We’re Not in a Recession?
Believe it or not, we are not officially in a recession. A recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of a negative gross domestic product (GDP). The Commerce Department recently reported that the GDP fell .3% during the third quarter (July – September). Consumer spending makes up 2/3 of the economy. And consumer spending has dropped the largest amount in 28 years. Experts and analysts predict that next quarter we will have an even bigger drop.
Ask most people and they will tell you that we are in a recession. But, no matter how much we are cutting back and tightening our belts, we are not in a recession until the National Bureau of Economic Research says that we are in a recession. And they have given no indication of when they are going to do that.
Unemployment numbers remain high: New claims totaled 479,000, the same as the previous week. The Fed cut the federal funds rate (the interest rate banks charge each other on overnight loans) by half a percentage point. And the government has begun distributing funds from the financial rescue package.
But no, we’re not in a recession. Not yet, anyway.
More Business Leaders Backing Obama
Many businesses that previously backed Republicans are switching to back Obama.
Obama has raised more money than McCain among employees and executives in these industries: finance, insurance and real estate; health; communications; law; and "miscellaneous business." (Miscellaneous business includes retail, service industries, and other small businesses.)
McCain has kept the traditional Republican lead in transportation, construction, defense, energy and agribusiness.
According to USA Today, “Obama has taken in $20.5 million from that sector to McCain’s $13.4 million, records show. Those numbers don’t include September and October, when Obama was raising tens of millions but McCain’s campaign was not taking private donations. McCain accepted $84 million in public financing while Obama opted out of the federal system.
Among Obama’s contributors, 5,845 list "CEO" or "chief executive" in their title, compared with 2,597 of McCain’s donors, according to election records compiled by CQ MoneyLine. In the 2003-04 cycle, 3,567 of Bush’s donors were listed that way, compared with 1,686 for Kerry.”
It seems like everyone is looking for a change.
How much should we tip during tough times? Who should we tip?
Consumer Reports asked a nationally representative sample of almost 1,900 U.S. residents what they gave last holiday season when the economy was already starting to unravel, and the results showed few differences from the year before.
The big recipients—house cleaners, with 65% of respondents who employ them tipping them last year. House cleaners also received a larger gratuity than other service providers, averaging about $50 or an equivalent gift per tip. Child-care providers were also still among the most likely to receive a tip and received the second largest average gratuity amounts—about $38 per cash tip or gift equivalent.
Rounding out the list of service providers who typically receive holiday tips in the survey: child’s teacher (59%), hairdresser (56%), manicurist (51%), newspaper carrier (45%), barber (40%), building superintendent (33%), pet-care provider (30%), mail carrier (29%), lawn-care crew (28%), school-bus driver (26%), fitness instructor (22%), and sanitation worker (14%). These received and average of between $15 and $25 per gift.
If the tipping budget is tight this upcoming season, Consumer Reports experts recommend that those wanting to express their gratuity allocate tips in the following ways:
- Give cash to the people you believe need it most. In many cases an extra week’s pay or the cost of one session is appropriate.
- Avoid bank-issued gift cards. They might expire or have fees. Even retail cards can be useless if the store goes bankrupt.
- Give small gifts. For others, consider giving soaps, candles, or baked goods. Unless you know them well, avoid alcohol or food that might be inappropriate or cause allergic reactions.
- For those you tip regularly, like a barber or a hairdresser, a small gift or a card is usually an appropriate way to say thanks.
- Be aware of the rules. Mail carriers aren’t allowed to take cash or gift cards that can be exchanged for cash. The U.S. Postal Service says they can accept non-cash gifts or gift cards worth $20 or less. School districts may also frown on cash gifts to teachers.
- For the really tight budget. A hand written thank you note is always appropriate and can go a long way.