Reading the news this morning I feel like we’re reliving the Carter years. The drop in consumer sentiment reported today by the University of Michigan, as well as Bush’s dismal approval ratings, both seem like echoes from the late 1970s. From Marketwatch:

Consumer sentiment plunges to 7-month low

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – U.S. consumers’ attitudes about the current economic situation plunged in May at the fastest rate in at least 28 years, according to media reports Friday of proprietary research.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to 79.0 in May from 87.4 in April, the lowest since October’s 74.2. The current conditions index, which tends to track gasoline prices and unemployment, plunged 13 points to 96.2, the biggest one-month decline in the survey’s 28-year history. It’s the lowest level for current conditions since October. The expectations index fell to 68.0 from 73.4, also the lowest since October.

Consumer sentiment has fallen in four of the past five months after peaking at 91.5 in December after the economy bounced back from the hurricanes.

Certainly, a large part of the explanation for this is simply high gas prices. High gas prices can sour the mood of the American public in ways that almost nothing else can. But, at least so far, this pessimism has not translated into much of a slowdown in spending. If and when that does finally happen, the US economy will surely feel it.