It’s All About Attitude

11/02/2009 10:53 am EST


Terry Savage

Author, The Savage Truth on Money

Attitude makes all the difference—whether you’re a politician, an economist, or a trader. But you can’t take attitude to the bank to pay your credit card bill! And you can’t take headline GDP statistics to the mortgage company to rescue your home. The American public is starting to get more than mildly annoyed at those who tell them the economy is bouncing back.

For every economist or politician who tells you the recession is over, there are at least a dozen people who think we’re in the midst of a Depression.

For every Administration official who points to the success of the stimulus plan in creating jobs, there are many dozens of ordinary citizens in line at the unemployment office.
For every market analyst who debates whether this is a tradeable correction in a bull market rally, there are hundreds of retirees wondering how they will survive on their shrunken IRAs.

And for every pundit who proclaims that things are getting better, there is a University of Michigan or Conference Board survey of consumer sentiment that tells us people are growing more worried.

The Irony of the Stock Market

It’s ironic that the stock market seems to be faltering just when the economic statistics start turning up. Sort of reminds you how skeptical people were at the bottom last March, when the news was most gloomy just as the stock market rallied.

But there’s a big difference between an unexpected rally in the midst of universal gloom and an over-anticipated decline in the midst of slightly better economic statistics. In March people were willing to grasp at any sign of improvement. These days many people simply don’t want to believe things will get better.

In fact, they’re angry at the fact that banks are posting profits on the wallets of consumers who routinely pay 29.9 percent interest on their credit card balances. And they’re angry at the better earnings of companies that have shaved costs by cutting their jobs.

Americans can’t cheer a stock market rally that grows out of their misery. And they’re starting to applaud the comeuppance that Washington is giving to business executives.

Ordinary citizens are getting fed up with the free enterprise system that seems to leave them behind to pay the tax bill, while the bosses get bonuses.

The Greatest Loss

That is the greatest loss of this recession—the loss of respect for the only engine of growth that can bring us back to prosperity. 

It’s hard to blame the public. They feel they were suckered into buying the stocks that sent their hard-earned money go down the drain. They feel anger at those who took the rewards, while they, the American taxpayer, took all the risks. And they are bewildered that the market could rebound as it has, while they are still suffering.

Economists and politicians and market pundits discuss the statistics, the signs, the charts and the surveys—while families struggle to pay the bills and hang on to the house.

And now you’re wondering if they’ll go Christmas shopping and rescue the GDP for the fourth quarter? You truly must believe in Santa Claus!

What do you think consumers will do in the coming months? Join the conversation.

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