The sudden transformation of the American consumer from drunken sailor to Silas Marner is the talk of the economic meltdown. After barely a year of hard times, we have turned into a nation of newly minted pennypinchers.
Many of the commentators are plainly nonplused in the head-shaking, who’d-a-thunk-it fashion. Other reactions have been more sonorous, like Time’s cover story “The New Frugality,” which muses over what it all says about the direction of the national character. Will we, they ask, revert to our spendthrift ways when the economy improves, telling ourselves as we have in the past that our spending