What's Wrong With Consumer Confidence?

thetechnicaltake's picture

This is
an interesting video taken from CNBC's "Squawk On The Street" and
seen earlier in the week here on ZeroHedge.

The show's host, Mark Haines, is
incredulous that Tuesday's consumer confidence number came in lower than
expected. Haines mutters: "What the heck is that all about?" As
Haines goes onto explain, housing is higher in most major markets and corporate
profits are better. The only thing missing was the next statement out of his
mouth, and I will fill in the blanks: "What
do people want?"

It just goes to show how divorced Wall Street is from Main Street.


The show's talking heads or those people in the boxes suggest that
the real angst Americans have is rising gas prices at the pump, increasing
health care costs, and an uncertain labor market. This is all true, but I don't
think that it is the real source of America's angst.




The real
source of America's
angst is a sense that
something is terribly wrong
. What that something is isn't tangible -like
higher gas prices - but it is palpable. Maybe it is the lack of leadership in Washington or the
inability of that leadership to do anything but put our problems off for
another day.


There is no
collective purpose to the actions coming out of Washington. There has been no sacrifice for
the greater good. Bailouts and government programs, like "cash for
clunkers", have perpetuated the same old thing. The bailouts have favored
the connected or those who where irresponsible in the first place. Is this the
American way?


This is not the change that Americans wanted. They voted for
it, but this is not the change that Americans wanted.


So what kind
of change did Americans want?


For this we
need to go back to September, 2001 and the War on Terror. With the attack on America,
President Bush was handed a golden opportunity to galvanize Americans towards
the purpose of sacrificing for the greater good, but instead all he asked of
his fellow countrymen was to go to the malls and continue shopping. The soldier
in combat made the sacrifice, but this is what they do.  Their sacrifice
was unconditional, and this was understood and accepted by all. But where was
the sacrifice asked of the ordinary American here at home? At the very least,
shouldn't we have been asked to cut back on our consumption of large cars and
oil to decrease our reliance on those very same foreigners who were at war with
I am sure my fellow citizens would have been willing to act for the greater
good, but they were never asked. This was President Bush's biggest failing.


Now we come to
President Obama. His crisis isn't the War on Terror, but a generational
economic crisis. President Obama did come to the electorate and say "we
need to change the way we do business" referring to the grid lock and
bipartisanship in Washington.
 I think the President was sincere. From an idealogical perspective,
Republicans and Democrats need to work together to solve the problems this country


But for
President Obama it isn't so much what he has done (i.e., wasted a lot of money)
but what he has failed to do (i.e, galvanize the country for the greater good)
that is so discouraging.  Even if the other guy (Senator McCain) was
elected, he probably would have done the same thing - thrown good money after
bad - as this was what was being recommended by the economic of this country.
 Oh, these were the same economic leaders who missed the crisis in the
first place. 


But like his
predecessor, President Obama is missing what kind of change Americans really
want and why there continues to be so much dissatisfaction. Americans are
willing and ready to make that sacrifice to improve their nation and the future
of this nation for their children - provided that burden is shared by all. The
only problem is that no one has asked them to make that sacrifice, and the
window of opportunity for the Obama administration to come to the American
people to make such a sacrifice has closed or is closing quickly.


As measures to
resuscitate the economy begin to peter out, the fragile underpinnings of the
economy will begin to be exposed yet once again. The likelihood of throwing
more money after the problem - in front of a mid term election - is becoming increasingly
diminished. With no real economic catalyst to sustainable growth and with very
little fixed after this crisis, one really needs to ask what does the Obama
economic team do next?


One thing is
for sure: the time to ask the American people to make a sacrifice passed long
ago when the President first took office. This was the one option that has been
squandered, and this is why Americans remain so dissatisfied.


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Anonymous's picture

things are depressing for American workers but in the rest of the world it hasn't panned out to be so terrible. we were supposed to be in a bad economy by now but it's not so bad and is already getting better. Crazed real estate prices, debt and an iffy currency all have "USA" attached to them. how can there possibly be a Global Depression? Last year it seemed possible because it was such a "shock" to ordinary people who have a life and therefore no idea what a "credit default swap" is and thought the US invinceable. Now we have changed minds about ALL of that, which seems healthy not bad at all.

Marge N Call's picture

You're right by golly. Look, I see a rainbow out my window. And here comes a black girl and a white girl holding hands and singing "we are the world". Wow, and darn it, it look like world peace WILL come true after all.

