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Americans Saving More Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season
(Christine Glade/Getty Images)

Americans Saving More Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

Walter Russell Mead

Could it be that an epidemic of prudence and common sense is sweeping across a troubled land? The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. consumers have grown increasingly cautious ahead of the holiday shopping season, a potential weight on economic growth during the final months of the year.

The latest evidence: Americans last month socked away much of their income from rising wages, pushing the personal saving rate to its highest level in nearly three years.

“Consumers have the wherewithal to spend, they just don’t want to,” Michelle Girard, an economist at RBS Securities, said in a note to clients.

It isn’t clear whether October will prove to be a one-month blip—setting up a holiday spending splurge—or a broader pullback amid mixed economic signals at home and trouble overseas.

Americans need to save more money, so despite wails of despair from the companies who want us to go deeply in hock to buy shiny and meaningless trinkets, this is basically good news.

People are worried about rising health care costs and spiraling college tuition for their children, and in addition want to sock away some money for retirement. At a time when dysfunctional government and weak Presidential leadership makes people edgy about the future, Americans seem to putting more money aside for a rainy day.

It’s a wise choice. As the endless holiday shopping season sets in across the country, Americans should resist the mindless shopping frenzy, and think instead about making lasting memories for those we love best. Sharing with the poor, welcoming the lonely into our homes and lives, and giving time rather than glittering toys to those around us will make the holidays bright.

And, despite the hysterical handwringing from economists who think that imprudent consumer spending is the only thing that can make the economy grow, the real basis for a healthy national economy remains the spirit and character of the American people. Stepping back from the Santa-industrial complex and the debt and consumption merry-go-round will make us better people and strengthen the invisible and intangible but ultimately indispensable foundations of our society and economy this year.

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