It's about to become official: The recession is over — but not the pain.
The government will release figures this week expected to show that the economy has awakened from its deepest slump since the 1930s and is in the early stages of a recovery. But the following week, the government will issue another set of figures expected to show unemployment continuing to rise toward and possibly above a clearly recessionary 10 percent.
How can both be possible?
In the health care debate, Democrats and their allies have gone after insurance companies as rapacious profiteers making "immoral" and "obscene" returns while "the bodies pile up."
But in pillorying insurers over profits, the critics are on shaky ground. Ledgers tell a different reality.
Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.
If the mere existence of Fox News scares some liberals, the idea of Roger Ailes, founder and CEO of the right-wing network, running for office against President Barack Obama in 2012 should send them screaming into the streets.
Last week, Politico's Mike Allen reported friends of Ailes are urging him to jump into the fray and run for President.
"Ailes knows how to frame an issue better than anybody, and that's what we need now," Allen quotes one Ailes friend as saying.
It's a big number that only tells part of the story. The number of banks that have failed so far this year topped 100 on Friday — hitting 106 by the end of the day — the most in nearly two decades. But the trouble in the banking system from bad loans and the recession goes even deeper.
Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other banks remain open even though they are as weak as many that have been shuttered. Regulators are seizing banks slowly and selectively — partly to avoid inciting panic and partly because buyers for bad banks are hard to find.
Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party’s chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives.
Congressional leaders talk in private of being boxed in by commentators such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh — figures who are wildly popular with the conservative base but wildly controversial among other parts of the electorate, and who have proven records of making life miserable for senators and House members critical of their views or influence.
The Treasury Department is expected in the next few days to order companies that received huge government bailouts last year to slash the base salaries of their top executives by an average of 90 percent and cut their total compensation in half, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Banks that sucked on the public tit of government bailout funds continue to ladle out lavish perks and benefits to the very executives who led them into financial chaos and, in too many cases, the federal government is sitting back and letting it happen.
While cash-strapped Americans find themselves slapped with 29 percent interest rates from the banks that they helped bail out as taxpayers, the financial institutions hand out huge bonuses and fly their top execs around on private jets and pay the tab for luxury hotels and fancy "corporate apartments."
If, and when, so-called "health care reform" becomes reality, the man responsible for changing the landscape for health insurance for millions of Americans will be someone you've never heard of.
His name is Phil Ellis, a numbers cruncher with the Congressional Budget Office and a man whose spreadsheets spell success or doom for proposed health care reform plans.
As a senior analyst for the CBO, Ellis issues forecasts on what proposed plans will costs. His estimates can kill some bills and put others into play.
The catch is, even Ellis says his numbers are probably wrong.
President Barack Obama's campaign promise of an open government disappeared shortly after he took office and the closed-door, secret negotiations on health care reform demonstrate all too clearly that politics in Washington remain "business as usual" in his administration.
The secrecy that surrounds White House actions rivals that of the often-criticized administration of former President George W. Bush and key decisions on health care reform now are not being made in the open but in behind the scenes negations involving three Democratic Senators: Majority Leader Harry Reid, Christopher Dodd and Max Baucus.
It wasn't supposed to work this way: Taxpayers bail out huge financial institutions and those bailouts help the institutions get richer while average Americans get poorer.
But that's what happened.
Wall Street titans are richer than ever and the banks on the verge of collapse just a year ago are now readying huge bonuses for the executives to run them.
And they have Washington to thank for their continued growth in wealth.