Here comes my unicorn to take me to my job as the training dummy at the Miss Universe blowjob training camp. Awesome.



TomJoad's picture

I'm very confident. Confident that we're screwed.


Jump! You Fuckers!

Anonymous's picture

After 9/11 several of my friends and I resolved to go to Afghanistan and fight. We were 18. We were talking to recruiters and our families about our plans, our resolve and the risks. Then Bush told us the best way we could serve our country was to go to the mall. Something inside me died that day...I realized there would be no shared purpose and sacrifice. It was everybody for themselves.

Anonymous's picture

Listen fool, in case u havn't noticed, most of us ARE sacrificing. At least those of us who were responsible, that is. We are watching our taxes being given away to the lazy, stupid, and culpable for this disaster among us. Further, our savings are being erroded by a fed that refuses to allow the inevitable to happen. I say let it burn, every damn bit of it. If there is killing, tough, i don't care---this shitty country has gotten to the point where the only thing that will fix it is to smash it and start over.

Brett in Manhattan's picture

Debt + Fear of Job Loss = Lack of Confidence

George Washington's picture
The Economy Will Not Recover Until Trust is Restored

Americans no longer trust their politicians, the justice system, their ability to obtain liberty, or the media. Americans know that the boys launched the war in Iraq (which will end up costing $3-5 trillion dollars) based upon justifications which turned out to be untrue. Many Americans have read that the government imported communist Soviet Union torture techniques and then said "we don't torture". Many Americans also know that the government spied on American citizen (even before 9/11 ... confirmed here and here) while saying "we don't spy", and that the government apparently planned both the Afghanistan war (see this and this) and the Iraq war before 9/11.


Anonymous's picture

Ah yes, another "I fell off the turnip truck on 1/21/01 and wondered why everything was suddenly so bad".

Your first sentence says it all..."Americans no longer trust their politicians, the justice system, their ability to obtain liberty, or the media."

Tell me...when DID they trust them all? "No longer", indeed.

Anonymous's picture

The reason consumer confidence is down, is because it's physically impossible to be up. You can talk about a great epiphany but the fact is that unemployment, foreclosures etc are taking their toll.

Miyagi_san's picture

Michigan sentiment plus Accorn = CNBS

Anonymous's picture

They (economists et al) talk about "the consumer" like we're a seperate breed of people. We're all consumers. What they are really referring to are the less well off working stiffs who are continually being stoked to buy stuff. When we don't have the money to spend, and credit is maxed out, guess what...no consuming and no confidence you dimwhits!

Anonymous's picture

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

H. L. Mencken US editor (1880 - 1956)

ft65's picture

I'm not surprised confidence is down. How can any average Joe be anything other than distraught. No savings, and a job that looks ever more shaky. I haven't felt confident about the future from a year before this mess started unravelling. There is no bright future.  

Anonymous's picture

"The real source of America's angst is a sense that something is terribly wrong."

Hey, no kidding. And... they are correct.

Anonymous's picture

Let me tell you about another type of inflation that you are unlikely to hear about from CNBCers or ivory tower egghead bow-tie wearers (I did think Pento seemed reasonably smart and honest):

I do my own food shopping; I eat tuna fish, and drink store-bought coffee (no, not at the same time). I guess these consumption habits make me a "Populist" (peasant, Prole).

A can of tuna fish at Kroger got reduced from 6 ounces to 5 ounces, and the cost remained the same. So the amount of product went down 16.67%. Folgers coffee also did the same thing with some of their varieties (I assume the less popular varieties were not size-reduced). The container of the variety I like went from 33 oz. to 27 oz. --- no price cut. I'm sure this is going on with many items, and in all grocery stores.

This might not be a bad thing if we were talking about cheez doodles or ding dongs, because that might help fight the obesity and diabetes problems in this country. But on a relative basis, tuna fish is not too bad for a person, and is a Populist staple.

These media dolts also seem to underestimate the intelligence of (some of) the American People. We're worried and mad about derivatives exposure and the fact that nobody can (or wants to) talk about the ramifications.

We're worried and mad that the FED and Treasury and (most) politicians are corrupted, and complicit in financial terrorism.

We're worried and mad that the Kleptocrats and Oligarchs pray to Ayn Rand and are hell-bent on turning those without power and connections into wage and debt slaves.

We're worried and mad that Obama seems to be running errands for Goldman and JPM, and that the revolving door is alive and well (nothing against Dems, in particular ... the GOP sucks too).

