In 1980, Americans spent 63 percent of national income (gross domestic product) on consumer goods and services. For the past five years, consumer spending equaled 70 percent of GDP.
In 2007, household debt (including mortgages) totaled $14.4 trillion, or 139 percent of personal disposable income. As recently as 2000, those figures were $7.4 trillion and 103 percent of income.
He cites a host of reasons for the perceived end of this disturbing consumption period, including the bursting of the stock and real estate bubbles, a population that is aging out of their spending years, and a tightening of credit.
Samuelson predicts that the end of the "debt-driven consumption boom" will be an extended period of lackluster growth and job creation. I am not an economist, but I say, good riddance to the debt-driven consumption boom. The measure of our success as individuals and as a country has to be more than how much stuff we have and how far we can leverage ourselves to have it. Instead of replacing this consumption boom with nothing, let's replace it with growing more localized, regional economies. If we succeed, there will be more local jobs, not less. We might not get stuff as cheaply, since Americans expect (and all people deserve) higher pay than workers in China, where most of our goods are currently made; but perhaps our growth as a nation will be of a different order: growth in self-reliance, growth in community, and growth in sustainability.