There’s stunning news this week on the batten-down-the-hatches economy we’re living in these days.

There’s stunning news this week on the batten-down-the-hatches economy we’re living in these days.

Simpler values, simpler times, right? We were all going to out less, hunt our own food and knit doilies in the flickering candlelight, according to the apostles of the new frugality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m down with the new frugality, but I’m a little skeptical.

So the people who study these things – aka your tax dollars at work – have gone forth and studied some more. Here is what they found.

First, we’re working less. Now, that’s an average that masks two big facts. Those who still have jobs are working a whole lot more, but that is offset by those not working at all. One is unpleasant, and one is devastating. Still, add those two facts up, and the average American adult has 17 more minutes a day on his hands.

Most of us – aka our brains, not tax dollars, at work – might have surmised as much. For free, by the way. But there is revelation in the midst of all the data.

What are we doing with that 17 minutes?

If you said sleeping and watching TV, you have followed the path of common sense directly to the correct answer.

Some experts say this is a tremendous waste, that we should be spending those 17 minutes improving ourselves, sharpening a job skill, networking or polishing the resume. The broader point – and it’s well taken – is that those who don’t keep adding skills will someday find themselves out of date and maybe out of luck. That’s no doubt true, but I have to think every worker in America has gone over the old resume with a microscope. Short of launching into flat-out fiction, what’s left to add?

I guess I’m just inclined to cut everyone some slack on this one. This is the era of hunkering down and paying off the bills now that the party that most of us watched and maybe worried about a little has so unceremoniously ended, leaving us with the hangover and the bar tab.

This takes time and – sin of all sins in our age – it’s boring. Sit down with the checkbook and the stack of bills, and see who wins. Try to end the month a little less in the red than last month. It’s the right thing to do, it’s good for us, and it’s boring.

So squeeze a little more value out of that monopoly called the cable company by slouching in front of the tube, surfing for laughs or drama or how to make the perfect omelet or whatever works for you. So what. That’s the new frugality too.

The studiers say we’re not spending any more time cleaning the house, taking classes or volunteering at church. We’re actually spending a little less time at “leisure and sports,” which of course doesn’t count watching sports on TV. Maybe the Nike cross-trainers got thrown out the window in the great budget cutting, and, we can rest assured, that eventually will be reflected in higher health-care costs.

Fair enough. Again, that sounds hard, complicated and boring. We’ve got enough of that at the moment.

As it happens, the U.S. soccer team has overcome one bad call after another to advance in the World Cup, it’s all on TV and, for once, people in America seem to care. It’s something to root for and it comes with the cable bill, so we’re paying whether we watch or not. Rally ’round the TV. Rally ’round our team. We could do worse.