Is the Consumer Really More Confident?
By Staff News & Analysis - May 01, 2013

Consumer confidence rebounds in April … Consumer confidence rebounded in April as Americans felt better about the outlook for the economy and their income prospects, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday. – The Conference Board/Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: If The Conference Board observes it, it must be so.

Free-Market Analysis: What the heck is The Conference Board and why does it matter? Well, according to Wikipedia, The Conference Board is a pretty big deal.

The Conference Board, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit business membership and research group organization. It counts approximately 1,200 public and private corporations and other organizations as members, encompassing 60 countries. …

The organization was founded in 1916 as the National Industrial Conference Board (NICB). At the time, tensions between labor and management in the United States were seen as potentially explosive in the wake of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 and the Ludlow Massacre in 1914 …

Although many of the organizations' founders—including former AT&T president Frederick P. Fish and General Electric executive Magnus W. Alexander, its first president—had supported the open-shop movement, by 1916 they regarded national unions such as the American Federation of Labor as permanent fixtures of the American economy, and urged negotiation and concord …

The organization today remains funded by the contributions of members, often Fortune 500 companies. By the 1930s, however, it had already lost most of its character as an industry lobby … The organization is now considered an unbiased "trusted source for statistics and trends, second only to perhaps the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics" … Today, it has offices in Brussels, Beijing, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Actually, the above narrative makes us a bit distrustful of The Conference Board. Any group funded by the Fortune 500 is a group that we figure is going to provide an overwhelmingly pro "special interests" perspective.

And by "special interests" we sure don't mean entrepreneurial. Companies like GM, AT&T and even certain large technology companies tend to function as a kind of second government, enforcing globalist dominant social themes instead of providing free-market perspectives.

These large companies (and big banking concerns) profit immensely from the same central-bank controlled business cycles that tend to crush smaller entrepreneurs, even if they are unusually successful. In fact, the idea, from what we can tell, is to squeeze out or at least control entrepreneurial vitality lest it become a challenge to the status quo.

And what of the people being surveyed? Why should these individuals feel more "confident" today than yesterday? Do they not realize that the wrenching financial disaster that they've gone through is in large part a product of the current economic and sociopolitical system that The Conference Board seems to be promoting?

In fact, how could The Conference Board NOT promote the system that has so enriched its members? Here's some more from the article:

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 68.1 from an upwardly revised 61.9 in March. Economists had expected a reading of 60.8, according to a Reuters poll. March was originally reported as 59.7. The expectations index gained to 73.3 from 63.7, while the present situation index improved to 60.4 from 59.2 …

"While expectations appear to have bounced back, it is too soon to tell if confidence is actually on the mend," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement. Consumers' labor market assessment was mixed. The "jobs hard to get" index rose to 37.1 percent from 35.4 percent the month before, while the "jobs plentiful" index also gained to 9.8 percent from 9.5 percent.

Obviously, people are desperate for jobs but we wonder if these questions had been asked in a different way the responses would have been different as well.

It's not a hypothetical point. These polls tend to reinforce the status quo. But what exactly does the American worker or consumer have to be confident about these days? Even if the economy is "improving" it is doing so on the back of tremendous monetary stimulation that will eventually result in another horrible boom and terrible bust.

We bet if people had been asked about their confidence in the future of the country and the ability of the current system to create sustainable prosperity, they might have answered differently.

After Thoughts

Will The Conference Board ever ask such questions within a comprehensive and comprehensible framework? If it did, we would be most interested in the answers.

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