I know people love their anecdotal evidence, especially in an economic discussion. But the concern here is pretty straightforward. From about 2001 - current the United States has funded a comprehensive restructuring of domestic government agencies (i.e. Homeland Security) with new and far-reaching "anti-terrorism" programs (e.g. Federal subsidy of enlarged state and local police, USVISIT, etc.), funded an invasion and ongoing active occupation of Iraq (at a cost of about $1 billion per month), while at the same time cutting taxes, and in September 2007 Congress raised the debt ceiling $9.815 trillion. The U.S. Government went from an ostensibly balanced budget in 1999, to a mind-boggling increase in spending, while at the same time collecting less revenue (i.e. taxes). How do they afford it? They increase the supply of money and credit through the Federal Reserve. This is a stealth tax. By debasing the fiat currency of the dollar, they spend the new dollars on the military-industrial complex to "keep us safe"*, which dilutes the value of the dollars we save in our bank accounts (or that we negotiated with our employers to earn in our paychecks), but all of the other goods and services are still just as scarce, so more dollars are needed for the same value to exchange for them, which is inflation. (*Recently "keep us safe" has been extended to including bailing out financiers such as Bear Stearns and soon Lehman Brothers.)
The "Three Trillion Dollar War" or whatever you want to call it was all paid with inflation, which explains why the price of gold went over $1000/oz, why oil and food prices are up, but people are still generally acting as if dollars are worth what they used to be worth before the new money was created. (Arguably his is also why the Federal Reserve ceased publishing M3 data in March of 2006, and why the Department of Labor and Statistics has redefined the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to exclude energy (i.e. oil) and agriculture from its "basket of goods" estimation of dollar purchasing power.)
The economic crisis the United States can no longer ignore is the unwinding of this inflation. However, economists who speak on television or for politicians will tie themselves in knots and circular logic to avoid ever saying the word "inflation" -- it's like a taboo. So first they pitched this problem as a "sub-prime mortgage crisis", until now the problem is obviously not contained to just that market sector. Recently I've heard people start saying "contagion" like when the Asian Tigers melted down from their inflationary bubble in the 1990s.
But the crisis is simply that the Bush-Cheney administration has spent more money than God by borrowing and printing it (i.e. creating inflation), which in the central banking system of fractional reserve multiplies several times over into even more inflation. This creates an enormous market bubble -- that so-called "economic recovery" Bush has claimed in his speeches of yore. So this bubble didn't even feel like a bubble so much because the "improvement" was marginal over the pre-existing recession from the previous dot-com bubble and housing "foam" created by Alan Greenspan. But soon all of that inflation is about to collapse.
Think of inflation like those Warner Bros. cartoons where Wile E. Coyte runs off the edge of a cliff, and he can keep running and running on the air as long as he doesn't look down and realize that there's no more dirt beneath him. But eventually he looks down and plummets until he hits real dirt. That's what a correction for inflation is like.
And we've had this inflation/recession building up for approximately a decade now. It could take at least that long to get back out of it. So I would not chalk this up to "fear mongering". Fear mongering of the phantom menace called "terrorism" is what got us into this hole.