“Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” (The Luncheon on the Grass) by Édouard Manet, source: Wikimedia commons
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2009 Consumer Spending Survey Report yesterday and it tells us exactly what we already know. Consumer spending is down and the economic recovery will likely continue proceeding slowly. In other words, don’t look for the monster, “now with yellow” flat screen TV under your Christmas tree. Be happy with the new iPod Nano.
Last decade’s The Luncheon on the Grass has become a potluck at home with friends.
BLS consumer spending survey statistics correct one common misperception. The economic recession is, collectively, everyone’s responsibility. We have to stop pointing fingers and start taking some personal responsibility. And, however imperfectly, that’s what’s happening.
Minnesota consumers did not spend, as conservative scolds would have us believe, like drunken sailors on shore leave, running through next month’s pay on liquor, trinkets and tattoos. Many people were living slightly beyond their means and the BLS data on reduced consumer spending reflects that adjustment.
People are going out less and staying home more. In-home food expenditures are up, as any grocer can tell you, while people are spending less on food away from home even as entertainment spending has remained basically constant since 2007. Dinner and a movie out has become dinner in and then a movie out.
Minnesota policy makers need to think long and hard about Minnesota’s current tax structure. The BLS report, and survey consumer purchasing behavior, is deeply informative. The key is to look past the short-term “belt tightening” choices and study deeper consumer behavioral change. This report continues to make the case for greater, farther reaching health care reform as health care costs rise. The conservative policy response – abandon health care reform – will only throw hardworking Minnesotans to the wolves faster.
BLS reports make for fascinating reading. Sure, they’re a little dry but they speak truth to power. Minnesota needs a lot more of that and many fewer conservative distractions in order to move our state forward.