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y William Sluis
Americans' uncanny ability to shrug off bad news is nowhere more evident than in the monthly surveys of consumer confidence.
Largely unshaken by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, or a grinding recession that is nearly nine months in duration, they answer with optimism when asked about future prospects for spending and employment.
In fact, Americans' faith in tomorrow remains well above the levels of prior downturns in the `70s and `80s. Helping fuel their ebullience: a once-in-a-generation drop in short-term interest rates, along with a notable decline in the cost of energy.
That brings us to the Conference Board's measure …