Monday, January 30, 2012

Depositing or De-Leveraging?

Said a banker named Old Ebenezer:
"Don't think me a miserly geezer;
Though to work is a gift,
I must still practice thrift,
As my paycheck is going to Visa."

The Wall Street Journal reports that US personal income was up for the month of December, but spending was down ("Rising Income Is Saved, Not Spent"). This fresh statistic, which reverses the previous three months' higher spending, is cited – perhaps hopefully – as a break in the long-term pattern of Americans' spend-thriftiness. Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of the level of consumer debt, which was ruinously high before the crisis and, though since reduced, remains high today. In any discussion of the trends of American income and spending, one must take care to distinguish between actual saving and de-leveraging. I suspect that our thrift is really debt repayment.
Infographic courtesy of The Wall Street Journal.

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