What did we do with all of the jack we saved at the gas pump over recent months? According to first-quarter economic results, we didn’t get crazy spending it. In fact, since the recovery began 27 quarters ago, this was the fifth worst quarter for economic performance. For those of you that remember the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, it leaves only one thing to ask: “What you talkin’ about, Willis?”
Remember, me, you and the rest of us humanoids spending money accounts for 66 percent of the economy. That means two-thirds of economic output is resting on our shoulders. Talk about pressure. When we don’t spend all we can from taking that new job, or we hold on to the savings at the pump or we pocket that raise at work instead of heading to our favorite store, we hurt the economy. Bad consumer. Bad. Sure, we help ourselves by saving, but we put a damper on the bigger picture.
For those of you paying attention, our U.S. economy usually has a lull in the first quarter. Both in 2014 and 2015, we started out sleepwalking through March, then we got our groove on and bounced back in the next three quarters. By “bounced back,” I mean we achieved the same staid level seen during this period of expansion since the great recession. Look, if the economy was a hockey player over recent years, you’d call it a “mucker and grinder” — in other words, not the sleek, exciting, fast-moving and irrepressible Wayne Gretzky of the day.
Overseas is a mess. I’ve never been to Europe or the Pacific Rim, but their economies are not even “mucking and grinding.” In economic terms, what’s happening there is translated by our economic gurus as “global headwinds.” In lay terms, “they’re killing us.”
So here is my plea on behalf of all U.S. citizens. Please, people of these other countries, we need you to start doing your part. We here in the States apparently can’t do it on our own. You have to jump in here and spend rampantly. In the words of St. Louis’ own Jack Buck, “Go crazy, folks, go crazy.” I’m not even sure what you spend money on in other parts of the world, but if you’re the least bit like us, head to Walmart, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or Home Depot. Take the kids out more often. They’re good at spending a lot of money in a very short window of time.
I went shopping this past weekend and bought a Nike Pro workout shirt. It was on sale for just north of $20, and I had a 20 percent coupon on my phone. It’s relatively drab — gray with a swoosh. But what it does for the economy is brighten the prospects for a better second quarter. I’m up for that.