The Gray Lady Gets Yet Another Case of Depression Lust

The New York Times' David Leonhardt goes off on one of the papers' frequent jeremiads on the evils of consumer spending, and how this time, it's sure to be all over now, baby blue state:

But the real culprit — or at least the main one — has been hiding in plain sight. We are living through a tremendous bust. It isn’t simply a housing bust. It’s a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making.

The auto industry is on pace to sell 28 percent fewer new vehicles this year than it did 10 years ago — and 10 years ago was 2001, when the country was in recession. Sales of ovens and stoves are on pace to be at their lowest level since 1992. Home sales over the past year have fallen back to their lowest point since the crisis began. And big-ticket items are hardly the only problem.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently published a jarring report on what it calls discretionary service spending, a category that excludes housing, food and health care and includes restaurant meals, entertainment, education and even insurance. Going back decades, such spending had never fallen more than 3 percent per capita in a recession. In this slump, it is down almost 7 percent, and still has not really begun to recover.

As blogger William Teach writes, "Missing is 'Obama is clueless, doesn’t understand how the economy works, and has surrounding himself with advisors that still think they are in a far left college bull session:'"

See? Lilliputian consumer spending is not a symptom or result, but a cause. Which, let’s be honest, at this point, two years from when “economists” declared the recession over, could be considered a cause of the recession continuing on at the deepest level since the Great Depression. And, if that’s so, wouldn’t it make sense to enact policies that leave people with more of their own money, especially those evil rich people who have more buying power? Actually lower income and capital gains taxes, sales tax and property tax, at least for, say, 5 years? Increase consumer choice, like with incandescent light bulbs? Stop groping people at the airport who do not fit the profile of an Islamic terrorist? Stop putting more burdens on the auto industry which drives up costs? Let Big Oil and Big Coal (again, I’m not a fan of coal) do their jobs on American soil? Stop mandating the use of food as fuel? Heck, let little kids run a lemonade stand without a permit? All those, and others, would make sense, right? Au contraire, Rabbit!

THE notion that the United States needs to begin moving away from its consumer economy — toward more of an investment and production economy, with rising exports, expanding factories and more good-paying service jobs — has become so commonplace that it’s practically a cliché. It’s also true. And the consumer bust shows why. The old consumer economy is gone, and it’s not coming back.

In simple words, what seems to be suggested is an economy run by government (investments) with everyone at the same blue collar income level doing blue collar jobs (not that there is anything wrong with blue collar jobs, they just aren’t for everyone): in other words, their old buddy, communism.

Nahh, another New New Deal will do. Which should hamper the American economy almost as long as the old one. And who knows what other "miracles" it could bring about in the process before it's over?

Teach's post is headlined, "NY Times: This Prolonged Recession Is The Fault Of You Consumers." Which wouldn't be the first time a paper with that name made such an accusation, albeit on the other side of the Atlantic. The Times of London actually did run a Scrooge-like article on the eve of Christmas 2009 titled, "Thrifty families accused of prolonging the recession."

Leonhardt's column doesn't go quite that far. But in addition to its hints of what Virginia Postrel would call "Depression Lust," it's yet another example of the strange push-pull mindset that's often at work inside the Times. The advertising department is constantly looking for new companies to advertise expensive goods to Manhattanites, and even to "the dance of the low-sloping foreheads," as another Timesman is wont to say, out there in the hinterlands. And yet, many who work inside the Times HQ may not realize it, but at the base of their office building, at street level, are countless...what do they call themselves again?...retailers. Yes! that's the word.