I received two e-mails today about the economy.
The Economy Policy Institute, a research organization, wrote to let me know that the Federal Reserve reported consumer debt fell for the first time ever in the third quarter of 2008.
To me, this is good news. Consumers need to cut their debt. More specifically, it would be helpful to their financial situation if they would pay off their credit cards.
Suze Orman must be thrilled about this report. Reducing credit card debt is one of her mantras. “You must get out of debt,” she says on television, her eyes flashing and her voice rising.
However, the institute wasn’t thrilled about the news. In response to the announcement, institute economist Josh Bivens said:
Another e-mail I received about the economy was Michelle Singletary’s newsletter on the collapse of shopping malls.
Singletary, describing herself as once being a “mall rat” who hunted for sales, said she isn’t terribly troubled by all the retail failures or store closings. “I'm a wee bit happy that the ‘mallworld’ is collapsing.”
She quotes from Washington Post reporter Hank Stuever’s article “A Pall on the Mall.” Stuever writes, although we’ve grown up with malls and felt everything you can feel in a mall, it’s hard to feel sorry for mallworld because it kept expanding, demanding more sales, until market forces intervened.
While it’s upsetting to hear announcements about companies closing and people losing their jobs, we do need to figure out a way to make the economy in America more sustainable. We can’t continue to focus on an economy and way of living that requires people to continue to keep filling up their homes with stuff.
Many people, myself included, have homes filled with consumer goods. It’s time to figure out a way people can make a livelihood without the emphasis on building more homes and stuffing them full of stuff.
Let’s figure out a way to create a smaller, more sustainable economy here and abroad. We can live more simply and use our country’s and the world’s resources more effectively.