It happened in 2010 and 2011 at about the same time. The economy shows signs in the first quarter of modest growth and easing unemployment when all of a sudden - POOF! The recovery disappears in a puff of smoke and stagnation returns.
Some of the same spoilers that interrupted the recovery in 2010 and 2011 have emerged again, raising fears that the winter's economic strength might dissipate in the spring.
In recent weeks, European bond yields have started climbing. In the United States and elsewhere, high oil prices have sapped spending power. American employers remain skittish about hiring new workers, and new claims for unemployment insurance have risen. And stocks have declined.
There is a "light recovery blowing in a spring wind" with "dark clouds on the horizon," Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said Thursday, at the start of meetings here that will focus on Europe's troubles and global growth. Ms. Lagarde implored world leaders not to become complacent.
Forecasters have said that the trends point to a moderation of economic growth in the United States, but they still expect the recovery to continue this year. The slowdown in part reflects an unusually warm winter, which pulled forward economic activity, making January and February seem artificially good and perhaps making recent weeks look worse than they truly were.
Still, the breadth of the recent weakening of activity shows that the economy remains fragile, as is typical in the years following a financial crisis.
Growth is already below 3% which is "moderate" enough for just about anyone. Now that moderate growth will be moderated further? That's the definition of stagnation and a recipe for electoral defeat for Barack Obama.
The debate can no longer be about who caused the recession. The debate now must turn on the question of whether the president's policies have helped or hurt the recovery. For that, it is provable given the current state of the economy, that we would have been better off if President Obama had gone to sleep on January 20, 2009 and taken a nice long nap.