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Could US Have Worse 'Lost Decade' Than Japan?

There is no shortage of people looking to Japan's so-called Lost Decade of the 1990s for lessons on how to weather the current economic storm.

There are plenty of parallels, but the comparison may understate the severity of the current crisis by some estimates.

"We did suffer a lot of the same symptoms that Japan did," said Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, in an interview with Erin Burnett.

But what worries Roach the most?

"The bubbles that have burst in the U.S. have ended up infecting the biggest sector of the U.S. economy, the American consumer, which at its peak was 72 percent of the U.S. GDP," he said. (To hear the full interview, watch the video to the left.)

"The bubbles in Japan only infected the capital spending sector, which at its peak was only 17 percent, so we really have a bubble infection that is four-times as bad as the Japanese one, and that's a worrisome sort of hangover to deal with," he said.

The New York Times this weekend took a look at the legacy left behind by the hard times in Japan. Even today, Japanese consumers remain frugal, afraid to spend even as the economy there expanded. The article quotes an economist who argues that Japan may have suffered two lost decades, with the second one being a era of "lost consumption."

Burnett also talked with entrepreneur Allan Zeman about efforts that China is making to bolster its economy. The government is giving coupons to rural citizens to purchase appliances. The effort is a way of creating domestic consumption as demand from the U.S. and other countries sputter.

"For the world, we're in uncharted territory, so everyone is trying to do the things that will work for their own economy," Zeman said.

Although China will still need healthy exports to keep up its robust growth, creating domestic consumption will help, he said.

For the moment, the Chinese economy also is drawing some support from the nation's high savings rate, which is at about 40 percent, according to Zeman.

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