Sunday, February 01, 2009

If I don't have a job, how am I supposed to shop?

For years, we've been hearing about how Americans are spendthrifts, don't save enough, buy too much crap.

Turns out if we don't shop, the terrorists win.
Americans are hunkering down and saving more. For a recession-battered economy, it couldn't be happening at a worse time.

Economists call it the "paradox of thrift." What's good for individuals — spending less, saving more — is bad for the economy when everyone does it.

On Friday, the government reported Americans' savings rate, as a percentage of after-tax incomes, rose to 2.9 percent in the last three months of 2008. That's up sharply from 1.2 percent in the third quarter and less than 1 percent a year ago.

Like a teeter-totter, when the savings rate rises, spending falls. The latter accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity. When consumers refuse to spend, companies cut back, layoffs rise, people pinch pennies even more and the recession deepens.

The downward spiral has hammered the retail and manufacturing industries.
I have a kind of wacky idea. Why don't we try rebuilding our economy on sound fundamentals, like, you know, working on our crumbling infrastructure, mass transit, energy grid, stuff like that? And invest in jobs, so that people have the money to buy things?

Just a thought.

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