Nine worrying signs about the economy

5. Savings are falling, and debt is rising. From 2020 to 2021, the U.S. government sent most American households several thousand dollars in checks to get them through the pandemic. With much of the economy shut down, many Americans held on to that stimulus cash, and the personal-savings rate soared to a 60-year record. But now Americans have spent just about all that cash, and the personal-savings rate has fallen to below its 2010s average. During an unstable moment for the economy—with markets collapsing, and inflation rising, and the Federal Reserve slamming the brakes on the economy—the typical household doesn’t have much in the way of protection. Instead consumer debt is breaking new record highs.

6. The Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes are already causing mayhem. One of the Federal Reserve’s mandates is to keep inflation around 2 percent. Well, so much for that one. Inflation has skyrocketed past 8 percent, leading the Fed to announce a spree of rate hikes designed to slow down economic activity. In theory, the plan works like this: The Federal Reserve raises interest rates, which makes it more expensive to borrow money for mortgages, cars, and business investments. As a result, investment in all those categories and more declines, and the economy cools off. But here’s the problem. Modern history has very few examples of unemployment this low and inflation this high where rate increases haven’t caused a recession. On the path to crushing inflation, the Fed may destroy trillions of dollars of wealth and economic activity.