Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Foul Mood of American Consumers

There’s no question that 2011 is fast becoming “the year that wasn’t!” Consumers had high hopes that the American economy would begin to rebound in 201 after three dismal years, but that hasn’t been the case.

Blame it on Wall Street, the Congress, President Obama or even the European economic mess – but the stark reality is consumers continue to feel the strain and pinch of high unemployment, upside-down mortgages, foreclosure pressures and shrinking incomes.

While the United States is no longer immune to global economic hiccups, we have the ability to fix our own economic house and put Americans back to work. What’s frustrating is nothing substantive is getting done in Washington to solve these national issues and consumers are both disenchanted and ready to fight back.

Certainly, there’s pent-up demand among consumers to purchase new vehicles, make overdue home repairs, purchase household goods and get back to some sense of normalcy. But, as long as consumers lack confidence in our national government to jump-start the process with meaningful solutions, they’ll continue to sit on the sidelines and wait. Obviously, this will only prolong our economic challenges since two-thirds of our national economic growth is consumer-driven.

A year ago, I predicted that fed-up citizens would make their voices heard. That has happened through the “Occupy Wall Street” protests not only in the United States, but around the world. Frankly, people are fed-up! Surveys and polls suggest that the next significant action on the part of consumers will be a major voter revolt in 2012. Americans will voice their frustration at the polls by “voting the ins out!” Political parties aside, it appears no incumbent will be safe in 2012. There is a growing sense that voters will choose to “throw the bums out” and seek a fresh start – one that is built on cooperation and progress.

Given Congress’ dismal record, a national house-cleaning is in order. If incumbents want to hold onto their jobs they had better address the economic woes of consumers – and fast! The clock is ticking.

About the Author: Thomas Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit consumer education organization with more than 116,000 members across the nation and 46 state affiliates.