This blog post originally appeared on RealMoney Silver on Jan. 11 at 7:29 a.m. EST.After Thursday's close, American Express ( AXP) followed Capital One ( COF) and reported a bruising increase to its loan-loss provision and in credit losses. Shares of American Express (a sizable holding by Warren Buffett) plummeted after the close of trading, similar to those of Capital One on Thursday. As well, Merrill Lynch ( MER) raised its forecast of fourth-quarter writedowns to $15 billion, which represents about 13% of the brokerage's beginning-year 2007 shareholders' equity base. As I mentioned on Columnist Conversation yesterday, the eroding outlook for American Express and Capital One is proof positive of the consumer's plight, and the Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley ( MS) analysts who downgraded these names in December provided value-added analysis and were dead right on the fundamentals. The deterioration in consumer spending, after years of bingeing, has just begun, and those who have anticipated a bottom have been burnt. The worst is yet to come, and the stated intention of Bernanke yesterday to become more aggressive will not remedy the structural problems that I have dwelled on in 2006, 2007 and now 2008. What ails the economy runs deep and reflects years of imprudent risk-taking and accumulation of debt (especially of a consumer kind). Moreover, it will require a coordinated effort on the part of the Fed and some of the more healthy institutions -- see Bank of America's ( BAC) rescue of Countrywide Financial ( CFC) -- to fix it.