How do you shut down one of the most powerful engines of the economy? Stop lending it the money it needs to grow. That's exactly what's been happening here in the United States, according to a survey conducted recently on behalf of the American Electronics Association (AEA). The study focused on 100 banks that had been among the most active lenders to high-technology companies several years ago. Here's how those once-active banks described their recent high-tech lending activities:

Not lending to high-tech companies at all anymore 66

Not currently seeking high-tech business 18

Still lending to high tech, but with tighter terms 8

Still lending to high tech on the same terms as before 8

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To see whether other commercial lenders might be stepping in to pick up the slack, the AEA conducted another survey of 848 major banks throughout the United States -- and found only 6 that had the expertise to lend to high-technology companies and an interest in doing so.

Now if we can just figure out some way to blame this on the Japanese.