US ponders: How deep is economic abyss? (AP)

Brokers work on the trading desk at ICAP following the Federal Reserve rate announcement on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 in Jersey City, N.J.  ICAP PLC, based in London, is the world's largest inter-dealer broker. The Fed cut the rate 3/4 point. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)AP – For months, Americans have been subjected to a sort of economic water torture — a maddening drip of bad news about jobs, gas prices, sagging home values, creeping inflation, the slouching dollar and a stock market in bumpy descent.