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DANIEL SCHORR: Some decades are named by history.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The Roaring '20s after World War I, the Threadbare '30s during the Great Depression, and the Fabulous '50s. This decade came in with a bang and is going out with a whimper. In these 10 years, we've gone from peace to war, from surplus to deficit, from prosperity to recession. Economist Nobelist Paul Krugman calls it The Big Zero, the decade in which nothing good happened.

Well, maybe not nothing. This was the decade that gave us an African-American president, a historic event. But this was also the decade that left us with a sorry lexicon of code words starting with 9/11, the code word for a superpower besieged by suicidal fanatics.

There were other symbolic words and phrases: weapons of mass destruction as the pretext for invading Iraq; waterboarding and Abu Ghraib as shameful tokens of abusive behavior; Katrina, a symbol of an inadequate response to a natural disaster; foreclosure and underwater, denoting a housing economy in ruins; bailout, denoting a transfusion to save Wall Street from ruin; and stimulus, denoting an injection to revive an economy in crisis.

This decade will be remembered, too, for phrases like public option, a reminder of the struggle to overhaul the health-care system; and swine flu, the global menace to health.

This decade didn't bequeath us a lot of rosy words. Thanks in part to President Obama, we heard a lot about change and hope, but change and hope did not seem to be icons of this decade.

What's left to say? Well, we survived a bad decade. The next one has to be better. Happy New Year. This is Daniel Schorr.

(Soundbite of song, "Auld Lang Syne")

SIEGEL: You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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