The Lousy Christmas That Almost Wasn't

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Slate's Chatterbag Tim Noah puts the "worst" holiday shopping season in three decades into perspective. Nut sentence: "A close reading of any of these stories makes clear that more U.S. dollars were spent buying holiday gifts this year than in any previous year since the birth of Jesus Christ." That doesn't tell the whole story—there was a 1.5 percent increase in spending this year, but when you adjust for inflation, that looks more like a 0.5 percent to 1 percent decrease. (I find it pretty alarming that the Christmas immediately following the September 11 attacks saw more robust shopping than this year's.) Still, the point is made, and it's a good one.

NEXT: What's Missing From the Year's Top Religion Stories?

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  1. The important figure of merit is obviously per capita inflation adjusted spending (and the year on year change thereof). By that measure December sales have decreased by about 1.25 percent over last year, but the decrease is not as much as for 2001, 2000, or 1995. Though, the 2002 figures are based on essentially a guess, so we shouldn’t put too much faith in them until we have the hard data.

    I’ll post a more detailed statistical breakdown on my blog later if anyone cares.

  2. At first blush, yeah, it seems like it’s not a big
    deal, because it is still increasing.

    If *YOU* had been working your buns off, and
    had been expecting a certain amount of a raise,
    and instead got less than half of what you
    expected, you’d be pretty disappointed.

  3. Thanks for pointing out what “mainstream” media folks *should* have been reporting. Shameful, eh?

    And as for me — hey, I did MY part — spent way more than 1.5% more than last year!

  4. Things go boom, then they go bust. It’s called the economic cycle. But unlike other boom/bust periods, Americans are so over-saturated with info and opinion from the 24-hour news channels and the web that they cannot catch a breath. For every economist who points to positive trends, there is one who eagerly points out the negative ones. Fear of inflation, for instance, is replaced by fear of deflation. Instead of looking to the future optimistically, our post-9/11 defensiveness forces us to wallow in one worst-case scenario after another. We are so determined not to get burned again that we are paralyzed and unable to move at all.

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