Resolving the Paradox of Thrift

America is in dire need of a return to saving, frugality and prudence. But not yet

Corbis

Don't spend more than you make. Don't buy things you don't need. Save for a rainy day. If Americans had followed these simple rules over the past decade, there would be no financial crisis, no worst-since-the-1930s recession, no acrimonious Washington debate over what to do about it.

Now we seem to be starting to rediscover thrift. Debt levels are falling. Consumer spending is down. The savings rate is on the rise. Great, right? Not exactly. The sudden sobering up of the American consumer happens to be the No. 1 force driving the U.S. and global economies downward. We're saving more, yet...

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