Suddenly, the American consumer society is doing a lot less consuming. The numbers are pretty incredible. Sales of new vehicles have dropped 32 percent in the third quarter. Consumer spending appears likely to fall next year for the first time since 1980 and perhaps by the largest amount since 1942.
With Wall Street edging back from the brink, this crisis of consumer confidence has become the No. 1 short-term issue for the economy. Nobody doubts that families need to start saving more than they saved over the last two decades. But if they change their behavior too quickly, it could be very painful.
Already, Circuit City has filed for bankruptcy....