The bankruptcy cram down measure has come full circle, evolving from long shot to sure thing and then back to uncertain, before dying two weeks ago on the Senate floor. 

Swine flu aside – and it now appears that we may be able to set it well aside, at least for now – the economic news has acquired a decidedly more positive hue in recent weeks, moving from jet black to much lighter shades of gray, with hints of blue visible to some analysts.

The momentum driving legislation targeting abusive credit card practices, which seemed to be lagging in the Senate, has accelerated again on the strength of a strong public push from the White House. Inviting executives from the major credit card issuers to discuss the issue with him, President Barack Obama told them, in so many words, “Cut it out.” What he actually said: “The days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late fee taps have to end.”

Subcommittees in the House and Senate have approved measures expanding credit card protections for consumers and eliminating many now common industry billing and marketing practices.

Have you seen the silly commercial, where the guy crawls through a swamp and emerges to announce that he has “found the Internet?” Well, we’ve crawled through a statistical swamp and found good news to report – quite a lot of it, actually. And, note the calendar – this is not an April fool’s joke.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly rejected the stock market’s performance as a measure of his Administration’s efforts to repair the financial system and bolster the economy. 

The House of Representatives, as expected, approved the controversial bankruptcy “cram down” legislation, but not until after the bill’s sponsors agreed to add provisions making it more difficult for borrowers to qualify for judicial loan modifications. 

In the 1950s, teachers told students to “duck and cover” in the event of a nuclear attack. We know now (and should have known then) that cowering under a desk would not provide much protection against radiation poisoning. But it may be a reasonable strategy for dealing with the continuing onslaught of dismal economic news. You certainly don’t want to spend a lot of time staring at the daily stock market reports or (even worse) reviewing the statements for your retirement account.

If the economy were a contestant on one of those weight loss reality shows, it would be in terrific shape now. But the economy isn’t a weight loss contestant (though its losses are impressive) and it certainly isn’t in good shape. The challenge for journalists is finding words to describe depths few have seen.

Slam, pan, bemoan, disappoint. Praise was nowhere to be found in the headlines reporting reactions to the much-anticipated bank bail-out plan Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced two weeks ago. 

With the blueprint for resuscitating the banking industry, for better or worse, now in place, President Barack Obama has turned his attention to the housing market, announcing a $275 billion government effort to help as many as 9 million homeowners at risk of losing their homes.

Legislation allowing bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of home mortgages, introduced, as expected, in the early days of the new Congressional session, received an unexpected boost when Citicorp broke ranks with the banking industry and withdrew its opposition to the measure.

Financial industry lobbyists fighting (not very successfully thus far) to block mortgage cram-down authority for bankruptcy judges will not be pleased with this news. 

The new credit card regulations finalized last month have brought bankers an early, bracing blast of the frostier regulatory climate they are expecting with Democrats once again controlling the White House and holding majorities in both the House and Senate. 

For years, if not decades, economists have been wringing their hands over the nation’s anemic, and sometimes negative, savings rate.