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Companies are Also Cutting Back on Christmas Spending

It comes as no surprise that American consumers will be spending less this Christmas. However, it is still slightly worrying that even companies are significantly cutting back on holiday spending. Many workplaces around the country are skipping the annual Christmas party and are less generous with bonuses. Aside from spelling bad news to employees, it is also affecting contractors who make these parties happen.

James Kasper of Saz’s catering is feeling the pinch and he noted that “We’ve all had to work a little harder to bring some of that holiday spending into the catering business.” Meanwhile, many contractors in Milwaukee said that their business is down 30 percent this year because many companies are deciding not to have a party even if they were profitable throughout the year.

Some contractors noted that a lot of businesses can still afford to spend for the holidays but are deciding not to do it. Joe Bartolotta from the Bartolotta Restaurant Group said that companies are trying “to do the right thing socially”. They don’t want to have a beautiful party when a number of employees have been laid off. But beyond these companies, there is no doubt that a lot of establishments are really struggling.

To encourage these companies, catering businesses are offering attractive discounts and special deals. For example, packages that may have cost $60 before are being sold for $30 now or less. Companies that still want to have a Christmas party despite all the hurdles are finding some innovative ways to go about it. Hotels and other special places are not being rented out. Instead, they are holding private get-togethers. The Christmas spirit may be alive in the workplace yet.

Christmas Spending – Weekly Round-Up

Christmastime is often the season when personal finances are wrecked. Some people just throw commonsense out the winder because, well, it’s Christmas after all. Doing this is not only careless; it can also give you a year-long burden. This doesn’t necessarily mean though that you should stop holiday spending altogether. There are many ways to celebrate Christmas frugally. We have compiled a list of blog posts below that will help you spend the holidays wisely:

The blog My Super Charged Life featured a post titled “Stop Procrastinating and Start Kicking Butt”. For all the procrastinators out there, this post is very motivational. Start moving after you read these tips. If you have large, complicated tasks to do, don’t be intimidated. Instead, break it down into smaller tasks to avoid mental block. Multitasking is another mistake people make. Try to focus on one thing at a time until it’s finished. These tips are very timely especially during the busy holiday season.

Dana @ The Observer wrote an interesting blog post titled “Christmas Spending Woes”. Basically, she talked about how frenzied the season can become with all the shopping, cooking, and catching up that needs to be down. Meanwhile, the bigger economic impact of the holidays is also briefly looked into as she discussed a poll that revealed Americans intends to spend $638 on the average which is the same as last year.

The Shanghai Family Finance blog provided a lot of frugal tips in the post “Control Your Christmas Spending”. The post is quite helpful because it outlined a lot of practical guides. For instance, it said that you need to make a list, know your spending limit, and don’t use your credit card when shopping for gifts and other items. Every tip provided makes good financial sense especially with the tough economic conditions today.

Funding Innovation Takes a Backseat Due to Budget Cuts

Everyone knows that in America, innovation drives growth. The United States is no longer a manufacturing hub, China has taken that title. The U.S. no longer relies on agriculture, mining, or outsourcing to sustain growth. However, this advantage may be fast becoming a non-driver of growth. With the recession, budgets have been cut and inventories are being protected.

For the first time in almost 13 years, innovation has slowed down. For 2009, the number of patent filing went down 2.3 percent from last year after years of growth, year on year. According to David Kappos of the Patent Office, “That’s unfortunate because patent filings are a reflection of innovation.” In turn, the development of new products and services provides a lot of opportunities in the country. It is recognized as a key to long-term success in today’s economy.

At the same time that number of patents filed by US companies fell, US patents that are issued to foreign businesses rose to 6.3 percent. For companies in Silicon Valley, this is a worrying sign. It has been a leader in the industry for decades but it might be in a vulnerable position because of the recession. Symantec, one of the most notable companies in tech security reported that their filings went down 25 percent as a direct result of a bigger macroeconomic issue.

Cost Cutting

Companies cited cost cutting as the main reason why they didn’t file for patents. Applying for US patent costs around $15,000 in processing and legal fees. This doesn’t include the costs companies have to bear in case they need to defend their patent. Generally, legal fees cost about $3 million to $6 million.

Henry Nothhaft from Tessera noted that “Once you have a patent, you have to go out and defend your own turf.” When companies don’t have the financial back-up to defend themselves with their finances, some would rather keep their invention hidden to prevent others from duplicating it.  Ultimately, it can spell trouble for US workers. The Obama administration cited innovation as the key to an economic recovery. It might not be the case if this competitive edge is eroded.

More Taxes in the Pipeline

As if life wasn’t hard enough, legislators now want to charge Americans what else but more taxes. A nationwide tax on all goods and services is being considered to plug the runaway federal deficit. The war in Afghanistan, bank bail-outs, and even the aid to many third-world partners are definitely taking its toll. The question is, would it be right to impose taxes on individuals who have nothing to do with the deficit anyway?

Many members of Congress want to junk the proposal, preferring to cut back on spending or impose higher taxes on the rich. The former might be the best idea. Taxing the rich might sound attractive to some but it might not be good over the long term. It will pull the upper class downward instead of lifting up the poor and the lower middle-class to achieve equity in the economy.

But while it is easy to say that it is just not right to impose additional taxes on struggling Americans who are already dealing with a tough labor market and health care costs, it might be inevitable. Bad decision making has made it necessary. According to Charles McLure who worked for the Reagan administration, “We have to start paying our bills eventually.”

The favored tax route is the value-added tax (VAT). Currently, the US system uses the sales tax wherein only the final product or service is taxed. The VAT system will impose taxes on every step on the production chain. Though this system works well in many other countries, it might erode US competitiveness further because it will drive the prices of everything upwards.

The current system should generate enough revenue to sustain the economy but it doesn’t. Curbing unnecessary expenses might provide is important because it will improve the economy without eroding the country’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. However, with the problems today and with the cost of US health care being sky high, it might no longer be enough.

Among the legislators who invoked the VAT system include Nancy Pelosi, John Podesta, and two former Fed Chairmen: Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan. Their decision might be right given the current conditions but it wouldn’t have been necessary if legislators and regulators haven’t made such as mess of things in the first place. Why should Americans have to pay?

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