Story Placement Shows How Fed Chief's Claims That Consumers Doth Protest Too Much Ring Hollow
On the front page of today's Business Day section of The New York Times, there's an article headlined Fed Chief Describes Consumers As Too Bleak. Ben Bernanke gave a speech yesterday in Minneapolis, where he said, sure, there are reasons to be depressed about the economy, for all of the obvious reasons. But as sort of a bizarre coda, he tacked on: "Even taking into account the many financial pressures they face, households seem exceptionally cautious."
The way Bernanke sees it, consumers are in panic mode and hoarding cash. They believe the sky is falling, when clouds are merely darkening.
He's entitled to his opinion, but being as trenchant a student of economic history that he is, Bernanke should also know that perception definitely bleeds into reality.
As evidence, the article at the bottom of the same page headlined Customers Hurting, Wal-Mart is Bringing Back Layaway. Seems enough customers have given up on credit cards and used up their gift cards.
As Duncan Mac Naughton, Wal-Mart's chief merchandising officer told the Times: It just tells us the customer's still struggling, as they tell us about their concerns with energy prices, housing prices, the job security .... it tell us that this is a fragile economy and the customer needs our help."
I don't know how many Fed chiefs have ever stepped foot in a Wal-Mart. Bernanke could sure use a visit.