We're worried and mad that the Bailout money is being used to speculate with OPM, and lobby against any oversight and regulation; that the TB(to be allowed)TF are BIGGER and too "inter-connected" to be put out of OUR misery, and that record-setting bonuses are in store for criminals who should be OUT of business, and IN jail.

We're worried and mad that we don't know how to defend ourselves and prevent these psychopaths from blowing up the world!

And I'm especially worried and mad that my dyslexia will make it difficult for me to learn Chinese, thereby making the likelihood of landing a job pulling a rickshaw highly problematic!

Anonymous's picture

One group has been asked to make great sacrifices now and in the future- Taxpayers.

mannfm11's picture

There has been a deflation in order since 1990.  We almost didn't get out of the early 1990's recession, then we had a huge bubble in stocks burst in 2000, which has created an environment of over investment in a broad series of areas.  Had the US tightened in 2001, the depression very well could have started then.  Unfortunately, the bust didn't happen in 1998 when the LTCM mess hit.  The bubble would have been somewhat smaller and we could have managed with the political scene.  The whole euphoria that was in order at the end of the 1990's was a mandatory situation to attempt to maintain.  An administration could not come in and have the economy go flat on them.  At least the bubble created a perception that Congress had solved the budget problem, which was really nothing but the same forces that placed California in its now unsolvable budget situation, a bubble in captal gains and stock option income compensation tax receipts.  The same disaster faces Obama today, as he has the impossible task of rectifying the poor timing of his entrance.  Clinton and Bush II had some advantage in the fact home equity and lower mortgage payments allowed for free income bumps for consumers and provided a pool of money to circulate through the economy, thereby creating the bubble we now have that is deflating.  The consumer no longer has a low interest rate credit card or a method of transferring balances with no payments for a year, nor does he have the free relief of a lower interest rate and home equity to extract and go shopping.  Most suddenly realize that the shortcut to retirement all the experts told them was present was nothing but a delusion.  Those that hold onto this delusion are about to see it wiped out with this next stock market bust that isn't going to come back to these levels for 20 years or longer on a price adjusted basis. 

Anonymous's picture

Oh, "that something" is tangible alright: It's called fraud, theft, abuse, and criminal negligence.

bugs_'s picture

Jobs Haynes.  Jobs for the man of the family.  A

future for his children.  Mom is having a hard

time with her single income now.

walküre's picture

Nuke Iran.

Consumer confidence up 200%.

So, there ya go.

Anonymous's picture

Obama logic: "We have greedy bankers and a financial system in need of new overhaul...therfore, we must reform healthcare."

Just like saying, "My car won't start becuase my couch is blue."

This guy never had a single intention of 'getting America back on track'.

I hope that's obvious to everyone at this point.

The general angst you speak of is an elected President utterly terrifying the citizenry.

Anonymous's picture

I'm one of those regular americans, only difference is I've been reading ZH religiously for several months. I have not stockpiled ammo, canned goods, etc... but I think about it every day and know several people that actually do. My greatest concern, like many other little people, is determining the safest place to put my money. I don't want to spend all my time moving it around, I just want to know that where I put it, it will still be there when I'm ready to withdraw. I suspect I will be ridiculed by this next statement - I continue to contribute around 12% to a 401k. What should I REALLY be doing?

I think what most sheeple want is safety, fairness, and transparency.

Saftey - if I put my money away - protect it
Fairness - if I have no gov't backstop from bankruptcy, why should my tax dollars fund it for TBTF turds.
Transparency - if you're going to collect taxes, we should at least know how it is being spent.

I am Anon Bag Head

Anonymous's picture

Money, ha ha, what an outdated early 21st century idea.

I remember when people would actually DO things for it.

All just pretty confetti from an after-party gone bad.

It's mixed with cigarette butts, spilled drink, a little nausea detritus, smell of bad aftershave.

The currency should be replaced with one bearing a hooker in low cut, with a drink in one hand, a John in another, screaming "live it up, baby".

Tomorrow we die.

Marge N Call's picture

Hell yeah.

Exceus me, I have to do some blow off of a hooker's ass...(not my line of course).

Anonymous's picture

This guy is a Douche.

