FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
With Memorial Day weekend - and the unofficial start to summer - just around the corner, many Americans have no vacation time in sight.
A recent study shows 57% of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of last year.
And most of them had about 11 days left over, or nearly 70% of their allotted time off. Who takes only 30% of their vacation?
Well, one of the biggest reasons people skip their vacation is because they feel like they have too much work. Others say they can't afford to travel - no surprise in this economy. And still others say they are afraid to take time off from work in an unstable job market, also not surprising with unemployment stuck above 8%.
Meanwhile, the U.S. plays by different rules than most other developed countries when it comes to vacation. The law here doesn't require companies to offer any paid vacation to employees.
Nevertheless the average American worker gets 13 paid days off. Compare that with Italy, where the average worker gets 42 days off. In France, it’s 37 days off.
And guess what? Nearly 90% of the French use all of their vacation time. Insert your own joke here.
Experts say a lot of this is cultural. Many of these countries also have strong labor unions. Some European cities, such as Paris, practically shut down for part of the summer when everyone goes on vacation.
As for Americans, the trend is for people to take long weekends instead of one- or two-week vacations.
It's understandable that people are worried to leave the office for too long in our shaky economy; but it does make it harder to recharge your batteries and get a mental break from work.
Here’s my question to you: Why don't most Americans take all their vacation time?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
As the national debate over full-body scans and pat downs at airports rages on, there's another idea that maybe deserves a second look: profiling.
It works pretty darn well for Israel, but questions of political correctness always seem to put an end to the discussion in the U.S. Instead we are reduced to having our crotches grabbed.
However, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 70 percent of Americans support using available information about passengers to determine who gets picked for extra security screening.
When asked what criteria should be used to select passengers: 86 percent say personal behavior, 78 percent say travel history, 55 percent say nationality, and 50 percent say personal appearance.
This goes to the point that not all profiling is equal. There's a big difference between smart profiling and the less effective kind – based on race, religion, gender or country.
What's important is for the U.S. to improve profiling based on things like behavior, no-fly lists, personal data and travel history.
It turns out many pilots support this kind of profiling. The Daily Beast reports that online discussion groups show pilots complaining that the government is wasting resources by applying the same broad security measures to everyone.
Meanwhile, with all the hype over airline security, consider this: Politico reports that in 99 million domestic flights (that have carried 7 billion U.S. travelers) in the last decade, there have been zero bombs snuck onto airplanes and detonated. Zero.
Here’s my question to you: When it comes to airport security, is it time to reconsider profiling?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Pres. Obama, Mayor George Schloegel (L) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) enjoy snowballs after a roundtable discussion with local residents in Gulfport. Obama has implored Americans to visit southern Gulf coast beaches, as the tourism industry fears a hammering over the BP oil disaster. (PHOTO CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The best way to help the people of the Gulf Coast is to go down there and visit - that was the message from President Obama as he toured the region earlier this week.
And Mr. Obama did his best to boost the tourism industry, struggling from the spreading oil slick. While visiting with local officials - he strolled the beaches, lunched on local crab cakes and shrimp... and downed a snow cone (down there, they're called "snowballs") in the 95 degree heat.
The president said one Gulfport, Mississippi hotel owner told him that business was down 40 percent due to the oil spill.
The effect of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history on tourism is a nightmare scenario for small business owners all along the coast... we're talking tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue.
Analysts at Citigroup suggest that the loss of tourism and fishing revenues in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi alone could translate to claims of more than $10 billion.
Meanwhile it's estimated Florida could lose a third of its tourism industry... which would mean another $12 billion in lost revenue. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who could lose their jobs.
As the monstrous oil spill continues to spread, it's devastating huge swaths of coastline and marshland - killing an untold number of wildlife... not to mention the economic impact of jobs lost because of the moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Gulf.
Here’s my question to you: In light of the oil spill, would you vacation on the Gulf Coast?
As millions of Americans head into a long weekend and the unofficial start of summer, consider this: About 28 million Americans, that's a quarter of the work force, don't get any paid vacation. Enter Florida Congressman Alan Grayson - who has introduced the Paid Vacation Act.
The bill would require companies with more than 100 employees to give a week of paid vacation to both full-time and part-time workers who've been with the company for a year. Once the law is in effect three years - they'd have to give two weeks of paid time off; and companies with more than 50 employees would have to give one week vacation.
Grayson, a Democrat, says his bill would double the number of paid vacations in the U.S. It's also meant to increase worker productivity by having fewer sick days, and to boost tourism - hey, he's from Florida after all.
Grayson points to other countries where paid vacation is a matter of right. Turns out the U.S. is last among 21 industrial countries when it comes to mandatory vacation time; France requires companies to give 30 days of paid leave.
No surprise that the travel industry is all for this bill; but small business advocates say mandatory vacation time could be a disaster for smaller companies, making it unaffordable for them to do business. Some Republicans are against the idea too, saying: "A one size fits all federal mandate is the wrong medicine in troubled economic times."
Here’s my question to you: Should paid vacation time be mandatory?
Gas prices are up almost 10 percent in the last two weeks, and have hit a six month high. AAA says the national average is now $2.25 a gallon for unleaded regular, up $0.20 from two weeks ago. One of the main reasons gas prices are going up is because of rising crude oil prices, which closed at their highest level of the year on Friday.
Will the price of gas keep you from doing what you really want to do this summer?
The good news is analysts say it's unlikely that prices will climb as high as they did last summer, when most people were shelling out $4.00 a gallon. In fact, while prices are going up now, they're still nearly 50 percent lower than the record high set last July.
Also it's typical to see prices increase ahead of Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start to summer, when more Americans start hitting the road. But AAA says they'd be surprised to see prices reach $3.50 a gallon this summer unless there's an unexpected supply disruption - something like a hurricane.
The slumping economy is also expected to keep prices lower. That's because income is the biggest factor determining how much people drive; and with unemployment at 8.9 percent, it seems more likely that people will stay close to home to save on the gas bill.
Here's my question to you: How will rising gas prices and the recession impact your summer vacation plans?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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