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How much longer can the debt-burdened consumer hold up the U.S. economy?

In the Trump era, two seemingly contradictory narratives have dominated the portrayal of U.S. consumers. On one hand, you have the tale of the indefatigable American consumer—Atlas holding up “the greatest economy ever.” On the other hand, there’s the inequality-crippled majority—the bottom 90% squeezed by wage stagnation and a rising cost of living, one unexpected expense from debt-driven ruin, and looking for a savior to fix the rigged system, whether Trump, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren. The problem is, both narratives are true. Through August, retail sales had increased for six straight months, the longest stretch since 2017. With the trade war dragging on capital spending and exports, the U.S. economy’s reliance on t...

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