I believe that such economic thinking widely misses underlying reality right now. To me, such thinking looks at the wrong numbers and asks the wrong questions. Let me, the ultimate amateur, boldly try to do a little better, or at least a little differently.

For one thing, I have been told, probably correctly, that Federal Reserve data collection, due to practical obstacles, doesn’t properly take into account pension effects, including effects from 401(k) and similar plans. Assume some sixty-three-year-old dentist has $1 million in GE stock in a private pension plan. The stock goes up in value to $2 million, and the dentist, feeling flush, trades in his very old Chevrolet and leases a new Cadillac at the giveaway rate now common. To me, this is an obvious large “wealth effect” in the dentist’s spending. To many economists, using Federal Reserve data, I suspect the occasion looks like profligate dissaving by the dentist. To me, the dentist, and many others like him, seems to be spending a lot more because of a very strong pension-related “wealth effect.” Accordingly, I believe that present-day “wealth effect” from pension plans is far from trivial and much larger than it was in the past.

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