Hammer59's picture

Americans simply have no concept of sacrifice; this is clearly shown by their anemic savings rates of the last two decades, the cars they drive, the way they invest, the food they eat. It was only the severity of the financial crisis prior to the election that even prompted them to embrace change. To expect President Obama to immediately create a reversal of misfortune caused by Bush/Cheney and the GOP only shows how unrealistic and unfocused the population has been, and continues to be. But they are indeed coming around now, and swiftly. It took Bill Clinton a while to get traction (he inherited a shitty economy from Bush Sr), and turned it around. We are bombarded daily by the MSM with everything but the truth--but intution and the internet gives us the notion that yes, something is terribly wrong with our country. The bailouts and stimulus, while incredibly unpopular were a "hail Mary" pass, incredibly desperate---but postponed the Great Depression redux by about a year and a half. In the end, what ruined the Global Economy was overpopulation, worldwide lust of our previous glorious standard of living, and utterly corrupt leadership in Government and Finance. There is a harsh reality ahead of us, which can be a return of the Dark Ages, or a spiritual renaissance---but we cant have both. Human nature is so predictable, so we all know where this is heading if/ when the system fails. Not suprising to see increasing mention of revolution/violence amogst those posting comments. Never corner a frightened man.

mannfm11's picture

this mess has been brewing for 20 years.  Bush walked in on a bubble that had sprung a leak and Obama walked into one that burst.  Their only plan is to attempt to reflate a debt bubble with global leaks.  Obama will be the most failed administration since Carter.  Dick Cheney is a saint compared to the henchmen Barack has around him.  If he cannot figure that one out, there isn't much hope for him.  Besides, history has shown ethics and politicians from Chicago are not common bedfellows.  Bill Clinton inherited a recovery and a world where someone could drop their mortgage payment by 3% or more simply by going in and refinancing.  Also, the big banks got well in the mid 1990's.  Robert Rubin is as responsible for the Clinton miracle as anyone and more responsible for the bubble than anyone I can find.  Bush II had a much bigger mess coming in than Clinton.  The big problem though has been in Washington DC all the post war years.  Inflate or die has been a situation Bretton Woods put us in over 60 years ago.  Keynes, in defense of his policies said, "In the long run, we are all dead".  We have reached the long run. 

Stoploss's picture

+10,000!!  By George, i think you have got it!

Your scope is perfect, all that is needed is a little refining. I offer this, IMHO.

In 00 / 01 the dot com bubble burst ( begin bear market ). In response to that, then fed chair Alan " bubbles " Greenspan, initiated the housing bubble as the response to then said recession, of the dot com pop.

That, in and of itself was a FALSE inflation of housing prices, combined with easy credit, ( Your WORD, is all it takes to purchase a million dollar home ), never mind verifing income or any trivials like that. Then bring in subprime. (which is still going on), and here we are.

I believe, since hindsight is always 20/20, in 10 years it will be known as the great depression of the new mellinium, in SLOW MOTION, since we are only almost half way done with this cycle. The more money printed, the slower we go. In the end we will hit bottom. Unfortunately, it doesnt appear to be anytime soon.  enjoy the Slo - Mo decline.

Anonymous's picture

Especially, never corner an honest frightened man.

When banks and government have lied, cheated, and stolen every shard of good in a democracy covering 35 years, there is only one way to get it back.

You fucking take it - you don't stand and talk, you put a bullet in the face of the crook that stole it and now thinks it is his.

Start the clock.

HayeksConscience's picture

the sooner the system gets reset and we put it back to the way the founders intended - the better. 

No system will work with corruption.   Society cannot function without morals and ethics. You can't post a policeman at every public transaction.

IMHO, What a lot of folks don't realize is the justice system is just as dyfunctional and will need to be reformed as well. 

No doubt most Americans are asleep hoping we muddle through.  But, I still think that when it all comes crashing down there is going to be hell to pay for the government and financial monied interests. 

Cindy_Dies_In_The_End's picture

As Churchill pretty much said, Americans will do everything but the right thing until the right thing is the only solution left.


)--no cryptic play on words intended.

time123's picture

What is terribly wrong in America is that decent, well skilled and educated people who want to work and make a living cannot anymore (although they used to), because the well paying jobs are simply not there any more. They all either moved to foreign cheap labor countries, or simply disappeared due to higher efficiencies.

If there is no paycheck to support the family for an increasing number (in the millions) of Americans, where is the confidence going to come from to keep consuming? That is why consumer confidence is falling. It has nothing to do with the cost of gas.


admin: http://invetrics.com

Noah Vail's picture

He thinks the Prez was sincere? Really, sincere in selling out to the banksters perhaps, but surely on nothing else.


