(CNN) -- Are we in a recession? Lots of readers seem to think we're approaching that point, if not hitting it just yet. CNN.com asked about the current economic situation, and responses flooded in describing pain at the pumps and expensive trips through the grocery checkout line.
Some readers say high gas and grocery prices are at the root of financial difficulties they face.
News of a government economic stimulus plan to send out rebate checks got readers talking. Several submitters said that they thought the plan was poorly conceived, while others thought it was a great way to put some money back into the economy.
Below is a selection of the responses received, some of which have been edited for length and clarity:
JoAnne McDaniel of Tylertown, Mississippi
I am 48 years old with two sons in college. My husband died 10 years ago and I have been on my own with two kids since that time. I work in a commercial development company that owns and manages shopping centers. My income is approximately $30,000 annually. Both my sons work and go to college. It is very very hard for them to have enough money to live and go to school. I try to help, but I barely get by and with everything going up (except my salary), it is almost impossible to live. I unfortunately have credit card debt that I can't seem to get out of and between my mortgage, insurance, gasoline, utilities I don't have enough money to live and I don't really see an end in sight. I also have a second job that brings in a little spending money, but it really doesn't seem to help that much. I really don't have enough money to live on. I have not had a raise in several years. My employer wants to pay me more, I believe, but our company is struggling also to make ends meet. If any problem arises (new tires, etc.), I am screwed. I don't have the money or means to repair anything. I live from paycheck to paycheck. Life is not good.
Victor Garcia of Bloomfield, New Mexico
We don't need a tax rebate check. We could spend that money in a week's time. What needs to happen is lower the cost of living -- the price of homes, gasoline and utility costs. This, in turn, should lower the price of food, which we need every day.
David Hamilton of Huntley, Illinois
What recession? I have a job, the company is making money (although not what they think they should), I pay my mortgage, life is good. Of course, when times were "booming," I didn't buy a house that was beyond my means, I didn't buy a house with no money down, I didn't max my credit cards out, I pay off my credit cards every month, and I have savings put aside for a rainy day. I fail to understand how people consistently live beyond their means, then blame the government when it all catches up to them.
Lee Frau of San Diego, California
Just paid the ultimate price and lost my home to foreclosure, and I'm trying to get back on my feet while living with relatives. I'm so grateful for their kindness, because I can barely get around due to the price of gas. I can't get out of the grocery store with any basics (toilet paper, cereal, tuna, etc.) for less than $30 to $40. Some can call me a loser and say I'm whining, but yes, I would definitely say I'm hurting from the Bush economy.
Aaron Gaskins of Denver, Colorado
I am a recent college graduate, and joined a large financial institution six months ago. Frankly, I am doing just fine financially. The only people I know seeing major changes are self-employed people like my dad who owns a small landscape materials company. ... While I know our economy isn't at its peak, I do not think we are as bad off as all the people jumping ship in Wall Street would make you think. In my particular circumstances, I am using this blip in the economy to start investing in my 401(k) and IRAs.
Further, as much as I would like $600, it isn't a good solution for the long haul. It will only serve to put more burden on my generation down the road. Any spending that results from it will be sifted through slightly by American retailers, and then it is straight on through to China and Japan. Please, someone step up and make the difficult decisions; whether or not it serves you and your parties' political interests.
Mike Larkin of Schnecksville, Pennsylvania
Although I make a lot more than the average salary, raises and bonuses have been cut for everyone in my company due our customers cutting back, and wage hikes do NOT keep up with the increased cost of living. So I am losing ground, and most people I speak with say it is also true for them. It also affects my retirement accounts, on which I am relying to supplement Social Security when I retire. A falling tide lowers all boats. If stocks go down, so does the value of my IRA, even if I am well-diversified and have a conservative portfolio.
Whatever they do in Washington, the solution needs to get money into the hands of people who will spend it almost immediately. That would be working and middle-class families for the most part. I also think incentives for small businesses would be a good thing. But I do NOT think we need more tax cuts for big business or rich people, because it does NOT trickle down. It simply enriches those who do not need any more than what they have. The proof of that pudding is in the current economic pie.
Kelli Williams of St. Louis, Missouri
The biggest impact to my family right now is the higher cost of gasoline and groceries, and the outrageous cost of college. My husband and I have good jobs with solid companies and an income of $150,000 a year. What is absolutely ridiculous is that this income level prevents us from taking deductions or receiving credit for college expenses. We have two kids in college and another entering this fall. Come on.
Sending me a "rebate" on money that's mine to begin with isn't going to do much. How about we lower gas prices so grocery prices go down too? That would help more people for a longer term than a one-time shot in the arm. We also bought a new house three years ago -- one we could afford with a 30-year fixed rate. Help me understand why people who never should have been approved for a loan in the first place are now being bailed out of their ARMs by the government?
