What's this "overall growth index? Scroll to bottom.*]
Just because each country is tracing the same sickly line doesn't mean we're all suffering from similar maladies. Europe is uniquely constrained by a common currency that's working well for nobody. Australia is battling a Chinese slowdown. The U.S. is proving that it's hard to grow without a housing market.