With the US economy still tottering and the European economy in shambles, some economists are predicting a double-dip recession in early 2011.
Few economists, however, are predicting a collapse into another 'Great Depression' such as that experienced by the US during the late 19th Century and the 1930s.
One economist—Paul Krugman—does warn of an extended severe downturn, though, and paints a picture that is more than bleak.
Yet no economists have taken the sun into their economic forecasts.
The sun? Yes, the sun.
The activity of the sun not only drives the weather, but to a great extent also drives the world's economy: Farming, fishing, horticulture, solar industries, even the chemical industry and animal husbandry depend on a quiet, predictable sun.
But when the sun acts up, all hell can break loose. It has happened before and it can happen again.
And now NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are both warning that the sun may be entering a violent cycle—a period of intense activity that has not been seen by humans for almost 150 years.
The last massive cycle that occurred in 1859 brought catastrophe and caused telegraph lines around the US to burst into flames. 
All of this is a possibility heaped on top of the most precarious economic environment the world has experienced since the 1930s.
Tens of millions of unemployed workers...will never work again
Paul Krugman recently wrote an OpEd piece for the NY Times. In the article he outlined his thoughts on why the US economy is headed for a third Great Depression. Other economists too see the US economy continuing its free fall into financial oblivion. All agree that the policy coming from Washington is driving the country into long term financial ruin.
While fixes are available, the political temperament does not seem to exist to implement a turn around. Failed policies are followed by failed policies. "Tens of millions of unemployed workers...will never work again," Krugman predicts.
"We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost—to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs—will nonetheless be immense." 
But Krugman's vision of a Long Depression pales by comparison under the light of the stirring sun. The sun can change all those statistics and make a depression—whether long or great—look like a relative nirvana. As our distant ancestors knew, the sun-the life giver—can also be the bringer of mass death.
The day the Earth stood still
In the recent article titled, "NASA warns solar flares from 'huge space storm' will cause devastation" The Daily Telegraph illustrates the step-by-step destruction of the first world countries.
Among all the countries with exposure to the solar devastation, the United States is the most susceptible.
As The Daily Telegraph writes, "National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power ... "
Experts on the sun are very concerned as they see the sun awaking from its unusually long slumber with a violence unseen for generations. That violence could be in the form of mammoth magnetic storms. Those storms hitting the Earth will be like a giant's fist slamming into the fragile electronic technology that runs the world. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis pale by comparison.
“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Richard Fisher, the director of NASA's Heliophysics division, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. “It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigation, air travel, the banking system, our computers, everything that is electronic. It will cause major problems for the world. “
The NASA scientist and his European counterparts are very concerned that no government has taken steps to protect the infrastructure. Time has almost run out and the worst case scenario would catapult the world from the 21st Century to the 19th Century in the blink of an eye.
“Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the earth that is rapid and like a lightning bolt. That is the solar affect,” Fisher added.
Martial law, mass starvation and societal collapse
Since the sun's last upheaval caused worldwide disruption and destruction in 1859, civilization has rapidly advanced a society based on a technological infrastructure that can be whisked away in moments by a severe geomagnetic storm. 
Similar in many respects to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can be employed as a weapon to rip away the technology of an enemy country during warfare, massive solar flares achieve the same effect by shorting out electrical circuits, burning wiring, overloading generators and zapping computer processors.
As a heliophysicist recently remarked, the underlying emotion of space experts is one of "frenetic calm."
Back in 2008, the National Academy of Sciences issued their dire report: "Severe Space Weather Events—Societal and Economic Impacts." The report outlined, in excruciating detail, the potential demise of America's 21st Century technological base—and the resulting havoc to the economy and society. 
It spelled out how people in the first world countries rely heavily upon technologies at risk from solar storms—a technology that empowers financial systems, electrical power grids, water plants, air travel, farming, transportation, GPS navigation of aircraft and sea going vessels...even the daily operation of government at all levels.
After the solar blast all most communication will fail; power will fail.  Cities will be left without light, water and food will run out. Civil unrest will become rampant as society collapses in a matter of days. The US federal and state governments will be hard-pressed to restore order amongst 300 million people as mass starvation begins and sources of potable water dwindle. 
Restoration of the infrastructure could take years, even a decade or more. During the interim more than a billion people could die worldwide—more if warfare breaks out between countries desperate for resources.
This time around the sun's fury could bring technological Armageddon: The near total failure of 21st Century technology leading to the total collapse of the financial, transportation and government infrastructures and subsequently the entire Western economy.
And because we've painted ourselves into a technological corner, there's not a damn thing anyone can do to stop it.
 "The solar storm of August 28 - September 2, 1859," Space Weather
 "The Third Depression" Krugman, Paul; New York Times; 6/27/2010
 "Geo-magnetic storms"
 "Severe Space Weather-Social and Economic Impacts" NASA
 "Areas of probable power system collapse" NASA
 "Solar storms," Sten Odenwald, The Washington Post