历次经济危机结束时，企业的投资都会激增，只有这次是个例外。眼下并没有多少新工厂破土动工，企业也没有吃进多少商业地产。据美国进步中心（Center for American Progress）介绍，自从金融海啸爆发以来，企业的投资一直保持低位运行，平均只占GDP的10.3%，这是自上世纪70年代以来所有经济周期中最低的一次。
前美联储主席艾伦•格林斯潘最近接受《金融时报》（The Financial Times）采访时指出：“在这次经济恢复时期里，企业为什么不肯投资于长期资产？也就是说他们为什么不肯做出20年以上的投资？原因主要是当前经济中存在着很大的不确定性因素。”
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what has continued to hamper the U.S. economy. Economists and the media have popularly adopted the term "The Great Recession" to describe all that's gone wrong since the housing market collapsed several years ago, implying that Americans have just come out of a typical recession that, if anything, was only more severe.
Needless to say, the near implosion of the U.S. financial system was severe. But as Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff has pointed out, the recovery today is something that can only be called "The Great Contraction," suggesting that the aftermath of a financial crisis does not look anything close to that of a typical recession.
"In a conventional recession, the resumption of growth implies a reasonably brisk return to normalcy," Rogoff wrote earlier this month in Project Syndicate. "The economy not only regains its lost ground, but, within a year, it typically catches up to its rising long-run trend."
The recession officially ended more than two years ago. And yet, during the first half of this year, the economy barely grew. With Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledging in his speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last week that the problems plaguing the marketplace are beyond the powers of the central bank, it becomes all the more important for Washington lawmakers to help reboot the economy.
Members of Congress might be scratching their heads over what to do next, but perhaps as a starting point, members should look at how this recovery is different from previous ones.
Long-term business investment: Since 1949, construction has been a major component driving economic recoveries. Not only does construction of new buildings and factories help make companies become more productive, but it also creates jobs for the overall economy as each order of concrete, for instance, demands workers to do everything from taking the order to delivering it from the warehouse to the building site.
But unlike the end of other recessions when business investment surged, companies today aren't building many new factories or buying up much commercial real estate. Business investment has continued at a slow place, averaging 10.3% of GDP since the start of the latest recession – the lowest average for any business cycle since the 1970s, according to the Center for American Progress.
Given that S&P 500's non-financial companies altogether hold more than $1.1 trillion in cash and short-term investments, it's not as if America's biggest companies don't have the money to invest. So what's to blame for the pullback in spending?
"It's a question of why is it that we no longer in a recovery can fund long-term assets –basically 20 years or more – and the answer essentially is that there's a huge element of uncertainty in this economy," former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in a recent interview with The Financial Times.
Greenspan has urged Washington lawmakers and policymakers to stand aside and let the economy heal on its own. However, the pains of slow growth and high unemployment might be too much for many to endure. What's more, doing nothing would certainly be politically unpopular especially given the 2012 presidential election.