One of the best gauges of an economy is tax collections. No one pays taxes unless they have to, so collections are a real-world, real-time analysis of the US economy. And the best source I know of for tracking taxes is The Liscio Report, by Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood.
Tax collections are down. Philippa and Doug give us the actual numbers, which are not pretty. Bottom line? "What does this all mean? It suggests that the consumer retrenchment in this recession will be deep and long, and will probably continue into any recovery. The American consumer is no longer the world consumer of last resort, and that's an enormous change for both this country and the rest of the world to get used to."
You can learn more about the Liscio Report at www.theliscioreport.com. Enjoy your week.