If you don't feel bad enough about the economy, spend a little time with Joseph Stiglitz.
The Nobel-winning economist spoke to a gathering of business editors and writers in New York Thursday evening and offered little encouragement about an economy struggling to gain momentum two years after the near-meltdown of the financial sector.
"The good news about this recession is that it's going to last a long time," he offered in one effort to provide at least a bit of gallows humor about the economy's structural problems.
Stiglitz is a strong advocate for more government stimulus of the economy and thinks the long-lasting nature of the slowdown means there is time for a new program to be well-crafted and have an impact.
Stiglitz acknowledged that the economy is out of recession "in a narrow sense," as determined by a panel of economists that sets business cycle dates. But he said the slow pace of job growth, coupled with a huge overhang of housing supply, means the nation's economic pain could linger into 2012.
He prescribed highly targeted stimulus aimed mainly at helping struggling state and local governments and investing in high-tech projects with the potential of paying big returns. Such a package seems unlikely in the current political climate -- even less likely if Democrats lose control of one or both houses in Congress next month.
Stiglitz, a former White House economist in the Clinton administration, acknowledged he is losing some sleep over that prospect.
Stiglitz said he offers more details in a new edition of his book Freefall, due out this month. Despite the grim prognosis, Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University, has the gift of making economics intelligible to a lay audience and was an entertaining speaker at the gathering of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.