The U.S. is having issues with money- and not surprisingly, the issues that most Americans are having- buying too much and more than we actually have money to afford, along with carrying a lot of debt that we don’t actually have the means of paying off anytime soon- and we are just not talking about it.
The numbers are just in for November, and is seems that the U.S. trade deficit got much larger, ballooned is the term Reuters used, in part because oil went up over $5 per barrel and demand from consumers started going up again. It grew by 36.4 billion, or 9.7%, which is the largest deficit since last year in January, which could signal both healthy consumption in the economy and something to be worried about- we haven’t actually changed our habits at all.
"A lot of (the increase in the trade gap) had to do with oil prices. You are still on track for a big surge in exports in the fourth quarter ... This is still consistent with the global economic recovery.” Said James O'Sullivan, MF Global chief economist in New York.
U.S. exports also rose for the 7th straight month, meaning that both imports and exports have gone up, though imports are going up faster. Is it a return to business as usual? Doubtful, but it is an indication that we are crawling out of the recession. And in a larger sense, I think it is an indication that we have learned absolutely nothing from the lessons of the past 5 years. We will most likely boom and bust once again, as that is the way of capitalism, and is the model of the United States. Take on debt to grow, and grow at all costs. But will the world let us get away with it this time?
What does the Obama administration think about this? It is “a welcome sign of economic growth and increasing consumer demand," according to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
There are conflicting reports and numbers and analysis of what the rise in imports means now, what the trade gap means for now, for the long term in U.S. economic health and recovery, or the extended goals for the entire country. On one hand, the gap may get bigger in 2010 and that could lead to slower growth overall, but higher imports will lead to a rejuvenation of the consumer cycles, meaning that they indicate that people are back at the stores, that inventory has been cleared out and is now back in the stores and moving, and the economy’s wheels are turning again.
What do I think? It sounds like back to business as usual. I think the U.S. will celebrate things being good from economic indicators and forget all about the lessons that should have and could have been learned. This is yet another example of sustainability being in word only and not in deed; indeed, this goes to show that the administration is not interested in changing the way the country goes about its business, only in getting back to business. As usual, not unusual.
Photo Credit: Xavier Fargas (via Flickr under CCL)