One of my favorite “news” items that appeared after sequestration kicked in was a Facebook post from Hill Lighting’s Murry Hill. A casual photo of the Florida retailer, cropped to reveal both ocean and fishing pole in the background, appeared with the post: “Trying to get through the first day of sequester, so far food and beer supply holding up.”
While the $85 billion of automatic spending cuts that went into effect March 1 certainly will have a significant impact in some sectors, Americans as a whole seemed to do a collective eye roll over the whole thing. We’ve been trained to have such little faith in our government to accomplish anything for the greater good that this latest partisan stalemate was par for the course and, thankfully, had little impact on consumer confidence in the economy despite the ubiquitous news coverage.
In February, the Reuters/University of Michigan Consumers Sentiment Index climbed to 77.6 from 73.8 in January, surpassing projections of 76.3 and hitting its highest mark since November 2012. An improving labor market helps with feelings of forward momentum, and the U.S. Department of Labor reported 157,000 new jobs in January.
Not that everything is fine and dandy: The 2 percent payroll tax increase that went into effect this year has understandably slowed our rate of economic growth, leaving most folks with fewer discretionary dollars in their pockets. The National Retail Federation forecasts that 50 percent of consumers will curtail spending as a result.
The biggest problem is that this is far from the federal government’s last opportunity to disappoint us. Our figurative food and beer supply may be holding up so far, but our patience is wearing thin.