Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reading the Economic Tea Leaves: This Recession is Still Far from Over!

For the past month, I’ve been scanning newspapers, watching CNBC and other economic news stations and listening to radio talk show experts to find out how our economy is doing. To my surprise, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the recession is all but over. However, in reading the economic tea leaves, I don’t think so. There's no such message in my fortune cookies!

The reasons I have serious doubts about this recession are simple. We still face four serious problems that will continue to stall a recovery until they are solved. First, many consumers are flat broke. They’ve spent their savings during the past two years and cannot afford to buy expensive items like cars and vacations. Secondly, the American economy is still bleeding jobs. Until companies start hiring en masse to replace the millions of jobs lost during the past three years, most consumers will not spend money. They’re afraid their job might be cut next. Thirdly, a staggering number of homeowners continue to struggle with their mortgage payments. Because of wage cuts, job losses and savings depletion, the threat of foreclosure remains serious for many American homeowners. Fourthly, the average American, who has healthcare insurance, is struggling to pay their healthcare premiums which continue to rise. Each day, thousands of Americans are being forced to make the painful decision to abandon their healthcare insurance because they can no longer afford it.

So, while I’m pleased that Mr. Bernanke thinks this recession is almost over, I disagree. I think it’s far from over. And, while I’m pleased Wall Street is making a strong comeback, that isn’t what’s going to revive and sustain the American economy. The ultimate antidote to nursing our economy back to health is consumer spending; and, that’s not going to happen until we solve the four problems I’ve noted.

About the Author:
Tom Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council. He is also a popular business author and speaker who writes frequently on consumer issues and business trends. He can be reached at

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