Back in the day, when politicians still maintained some slight pretense of competence and people believed that bankers and finance barons could be trusted not to destroy the entire global financial market, there was a rule. The rule was that the sages of Washington and Wall Street would not speak ill of the economy, even when the economy was ailing, for fear of freaking people out and making the problem worse.
It was believed that the American public trusted these smart politicians and bankers so much that if they failed to chirp out a compulsory "the fundamentals are strong" whenever the topic of the economy came up, there would be instant and devastating bank runs across the nation.
But the cat's out of the bag now. Everybody knows that Citigroup actually runs Congress, politicians are a pack of illiterate fools, and the bankers who were supposed to protect investors' interests were too busy packaging up bad mortgages with more bad mortgages under the delusion that this would somehow "create shareholder value."
U.S. & World
As a result, politicians and analysts are now suddenly free to issue frighteningly dire proclamations about the economy. These pronouncements have the advantage of being true, which is (sort of) nice. And anyhow, what's the worst that could happen once the American public finds out how hosed we are? A stock market crash? Frozen credit markets? A sudden and complete halt to all consumer spending, permanently? Done and done already.
So congratulations Barack Obama and Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson and that other guy, whatsisname, the one married to the plate lady. You have mastered the art of the gruesome financial prediction, now that it's too late to do anything about it.