Julie Pommer of Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Yes, the economy is affecting me! Last year I worked around 60 hours a week to pay the mortgages on two homes because the market sank and I couldn't sell my first home. I am also a small business owner and have noticed a slight drop in business, although not bad, because Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tends to have its own economy. My retirement account has plummeted, causing me to be more uneasy about my old age. I am single and will have to take care of myself, as I'm sure the government doesn't know how to invest the money I pay in!
I am now an accidental landlord, because every body wants to pay me less than I put into my home and I refuse to give it away. I am trying to sell both my homes and have been wanting to relocate for about a year now. I'm confident this will be the year.
Heidi Meyer of Somerset, New Jersey
Of course, I'm affected. Isn't everyone? I work in the title insurance industry. The sub-prime crises hit our industry hard. We had layoffs in September of '07, no holiday bonus and no salary increases in sight, as gas prices, food & clothing are all going up. I just had to spend $1,100 on new brakes for my 2002 vehicle, which had to be put on a credit card.
Shaun D. of Rochester, New York
The biggest killer for us is the rise in energy costs. It's meant no extras. No nights out, no extra thrills, no extra groceries. Between gas and heating costs, our monthly energy costs are two and a half times what they use to be. That's even with getting rid of our oil furnace and installing a energy efficient gas furnace. We're a family of three with a four month old baby and I seriously don't know how we are going to be able to afford doing anything extra if gas and energy costs keep rising.
Jerome Britting of Dayton, Nevada
It's never been tougher to get by as it is now for my family. I've always been employed so that's not the issue, the problems are from health insurance premiums, gasoline costs and the highest prices for groceries ever. Two years ago, we were shopping to buy a house and found we couldn't afford anything in town because of the mortgage boom, so we purchased 26 miles from where I work because that was all we could afford. Now I'm finding it hard to even get to work just because of the fuel costs. We've considered getting a hybrid-type vehicle but there is no way we can afford the payments on such an item. It took all of savings to acquire the house and two years later, we're still paycheck to paycheck with not even a hope to have a savings. All is gone as soon as it's been made. We watch every penny we make, but it doesn't seem to matter and there is definitely no light at the end of the tunnel. We have considered selling the house and moving into a trailer park close to work because, at least then, we could possibly save some money. So much for the American dream. Ours is slowly going up in smoke. Thanks Bush administration, my family really appreciates the lack of attention your administration has given to the well being of the American people. I would say I hope you can sleep at night but I'm sure you're sleeping just fine in that pile of money you have from all your big business buddies.
B. Gabbert of Chicago, Illinois
The current economic situation makes me very nervous. I make a decent salary but am struggling to makes ends meet. My debt continues to grow substantially every month. I was transferred for my job but was not able to sell my condo in my hometown resulting in two payments (rent and mortgage) a month. My savings are depleted. I cannot afford to sell my stocks or bonds to provide some temporary relief due to the current stock market situation. My company raised benefit premiums while freezing merit increases. I am overwhelmed and scared for my financial future.
Gail Appleby of New York
What is affecting a good part of the silent middle class is jobs going to other countries. I work at a bank that is sending white collar jobs to India, which means there are many temporary workers propping this bank up until they finish the transition. They lured us here by promising us jobs after a certain period, which kept getting extended, but all along, they had plans to send the jobs entirely to India (they even knew this when they hired us as temps). It is tough to get a permanent job in America!
Paul Robert of Brewster, New York
Like a windy day, when you wake up the following morning, all the dead wood on the ground is the wood that needs to be there. In the case of the economy, if we get rid of the dead wood, (people living way beyond their means) and they exit the market once and for all, things will probably improve dramatically. The American investor is way too emotional in the marketplace!
Wendell Baker of Normal, Illinois
The solution to our bad economy is to get rid of the income tax on our wages. If we could get 25 to 30 percent more on our paychecks there's no doubt this step would fix the problem, we have plenty of other taxes to cover this type of action such as state tax, gas tax, business taxes, etc. It's time to let the working man and women get all their hard-earned pay.
Mary Harris of Hubert, North Carolina
As long as we are paying the high prices at the pump then we will continue down the recession road. Continued high petrol prices only drive up the cost of living making it harder for the every-day person to make ends meet. Again, big business wins and the American citizen scrapes by. It's time to stop buying and using fossil fuels and put the American "know-how" back to work.
