Friday, January 9, 2009

Consumer confidence still lagging -- so what?

Consumers are losing confidence, holding on to what money they have and increasing savings. And economists tell us this is bad, bad, bad. Increased personal thrift leads to less spending. And our beloved system is predicated on consumption and production. Producers are a separate species from consumers, we are told, and producers are freaking out because consumers don't want to spend money.

I would propose that the whole damned frame is wrong. We are persons, not consumers and producers, and debt has never been money. Most of us persons are workers, the labor used by producers. And workers also happen to be consumers -- an inconvenient truth that pundits don't like to allow. Vulnerable workers are spending less money and what money they are spending is in real time -- not debt. They are starting to live on a cash basis. This is a rational response to economic conditions, as rational as corporations laying off tens of thousands of workers. Yet, when corporations inflict mass layoffs pundits do not chide them for losing confidence. And when banks hoard cash -- oodles they just received from We the People-- and refuse to stimulate economic activity with new lending, pundits allow that this is unfortunate, but rational.

You can practice personal thrift, protect your assets and feel guilt free. People living within their means did not cause this recession. Read that again. This recession was caused by greed, unrealistic investment expectations, funny money, deregulation of securities and financial illiteracy among regular people.

So, if you are a thrifty consumer/person/worker who chooses to opt out of consumer culture by spending as little as possible, that's okay. It was never your responsibility to sustain a hideous economic lie with your future potential and happiness.