I'm not an economist, and I don't play one on TV. But regardless of what the likes of Senator Saxby Chambliss and George Will have to say, it's clear we are still on a downward trend with the economy, and no one can see the bottom of that pit just yet.
How do I know if I don't have a Ph.D. in something that involves math or economic theory?
Well, I had lunch at Burger King last week and there was no one in line ahead of me, which struck me as a little odd. And there was no one behind me. The cashier behind the counter exclaimed when he saw he, "Oh, thank God -- a customer!"
The cashier at Ann Taylor Loft, where I went in search of a new sweater as I was armed with my 20% off coupon, told me at the check out I wouldn't need it. "All the sale merchandise is an additional 40% off," she told me. That almost made the sweater free -- and Ann Taylor Loft didn't care as long as they could make some kind of sale. Any sale.
One of my stepdaughters is pretty sure a series of E-mails over the Thanksgiving day holiday, cryptic though some of them were, means she doesn't have much of a job to go back to. And she wasn't the only family member worried that the days ahead will bring a pink slip, not a promotion.
And when a lunch of cold-cuts is offered, but the hosts don't eat any of nicely arranged turkey or cheese, claiming they're really not all that hungry, it doesn't take a team of economic advisers to know that people are hunkering down for worse things to come and want to make food stretch as far as possible.
I'm sure such anecdotal evidence isn't the stuff that the likes of Alan Greenspan or Robert Rubin rely on. And I admit those few incidents don't a case study make.
But the list of little things keeps growing that sends a message -- sort of like when you see squirrels hoarding nuts too early in the season and know that's just the first sign of a harsh winter that you don't want to acknowledge.
I'd love to be wrong. If I am, the next round of sandwiches at Burger King is on me.