Donna Howle of Lamar, South Carolina
We are certainly headed into a recession. We are a middle-class family. As gas, food, medical have gone up last year, we have had to delete such luxury items as an extra car, cell phones and budget ourselves diligently. For a family of 5, we are right on the edge of having to decide if we can pay our credit cards. How do those nuts in Congress/Wall Street think the middle class can keep giving them money and not be hurt by it. All they are interested in is lowering rates so the younger generation can now get in debt, too, so their precious pockets can be filled. A one-time boot to the system will only delay the facts. We need people creating jobs, making things in America. Personally, I think Mike Huckabee's flat-tax would help our economy most.
Roy Haeger of Fridley, Minnesota
The so-called "slump" is not affecting me because it doesn't exist. The media has taken the whole recession idea and ran with it, even though there is no proof that it even exists, or will. I don't fear a recession. Even if we end up with one, the longest in the last 60 years lasted 15 months -- most don't last even THAT long. Just another Chicken Little in time for an election year.
Kim S. of Worcester, Massachusetts
The economy and threat (or reality) of recession is affecting our household and plans. While we are lucky to be employed and are decently well-off, we are anxious about the constant drumbeat of economic bad news. For instance, we have found a larger house which we might consider buying, but we are hesitating due to the volatility in the markets. A stimulus package which includes an increase in the conforming loan threshold would help to push us in the direction of buying up / selling our current house, but we remain concerned about job stability and the housing market.
Donna Allen of Marble, North Carolina
What budget? I live in rural America and I don't have a job to maintain a budget. I have two kids graduating from high school and I can't afford their cap and gown. Whatever the government does, I'll be happy. Things will get worse before they get any better.
Mark G. of Pleasantville, New Jersey
Rebates? Cut me a break! We want permanent tax relief! Why does this government think it can keep the population quiet with a few crumbs? Lou Dobbs was right. Squandered wealth and we get stuck with the bill. Rebates for those who don't pay taxes: What is wrong with this thought? Bail out banks that made billions? [I] sure wish I could go to the casinos and take my bets off the tables when I lose.
These politicians need to be replaced -- all of them. These debates and speeches mean nothing to the citizens. We are not even squandering our time to watch. We are too busy working our tails off to pay the bills. No time to listen to the rhetoric. Business as usual for Washington, and they think we'll put up with this forever. Let's take the top 5 percent of the wealthiest Americans and "requisition" the required trillions to pay off their bill. The rest of us are fed up with the system. As the richest person in the world once said, "Just a little more."
John M. of Dallas, Texas
Dear CNN, I am affected by the economic state of the country just like everyone is, but I am not as hard-hit as many nor as well-off as the elite earners of our country. I pay my 30 percent income tax, my wife pays her crippling payroll tax for her business and we go on. We have savings, no car notes or substantial credit card debt, but we watch what we do because we are not rich. We are disciplined, accountable for our own decisions and responsible just as our parents taught us. And we have not increased the economic burden on everyone else by having children. If we were able to avoid taxes or reduce our share like the wealthy or the corporations in America we would certainly be much better off. But that is not possible.
I do not wish my tax money to be used to finance every entitlement program we currently run here. But, sadly, my vote does nothing to change that fact. My vote, in fact, has no effect at all. However, because I am just an average Joe, the $600 or $1200 for my wife and I that the government has today proposed will have no effect.
Kerwin Leader of Blissfield, Michigan
My family has been feeling the U.S. economic downturn for more than a year. Michigan seems to be an ever increasingly hard place to live. I have been able to hang on to my job at a 32-year-old family-owned book manufacturing company outside of Ann Arbor. Wage increases have been between 1 and 3 percent over the past three years, but health insurance coverage premium co-pays have risen dramatically and my 35-mile daily commute has become a huge burden with gas prices spiraling upwards. Our home utilities have also increased dramatically. I can't currently afford to help my daughter with college expenses and have had to rely completely on financial aid and loans for her to attend school. I've been forced to accept a second part-time job 3 years ago just to meet expenses. We shop at Aldi and save much on our grocery costs, but there isn't much left to do anything but survive. I realize my family has a better situation than many others are currently facing. I have some friends who have lost their jobs with little hope of a new one on the horizon. We live in a land of opportunity? It seems there is opportunity for a shrinking number of people.
S. Abner of Springtown, Texas
No, because I did not over-extend my credit and try to keep up with the Joneses. I am tired of people crying about trying to own everything. We need a recession to bring people back to reality. They just want it all and expect the government to bail them out. My husband and I raised five children and we always lived within our means. There was a time in the mid-90's that we were laid off nine times between the two of us and we did not go out and by the latest gadgets for us or our children. We taught our five children to not overextend themselves and live only within their means. We live in such a greedy society and the government is the enabler. Remove the teat and grow up. I am ashamed of my generation (baby boomers). E-mail to a friend
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