Some Good News for the U.S. Economy

There really isn't that much good news for the American economy.  There is the small wave of believers in the free market, mostly followers of Ron Paul.  There is also technology, particularly in the electronics industry, that continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Everything related to government though is bad news for the economy.

There is one other item that is a little bit of good news.  It would not be considered good news for Keynesians.  It is good news for Austrian school followers and those who have a good understanding of the free market.  The good news is that debt levels for Americans is stable or even slightly down.

As I said, this is bad news for Keynesians, who believe that prosperity comes from people spending money.  They can never seem to explain why people don't want to spend money in poor African countries.  If all you need for prosperity is for people to want to buy things, then the whole world should be wealthy.

For those who are not Keynesians and who believe in the workings of the free market, a reduction in personal debt is good news.  An economy grows and prospers from savings and investment.  If you didn't have savings and investment, it would be very difficult for the average standard of living to increase.

Part of the reduction in personal debt has come about because of people giving up their houses in short sales and foreclosures.  While this is not exactly the ideal way for personal debt reduction, I suppose it still counts in a sense.  But aside from that, credit card debt has actually gone down for the average American since the fall of 2008.  According to this website, outstanding revolving consumer debt went down from $989 billion in the 4th quarter of 2008 to $787 billion in the second quarter of 2011.  I'm not sure what the latest statistics are, but I don't believe they have changed much.  You can also read some interesting credit card statistics on this website.

The average American, even those who are working, realizes that the economy is not strong.  People have cut back, whether it is not taking a big vacation or simply cutting back on the daily Starbucks.  While people are probably not saving as much as they like, paying down credit card debt is almost the equivalent to saving.  This is actually what the economy needs.

The major problem of course is government, particularly the federal government.  It is offsetting the work and newly found frugality (relatively speaking) of the average American.  While the average American has stopped accumulating debt and is even paying it down a little, the federal government continues to accumulate massive debt and higher spending.

I think Americans are actually smarter with their finances than what many people think.  There is a certain intuition.  While Americans may get sucked into Fed-induced bubbles, like what happened in housing, they have enough sense not to get too bogged down in credit card debt.  Of course, some people are absolutely terrible with their money, but I am just talking about the average or median person.

In conclusion, an economy grows and standards of living increase due to prior savings and investment. Consumer demand only drives an economy in the short run.  You can't consume what isn't produced.  The key to wealth and prosperity is production and you can only get increased production through savings.  The average American is helping the economy in the long run by saving more and paying down debt.  The federal government is hurting the economy by spending more and increasing the debt.