Apparently we’re just like the federal government, our personal budgets are being squeezed by what amounts to non-discretionary outlays: health care and education. Patrick Appel in Andrew Sullivan’s Dish, here.
My own analogy with the non-discretionary side of the federal budget stems from two facts: health care is central to both and the mandatory expenditure nature squeezes cuts onto what’s left. In the case of the feds that includes R&D (like NIH and NSF). In the case of Mom and Pop, probably they are doing less retail shopping…and in fact that fits the latest data.