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"Even in tough economic times Americans rarely reduce their consumption, preferring instead to slow the growth in their spending"

How can one reduce consumption if they aren't slowing their spending?

It is a confusing way of putting things (I remember when reporters for the Times were expected to write competently).

It means that even when consumers are hurting financially, usually the total $ they spend continues to increase, it just doesn't increase by as much as usual. So, for example, if last year I spent $33,000 on consumer items and the year before I spent $30,000, that was a 3% increase. If this year I spend $34,000, that's still an increase, but less than 1%. That's what usually happens in an economic slowdown or even mild recession. If I spend $32,000 in 2008, that's actually less than I spent in 2007, which is highly unusual and happens only when recessions are really bad.

Of course, mostly this is technical gobbledygook. What matters more than official measures of recession is whether we are looking at growth before or after inflation and patterns of consumption. If I'm increasing my spending this year, but all of the increase is for food and fuel, I'm cutting back on buying a Wii or hanging out at Starbuck's or the bar.
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