American Thrift

In our continuing effort to make sense of the new economy, we look at how Americans are cutting back--and looking ahead

Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

Richard Stengel, left, interviews Education Secretary Duncan in Washington.

There is one statistic in our extraordinary poll and cover story about "The New Frugality" that illuminates a wonderful contradiction in the American character: 57% of those surveyed believe that in this new economic environment, the American Dream will be harder to achieve, while virtually the same percentage, 56%, believe that America's best days are still ahead. It's this distinctively American combination of realism and idealism, of hardheadedness and optimism, that guarantees the U.S. will emerge from our financial doldrums with new energy, new ideas and new purpose.

Week after week, we have been focusing on the state of the economy...

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