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No time to shrink

A share of General Electric can be had for less than a box of light bulbs.

Buy into the New York Times Co. for less than the newsstand price a Sunday Times.

Add a share of General Motors to your portfolio for about what it would cost to pump a gallon of premium.

Incredibly, each of those scenarios has been possible recently as the stock market has bumped down to index levels not seen in more than 12 years.

The more zealous stock-watchers have become even more deeply addicted to their BlackBerrys and iPhones, constantly tracking the market through this swoon. However, the woes of the market have caused even those who don’t have skin in the game to track the Dow’s progress. The market has become one of the nation’s leading indicators of happiness.

President Obama’s speech on Tuesday night appears to have been well received by the public (his handling of the economy rating climbed 17 points to 80 percent in a CBS poll conducted afterward), but it will be some time before we see if the good feelings make their way from Main Street to Wall Street.

It’s easy to get down on the market. Almost all of the “news” is negative. Longing for its disaster, cable TV is stuck in neutral on the subject of the economy and its newscasters, drive-by pundits and instant economists are only too willing to bombard us with their minute-by-minute analysis on red-arrow numbers.

But if we could just take a breath and stop the madness for a moment, we might see something else. This is an intriguing time for buyers and bargain-hunters, alike.

It takes courage to cut against the grain, and there is no certainty that stock prices have hit bottom. Well before it became our happy-o-meter, the market was an indicator of our confidence in America.

Surely, companies such as and like GE, GM and the Times have positive futures ahead.

Yes, each company has its challenges.

But these are historically successful companies; each with a bright future.

It’s foolish to imagine an America without GE appliances, Cadillacs or all the news that is fit to print.

So let’s not.

The market is a place where risks start well before you hit the “buy” button on your electronic trading account. But this country was made by people who took risks when facing great challenges.

Now is no time to shrink.

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