Matt Towery

You have to hand it to him. Barack Obama's speech before Congress was, from a presentation standpoint, incredibly strong. It needed to be, because what he likely did not know was that a new poll shows that 37 percent of all Americans, and nearly 50 percent of Democrats, believe the nation's economy is not in a recession, but rather a depression.

Of course one would never guess that things could be so dire after they watched Speaker Nancy Pelosi springing from her seat like a jack-in-the-box every 30 seconds during President Obama's appearance in her House chamber.

But since Nancy obviously doesn't comprehend depression -- economic or psychological -- I sought numerous definitions of an economic depression to see if people might be onto something.

There is no one conclusive definition of what constitutes a depression. However, many of the definitions included virtually every major economic hurdle we currently face, absent significant inflation or, in the alternative, deflation.

The best definition I could find was one that suggested that an economic depression is a period of severe economic slowdown in which individuals have to sell tangible assets in order to continue to stay afloat economically. Bingo. That explains the poll. It also tells us just how dangerous might be the practice of throwing trillions of dollars at this crisis.

It would not surprise me at all if a third of Americans have been forced to sell possessions, whether primary ones -- such as their homes -- or luxury items such as boats, second cars and vacation properties.

Certainly times are bad when one of the major ads for the Super Bowl was sponsored by a sleazy "we buy gold items" group using poor old Ed McMahon as their pitchman. People selling possessions to live? Well, if that's the definition, maybe there are plenty more folks who feel we are in a depression than anyone ever wanted to admit.

The problem is that for all the hype of both the stimulus proposal and the future bailouts of banks and insurance companies, the one segment of Americans who could most readily lift the economy up are the very ones who qualify for absolutely nothing in any of the legislation I've seen so far.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery