As the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s continues to tighten its grip on the nation and spread across the globe, many aspects of American life—“dependable” things we’ve taken for granted for a very long time, like real estate values appreciating and the stock market staying on a steady upward climb, with the occasional hiccup—have vanished, along with retirement savings. Americans aren’t buying new cars. They’re scaling back on discretionary spending. They aren’t building new houses or upgrading to a larger home. They’re forgoing pleasure travel. Many are losing their jobs as some of the world’s largest, longest-established companies teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.