And it is worth pointing out that by this logic, the low savings rate indicates not profligacy but rather a general trust in the stability of the economic system—after all, aren’t we always told to trust the markets? Well, Americans did, apparently, and look where it got them.

As for that issue of choice and consumer spending, a CNN piece from the middle of this year makes the following point:

The fact that consumers continue to borrow against their homes, even as they decline in value, shows how troubled Americans are.

‘It signals how consumers are struggling to get cash,’ [senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Scott] Hoyt said.

You don’t need a PhD in economics to know that anyone borrowing on their homes in early 2008 was in serious trouble. The business press needs to move beyond the idea that luxury spending by the general public got us into this mess. And that scrimping by the average American will go very far toward righting the Good Ship Economy.

We thus add the Fortune piece to the ranks of stories presenting an unreasonably buoyant take on the economy.

Sometimes, Dear Reader, things really are as bad as they look.

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Elinore Longobardi is a Fellow and staff writer of The Audit, the business-press section of Columbia Journalism Review.