Coeur d’Alene is a picturesque lakeside town of 59,000 nestled in the Idaho foothills of the Rockies, too pretty to qualify as a typical U.S. community in any way but one — runaway consumerism.


“My God! There are more shopping malls than people.”

The U.S. Census Bureau report for 2002 shows per capita income at $17,454 and per capita retails sales at $19,936.  You do the math.  Even factoring in a healthy percent for the tourist industry, it would still appear that the mostly middle class denizens of this charming community have been spending well beyond their means.

Each time I made my family pilgrimage to the Lakeside City I was amazed at how the retail business kept expanding while the region’s industry all but disappeared. A false economy where the plethora of chain businesses fed off each other and nearly everyone who was working seemed to be in the retail and service industries.

On one visit, my Kiwi brother-in-law, a fellow resident of Japan, was so astounded by the retail madness he blurted out in his charming accent, “My God! There are more shopping malls than people.”

My often asked question, “How long can this go on?” seems to finally have gotten the answer I always dreaded, and not for the lovely Coeur d’Alene alone, but for the entire nation.

“A year after financial crisis, the

consumer economy is dead”

“For much of the past two decades, strong U.S. growth has come largely through expanding credit. The global economy fed off this trend.”

China produced the goods, its Asian neighbors assembled them, Africa and South America provided the raw materials and Global finance institutions offered the credit to satisfy the U.S. consumers’ bottomless appetite for more of everything.”

“That’s over. Consumers can do their part — spend at a rate consistent with their income growth, but not much beyond that.”