Further, many states have solved their budget woes by raising taxes and fees. Falling real wages, high unemployment and higher taxes create more tight fisted customers for Walmart ( WMT) and Kia but fewer enthusiasts for Nordstrom and your local Ford ( F) dealer. Big caution in the auto-patch -- GM ( GM) is discounting to clear piled up inventories, and the dollar value of retail auto sales is not matching the surge in vehicles sold. Overall, the economy remains vulnerable to another shock -- be it the fiscal cliff, big tax increases and spending cuts to avoid it, or some other disaster. The focus on higher taxes in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations almost guarantees another year of tepid growth or worse. Follow @PMorici1 This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.