A sales tax exemption could jump start consumer spending

Some economists are calling the U.S. economic slump the worst contraction since the post-World War II demobilization recession that began in 1945; certainly, it's the the worst slump since the 1981-82 Reagan recession.

What are its defining characteristics? Of course, the end of the housing bubble, and a deep slump in home prices and sales; a large increase in layoffs, stemming from that sector's correction and its ripple-effect on supporting sectors; and a decrease in consumer spending.

Of all the recessionary trends, the one that may be the most damaging -- and enduring -- concerns the pullback in spending. And it's the dearth in spending throughout the economy, involving business-to-business, not just retail, that's troubling economists.