" ‘Jesus,' he said to himself. ‘Drunk for ten years.' "F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Lost Decade"

For months, the "lost decade" meme has been wending its way through blog posts, economics journals, cable news shows, and newspaper think pieces until, like a minor leaguer on a hot streak, it finally reached The Show, the White House, where President Barack Obama explained its provenance during his professorial first press conference:

"If you delay acting on an economy of this severity, then you potentially create a negative spiral that becomes much more difficult for us to get out of. We saw this happen in Japan in the 1990s, where they did not act boldly and swiftly enough, and as a consequence they suffered what was called the ‘lost decade' where essentially for the entire '90s they did not see any significant economic growth."

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Paul Smalera has written for Condé Nast Portfolio, The New York Times and The New York Observer among others. He lives in New York.