(If you need a primer on Occupy Wall Street and what it’s protesting, check this out.)
Retailers are concerned that the American consumer has permanently changed his/her ways. Take this recent article in the Wall Street Journal:
“They are trading down, consolidating shopping trips to save on gas and generally not spending a lot on discretionary purchases,” (Target CEO and Chairman) Mr. Steinhafel said.
That’s the best news I’ve heard all week! It may not have happened by choice, but a state of permanent frugality is actually very good for the average consumer. Why else would the media make it sound like a bad thing? The media needs to sell stuff constantly. Journalism today is sponsored by advertising, and digital advertising is even more cutthroat than traditional advertising in print and media (Advertiser: Your website is only getting 1 million page views a day? Sorry, LA Times, we’re moving to TMZ!). So the media wants you to think that frugal shoppers are bad for the economy. Wrong, frugal shoppers are bad for retailers. They also want you to think that a positive savings rate is bad for the economy, because it means consumers are saving more than they earn. Wrong, a positive savings rate is CRUCIAL for providing for you and your family in an emergency, not a credit card. They might not ever directly state it, but it is certainly implied that times must be good when Americans are spending more than they can afford, even though that is most certainly right before a bubble is about to burst.
Remember, “Consumer spending fuels around 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.” That means that instead of getting riled up about one-day boycotts that don’t work, permanently changing the way we shop and spend our precious, non-inflation adjusted wages, can have a real impact on the corporations that many people feel frustrated with. Change will come from both sides of the issue: we as consumers will have a bigger impact by showing restraint, not being affected by advertising, and corporations will take notice as sales will not grow by forcing an idea on to the consumer through incessant advertising.
I have been very tweet-happy regarding Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA. I’m just pumped to see Americans speaking out against the stark stratification in our society and I appreciate the movement’s strong opposition to being classified as left/right, liberal/conservative. Those words and those parties have zero meaning to a regular person, and that’s why this movement is resonating with those of us who have never identified with a political party but are still on Team People and/or Team Common Sense. As the movement grows, the people will realize that financial clout and media clout are needed to make this into a real movement, and changing the things we “need” is a direct statement of our power and influence as a group.
Finally, Yahoo! commenters are always the most colorful. I read this comment recently:
Dearest 99%: This is how STUPID you 99% peasants are. You pay us $100+/mo for cable. You pay us $100+/month for cell service. You get a new $200 phone every frickin’ year. You go out to restaurants 7 days/week. You buy unnecessary apps…you go to sports games whose players don’t give a rat’s #$%$ about the fans…you pay the $4/gallon gas…shall we go on? We have a right to increase costs and profit from that. YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T BUY IT!!! It’s that simple, you peasant-#$%$, peasant! We OWN you! Now get the flick off our street and go the flick home! Sincerely, the 1%
I thought it was illuminating because it shows how the 1% look down on the 99%, and yet there is a simple way out: less spending. It reminds me of the report that came out earlier this year by the Heritage Foundation about poor Americans having televisions and microwaves that Bill O’Reilly cited as evidence that they are not really that bad off. Normally, I won’t even bother wasting space on people like Bill O’Reilly, but that particular argument comes up often and it’s important to understand. Is having a refrigerator the same as being able to afford healthy foods and fresh fruits at a nearby full-service grocery store? Is having a television the same as having access to a well-rounded public education that offers your children access to rigorous academics, arts, sports and a safe haven before and after school? Is having a cell phone the same as having access to medical care that will be vital to providing preventive care that encourages exercise, a good diet and treats illnesses early on rather than later when they become more costly and complicated matters?
Yeah, I didn’t think so either. But you gotta give it to O’Reilly for continuing to defend his dim-witted opinions to the death. He can’t stop now. He’d look like a loser!
What do you think? Will spending less and frugality on the part of the average consumer have an effect on the direction of American society?