On Friday the index that purports to measure consumer confidence in the United States fell to its lowest point since May 1980. May 1980, of course, came during the grim, final months of the Jimmy Carter presidency — and I’m sure the fact that consumer confidence has fallen to Carter presidency levels probably doesn’t make President Obama very happy.
Why is consumer confidence so low? Well, wouldn’t it be fairer to ask why consumer confidence should be higher? The American consumer is like a punch-drunk fighter that has been absorbing repeated haymakers for months now. Whether it is the continued high unemployment rate, record numbers of home foreclosures, unending deficit spending, or paltry economic growth, there just isn’t any good news to grab onto. Why should consumers have confidence when the trading patterns of the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street have all of the stock exchange indices jacking up and down like a bungee jumper and our political leaders can’t or won’t present any plans that plausibly seem capable of changing things for the better?
Consumer confidence needs to be inspired. There just isn’t much inspiration out there right now, and more tired speeches from the President and congressional leaders aren’t going to provide any. I’d be surprised if the consumer confidence index surges anytime soon.