In the middle of a recession, Americans continue to spend
The holiday season is the biggest quarter for retail businesses. There were fears this season that sales would worsen due to the economic slump. The numbers are in. Even though the global economy, including the US economy, is in a slump, Americans still managed to spend substantially this Christmas. Amid fears and the economic downturn, there was a record-setting Black Friday. Retail sales were reported as “solid” over the holidays. Holiday spending was up 4.1 percent overall. Americans spending for the 2011 season reached 521 billion dollars, beating expectations. There are many store closings, but this is more a result of Americans going online than a result of Americans not spending at all. According to the Wall Street Journal, the last week of the holiday season ended on an up note. Online sales increased 16% this year from last year for the final week of the holiday season. Online spending over holidays was the highest ever with Americans purchasing 35.3 billion dollars online. According to the Federal Reserve, the US economy shows signs of continuing, but sluggish growth:
“‘Compared with prior summaries, the reports on balance suggest ongoing improvement in economic conditions in recent months, with most districts highlighting more favorable conditions than indentified in reports from the late spring through early fall,’ it said.
Consumer spending — a key driver of the economy — picked up in most districts and reflected ‘significant gains’ in holiday retail sales compared with last year’s season, the Fed said.
Travel and tourism expanded broadly and demand continued to strengthen for nonfinancial services, including professional and transportation services.
Manufacturing, the sector that led the recovery from the end of the recession in June 2009, continued to expand but at a slower pace in areas such as technology products.
Activity in the depressed housing market remained ‘sluggish,’ but there were a few signs of improvement in ‘somewhat soft overall’ commercial real-estate markets.
The Fed, whose dual mandate is price stability and maximum employment, said its latest summary of economic conditions showed ‘very limited’ upward price pressures and price increases.
Inflation remained subdued amid the tepid economic growth that has left producers reluctant to pass through rising wholesale costs.”
This drives home the difference between the First and Third Worlds. When a recession hits the Third World, people starve, as they now. The Third World is in a perpetual state of crisis. Radical progressive change is possible there because revolution is the hope of the hopeless. The recession this season in the United States barely affected spending habits. Some people on the margins suffer, but it is a big mistake to see the marginalized in the First World as a reliable, significant social base. They are not. Things have to get much worse in the First World before revolution can happen. Those in the First World have far more to lose than their chains.
For Chicken Little, the sky is always falling. The economy is always on the verge of collapse and fascism is always around the corner. The end of the world is always just around the corner. This kind of rhetoric is shared by the Occupy movement, the populist-fascists, and the First Worldist “left.” The reality is that the economy has been in crisis — although not bad enough to create anything like revolutionary conditions in the United States. It may continue to be in crisis, but it looks as though it may be stabilized or in recovery. The Occupy movement is a crossroads. Some of those roads lead to progressive, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, green places. Some lead to Leading Light Communism. But most lead to First Worldist populism and fascism. Fascism is not simply something from on high, but also bubbles up from below. The crisis so far has brought a small number of people to anti-imperialism and Leading Light Communism, but it, no doubt, brought many more toward fascism and social fascism. If a greater economic crisis occurs or if the current recession deepens, we can expect the polarization to continue. Most people will swing toward fascism and social fascism, a smaller number will swing in progressive directions. We must build the organization so that we can be ready. But we need to do so with steady, clear heads. Always put Leading Light Communism, revolutionary science, front and center.
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