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The New York Daily News' Tom DeFrank asked Barack Obama at yesterday morning's press conference about the shopping season. "[A] lot of retailers are worrying that this year [that a drop in consumer spending during the holidays] could be a disaster that this economy can ill afford. Do you have any shopping advice for nervous consumers?"
It's a tricky question. The president-elect doesn't want to discourage people from spending money right now. He also doesn't want to look like Bush did in the aftermath of 9/11, suggesting shopping in the midst of a crisis is somehow the right thing -- the only thing -- for Americans to do.
It looked to me like Obama threaded the needle pretty well:
"Look, I think families understandably are nervous and concerned about their economic situation. We've seen job loss. We've seen flatlining wages and incomes. The economic statistics have been bad, and people are watching television and understandably are nervous about their future.
"There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched. I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we've gone through recessions before, we've gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track, that we are going to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years, that our future is bright if we make good decisions.
"And what we don't want to do is get caught up in a spiral where people pull back from the economy, businesses then pull back, jobs are reduced and we get into a downward spiral.
"What we want to do is to be sober, to be clear, to recognize that we've got some real adjustments that have to be made. That's true in individual businesses, it's true in terms of individual family budgets, it's also true for the economy as a whole.
"But we continue to have the best workers in the world, we continue to have the most innovation in the world, we continue to be in possession of extraordinary resources that if we harness properly will get this economy moving over the next couple of years, but also over the next two decades or three decades.
"So people should understand that help is on the way."
In other words, shop responsibly. Sounds reasonable enough.