As futurist Lowell Catlett wisely pointed out, there is still a LOT of disposable income out there in the US. We still are ridiculously rich. Most of us have multiple vehicles per household. We may be in a low but only relative to the crazy highs of recent years.
The danger in this situation is we will damage the foundations of our economy in the downdraft. The re-assessment of our economy and society that is going on at every level is a good and necessary thing. We all knew we were in a bubble. We also all know that the stimulus funds are just a temporary cover for the real work that needs to be done. The danger is that much of the stimulus funds will go towards one-time projects, however worthy, that don't strengthen a critical capability or seed new businesses.
We have worshipped growth, out of fear that if you are not growing, you're dying. Brute growth, growth for its own sake, leads to bubbles, but we do need to make progress, keep getting better, grow in quality and not necessarily quantity. We do need to make progress and fast at finding a sustainable source of energy for our civilization. Without energy we will all need to start studying the Amish.
The concept of sustainability has its own problems. First of all, one meaning of the term seems to be about finding a stasis between available resources and our economic appetite. The dark side of statis is rigidity. Sustainability itself should not be the goal of our civilization. It is the means of the long-term survival and well-being of our communities, cultures, and natural environment.
Second, what we take for granted in the term sustainability is the assumption of a first world, middle-class lifestyle. What is coded into the term is the birthright to interact with the world at the level of products and brand names, of services and trends.
It isn't really about sustainability, but sustaining the lifestyle to which we've all become accustomed