Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is spending more the only way to measure America?

The economy has readjusted, and even as the unemployed gain new footholds in the workplace, the newly employed haven't buoyed the economy past ricocheting between good news and not-so-good news.

According to a recent MediaPost blog by Thom Forbes, consumers are “fickle.” They spend with exuberance one month and dwell in consumerism dumps the next.

Perhaps, it's not that the consumer is fickle so much as realistic.

Once that lower paying job is secured, pent up demand produces a short spurt of spending, but as the bank account refuses to fill as quickly as before, the newly employed pull back and give greater attention to the future and how those scant income dollars should be spent.

Consumer boomerang spending has caused some large retailers to lower sales projections, Forbes reports. Necessities gain dominance on the shopping list and excess is sliced off to buy groceries, socks and laundry soap for clean underwear. This new frugalism is wrought with negative consequences for the economy.

Lynn Franco, director of the economic Indicators Conference board, calls it “a weakening in consumers’ economic and job expectations.” Again, perhaps it is less a weakening and more an awakening.

Life isn't always about new, better, best.

Today, basic need speaks more to America’s working class. And when the majority of the population is at need level, the pinnacle few live at an unrelenting pace while analysts complain and philosophize about why the remaining majority can’t quite keep up and resort to name calling. Consumers are criticized as “tight fisted.”

Here’s reality: Jobs are farther from home. It costs more to get to that new job. Thank rising gas prices for that.

New jobs require new training. It costs more brain power to arrive fully armed for that new position, absconding with energy normally allotted for leisure time activities.

So, what’s a nation to do?

Perhaps ask the question why spending more money than the year before is the only answer analysts can uncover on how to be a better America.

What would happen if we measured differently?

Instead of measuring success in the acquiring of the latest, greatest, newest, how about the latest skill?

Learned anything new lately?

Do tell.