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October 25th, 2011
09:42 PM ET

Letters to the President #1009: 'Consumer confidence keeps sinking'

Reporter's Note: I keep seeing stories about how the president reads ten letters a day, and often responds personally to several of them. Hmmm. Since I write every day and have never had a response, I guess that means the other nine people are just having a wonderful time.

Dear Mr. President,

I saw the latest numbers on consumer confidence, and if you missed them, let me give you the SparkNotes: They’re not happy, and they’re certainly not confident.

Confidence is strange. When you have it, it feels like a force of nature; like gravity or George Clooney. You can’t imagine how anyone would get by without it, nor can you envision it every going away. And of course when you don’t have confidence, you can look everywhere and try every trick you know, but it’s almost impossible to bring it back on demand. Suddenly everything that seemed so reliable is fraught with uncertainty.

I suspect plenty of consumers still see things that they would like at the local mall, they just don’t have the nerve to whip out the old credit card like they once did. Only a few years ago the conversation between Bob and Sally went like this:

“Wow, Sal, look at that 95 inch plasma TV. I’ll bet Rachel Ray would look great on that!”

“Hell yeah, Bob. Buy it!”

Today, I think it is more like this.

“Wow, Sal, look at that ten dollar cheese board!”

“Uh, yeah. Say, what do you think your boss meant when he said ‘You might want to bring a couple cardboard boxes to work tomorrow?’”

With such questions hovering over everyone, you can imagine how hard it is for them to have much confidence in anything, let alone something as large, complex, and screwed up as the economy.

But speaking of jobs, here is something you might want to keep in mind: Unless you give consumers some real reasons to feel more confident soon, you too might be looking for some cardboard boxes in fairly short order.

Call if you get a moment. I’m around.

Regards,
Tom

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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
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