|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
The U.S. economy is limping along with the help of modest business investment in new equipment, some exports to parts of the world that are growing and the last few dollars from the government's 2009 stimulus spending program.
For the time being, it looks like American consumers are AWOL. And until they come back, don't expect to see any real recovery in economic growth and the job market. Consumer spending typically accounts for roughly 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
Fresh data from the government Friday confirmed that American consumers are tapped out. Consumer spending in dollar terms rose 0.2 percent in August. But those extra dollars went to cover higher prices for food and gasoline; when adjusted for inflation, spending was flat.
Wages, meanwhile, slipped 0.1 percent -- the first decline in nearly two years. To make up the difference, American households had to dip into savings: the savings rate in August fell to its lowest level since late 2009.
"What you're basically getting is a scene where consumers are losing momentum, they're losing momentum on income and as a result of that they're slowing down on spending," said Steven Ricchiuto, U.S. chief economist at Mizuho Securities in New York.
That spending slowdown has rippled through the economy, creating one of the biggest drags on an already weak recovery.