The people can't put their finger on what's wrong? Horsefeathers, most know but want to pretend that it isn't true.

The American people sacrificed by voting for the free lunch in exchange for giving up real industry and cushy desk jobs that will disappear like water in the desert. And desert is what we as a nation are about to become. Fill up your canteens boyz.

midnitepoet's picture

As P.T Barnum once said; "You can't underestimate the intelligence of the American public." And I would like to add: "You can't underestimate their interest in what is happening outside their little, individual worlds." Sadly; Americans know more about sports statistics, sitcom plots, reality show situations and Starbux Lattes than they know about forms of government, Wall Street shenanigans, our political corruption, our military ineptness and the reality of how the banking industry stole control of the country from the politicians. Ppppffffftttthhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Marge N Call's picture

Yep. Thanks to our failed public education, failure to support the notion of a nuclear family, and our worship of Hollywood/Madison Ave.

We reap what we have sewn.

JohnKing's picture

Why ask the citizenry to sacrifice while keeping the political/finance class in champagne and caviar?  Even Obama doesn't have enough panache to pull that off. I don't know how out of touch you are with JSP but based on your writing I assume you are safely ensconced in some ivory tower. I think JSP would tell you he doesn't have much left to sacrifice, even if he felt led to do so.

Anonymous's picture

You assume that anyone in power cares about ordinary citizens. This is the Achilles heal of your assertion. If Obama makes the changes necessary to resolve the situation, he will be assassinated.

JohnKing's picture

Obama never defined change, he just let the collective imagination run wild and let others project their own hopes onto him. Where did anyone get the idea that Obama was anything but self-serving politician?

Ben Graham Redux's picture

+1,000 - yours is the best description of the enigma that is our President that I've ever seen - bravo! 

JohnKing's picture

Twinkle twinkle litle star, make a wish on the Obama star. He is a fairy tale that people wanted to believe, some still do. The peace candidate brought more war, the transparency candidate shut down information, the list goes on but the deceived are still blinded.

thetechnicaltake's picture

I never said anything about Obama caring for the people; the end result is that he will be a one term president.  My point is that he has squandered the most effective thing that he could have done - go to the people.  He cannot do that and with the likelihood of no more bailouts, he is stuck.

RagnarDanneskjold's picture

If you're talking about the greater good, you're part of the problem. Everything done in DC for the past year was for the "greater good."

The reason we are in this mess is because of collectivist thinking. Individuals would never have behaved so stupidly, it is literally impossible due to counterbalancing market forces.. It was efforts, over the past 80 years, to act collectively in support of healthcare, education, retirement, housing, etc., that led us to this point. The way out of this is to sacrifice "the greater good" and return to individualism.

vanderrook's picture

Thank you, Ragnar.


As I was reading the piece, I was formulating the outstanding sentiments that you have already committed. Anytime I read "for the greater good", I am immediately suspicious and on the defensive. The greater good would have been achieved if those chimps on the Hill would just stay out of most things. The original plan was for the Feds to safeguard our persons, property and rights- nothing more. The rest was up to us.


They (we) have blown the shit out of that premise for all time now.

thetechnicaltake's picture

All individuals must make that sacrifice.  But your point of "greater good" is well taken in the sense that we don't want to make everyone the same.  The only thing that should be the same is some sense of sacrifice and/or working towards a common goal.  

Anonymous's picture

TBTF and the Goldman pilferage was for the greater good? Who are you?..Hank Paulson?

Anonymous's picture

Ah, the old saw, right wingers sawing away about if FDR wasn't such a traitor
Roosevelt was trying to AVOID revolution, and he put it off 80 years.....
Oh, you are going to see individualism, and I can tell you that you will not like it at all!

The killin' will be Hobbesian in depth and breadth. AWESOME in its true meaning

Humans are BEST at killin' !

Marge N Call's picture

And the other path to progress vis-a-vis individual liberty is........

Anonymous's picture

Hat Tip to the The Matter, Form and Power of the Common Wealth.

Is it Ecclesiastical? It certainly is. But is it Civil?

Mad Max's picture

Spoken like a true pirate!  RRRRRGH ye mates!

I do agree though.  The markets are so distorted now that we're in Wonderland.  Mish has a good discussion today of the role of the federal loan-subsidizing agencies on housing affordability and college affordability.  (Hint: cheap money repaid later, borrowed by people with limited concepts of borrowing, drives prices up.)