By Adriana Reyneri
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is asking for more help from Congress to turn around our ailing economy, but what he really needs is a crash course in psychology. Something like “Passive-Aggressive Consumers for Dummies.”
Today Bernanke told members of the Joint Economic Committee that Americans have “been very cautious in their spending decisions” due to a blah-blah-blah of macro-economic factors. Bernanke is a brilliant economist, but he’s missing the social-emotional side of this cautious spending picture. Americans are not just cautious, they are mightily peeved.
Most of us are spending less because we have less money and – thanks to high unemployment, a depressed housing market and broken banking system – no access to credit. But many of us are choosing not to spend – or borrow if we’re able – because we’ve traveled that well-advertised route toward excessive consumerism. While we may have enjoyed the journey, we certainly didn’t like where it ended. The deepest and longest economic downturn since World War II.
Fooled once, shame on you, Mr. Bernanke. Fooled twice, shame on us. We see the point of those record low interest rates. You want us to stop saving and head to the malls and car lots, or visit our favorite online stores. You want us to borrow against our futures, and our children’s futures, in order to buy more stuff and eat more food and consume more entertainment. You want us to return to our traditional roles of driving 70 percent of the nation’s economy.
Well, we’re not going to. If you want to know why, check out the definition of “passive-aggressive” behavior. In layman’s terms, it’s a refusal to do something that’s expected of you in an effort to exert control over a relationship. Many passive-aggressive folk stop talking. America’s new passive-aggressive consumers have stopped shopping.
The pysch text book will tell you that people indulge in passive-aggressive behavior when they feel helpless or mistrust those in charge. Reducing our spending, paying off debts and increasing our saving are the three sure things that many of us can do to improve our financial situation. We know saving will strengthen our household’s position in the short term, and will help the nation in the long turn.
We don’t want consumer debt to take a chunk of our paycheck every month. We’ve learned that frugal living can have its own intrinsic rewards. We believe deep in our hearts that our nation is better than its credit cards. We want to get America back on its feet – but not by buying a new pair of shoes or set of wheels. We want to invest in education and innovation – not a suite of LazyBoy recliners. So, if we seem a little sulky in the aisles of WalMart, it’s because we’re playing the strongest card we citizens seem to possess – that of the passive-aggressive consumer.