Consumer economic sentiment has fallen to the dismal level of the early 1980s as the full effects of a recession take hold. High gasoline and food prices, a falling stock market, weakening housing values and a shaky job market do not a happy consumer make. The latest “RBC CASH Index” (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) dropped to 14.6, a new all-time low since its inception in 2002, compared to 22.5 in June. RBC says that bleak economic times appear to have become self-reinforcing as fewer than one in five Americans think their local economy will strengthen in the next six months, compared to 20 last month. Also, 37% of respondents rate their personal finances as weak, up from 30% last month. Additionally, 71% believe the next 30 days will be a bad time to invest in the stock market, versus 66% in June.