Enormous, Humongous May Trade Deficit Slows Economy

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the May goods and services trade deficit was an enormous, humongous $40.9 billion, up a bit from an enormous, humongous $40.7 billion in April.

Our enormous, humongous trade deficit is a measure of how many jobs, factories, companies and industries we are losing to our pro-Wall Street trade policies. A trade deficit drains our economy of wealth, jobs and future economic opportunity.

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Was Greece Lured Into “Strategic Deficits”?

The job of a lender is to evaluate risk and price a loan accordingly. If there is risk you charge a higher interest rate. That way you still make money on a broad portfolio of loans even when there are a few defaults.

That’s the job of a banker, supposedly. It’s what they are supposed to be good at. If they are bad at their job, give loans to deadbeats (or countries that can’t pay you back) you lose money, and probably shouldn’t in the business of being a lender.

The lender is supposed to evaluate the risk and say no if the borrower is irresponsible, not complain later about the borrower being irresponsible.

Unless their job is to get the borrower in over their head so you can get stuff. As in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” In that case you try to get governments to borrow, you even bribe the leaders of governments to borrow like crazy so you can later control whoever is then in charge. From “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man“:

We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure – electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks.

… Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh.

Former president Ronald Reagan, for example, said he was trying to run up the borrowing in order to force the government to cut back on things it does to make our lives better. He cut taxes, increased military spending, a strategy called “strategic deficits.” (Google that.)

Later we had budget surpluses under Clinton. Then Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan complained that the government was paying off the debt too fast. Then “W” Bush cut taxes and doubled military spending and said it was “incredibly positive news” (Google that, too) that the government was going back into deficits because it would force spending cuts.

Strategic deficits. Done on purpose. Are Greece’s lenders bad at their job? Or are they good at a different job?

Atrios earlier:

“You lend money at a risk premium. Borrowers pay that risk premium for a reason. That reason is that they might stop being able to pay. Then you eat the loan.

… The banksters are supposed to be genius financial intermediaries, properly pricing risk and making loans accordingly. It seems that they aren’t very good at their jobs? I suppose it depends on whether that really is their job.”

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

In Tax Battles, “Competitiveness” Means Coercion

Watch out for this one. With fast track trade authority done, the big corporations are now pushing for massive tax giveaways. This is another exercise of raw corporate power by the few to take what they want from the many. The corporations use complexity to get people to tune out, and their schemes are masked by smooth words like “reform” and “competitiveness,” but it is all just another grab for (even more) money and power.

There are two areas where the corporations are coming at us. The first is a blatant grab to keep somewhere up to $700 billion in tax money they already owe on “offshore” profits. The second is a push to permanently cut corporate tax rates – even more.

Taxes Owed On Offshore Profits

Multinational corporations avoid paying U.S. taxes using a “deferral” loophole. This loophole lets them dodge taxes on profits made outside of the country until they bring the profits back into the country (called “repatriation”).

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Now We Build A Fair Trade Movement

Fast track trade authority passed last week. So many of us fought so hard but The Money won again – this time. What do we do now?

We take this awareness and energy into the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And then, win or lose, we build a fair trade movement that will eventually rewrite all of our trade agreements and policies so that they work for We the People instead of just a few people.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

On the one hand, Wall Street and the big corporations again pushed through a rigged process called “fast track” that keeps us and our Congress from “meddling” with corporate-written agreements setting down the “rules for trade in the 21st century.” And those rules are, of course, going to be very good for the plutocrats who write them and very bad for the rest of us. Fast track seriously greases the skids to get TPP and other trade deals through so it will be a very tough fight.

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Wall Street And Big Corporations Got What They Wanted – This Time

Fast track passes. Our Congress – the supposed representatives of We the People – voted to cut themselves and us out of the process of deciding what “the rules” for doing business “in the 21st Century” will be.

How do the plutocrats and oligarchs and their giant multinational corporations get what they want when a pesky democracy is in their way? They push that pesky democracy out of their way.

Because of fast track, when the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other secretly negotiated “trade” agreements are completed Congress must vote in a hurry with only limited debate, cannot make any amendments no matter what is in the agreement, and they can’t be filibustered. Nothing else coming before our Congress gets that kind of skid-greasing, only corporate-written “trade” agreements – and it doesn’t matter how far the contents go beyond actual “trade.”

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Cheap Labor — The Engine Of Wealth

… “brainstorming about ways to find a source of cheap labor to create an engine of true wealth. The obvious path forward was to acquire slaves.”

From The Dark History of Race and Terror over at Talking Points Memo.

Cheap labor, the engine of wealth. Does this sound like an economy near you?

53% of Americans can’t come up with $400 for an emergency.

The top 0.1% of Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

Cheap labor – great wealth at the top.

My Post That Krugman Links To

Paul Krugman links to a post I wrote last year. With the revote on Fast Track possibly coming up soon I think it is a good post to repeat. So here it is.

Democrats Who Move Right Lose Elections – There Is No “Center”

Mainstream Democratic campaign consultants and pollsters typically tell candidates they should “move to the right” and campaign to the “center” with positions that are “between” the “left” and the “right.” This is the way, they say, to “attract swing voters” who would be “scared off” by a candidate who takes populist positions that favor the interests of the 99 percent over the interests of the 1 percent.

Polling and experience show that exactly the opposite might be true.

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Will TPP Kill The Post Office?

Corporations are notorious for sneaking things into laws and regulations before the public can find out and rally to stop it. And we know from the conservative Supreme Court arguments against the Affordable Care Act that even what amounts to a typo can be used to change the obvious meaning and intent of a law.

These are reasons we need to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership before Congress votes to preapprove it with fast track trade promotion authority (TPA). They are pushing what is literally a pig in a poke on us. We the People need to open that bag and have a good, long look inside before fast track buys the TPP pig in our name.

Negotiated in secret by corporate representatives, it is probable that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is loaded with things the big corporations have snuck in. We already know from leaks that TPP contains provisions allowing companies to sue our government in “corporate courts” if they feel a law or regulation is cutting into their profits. What else is in there?

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All Hands On Deck: House Fast Track Vote Could Come This Week

ALL HANDS ON DECK. This is not a drill. The vote in the House of Representatives on fast track trade authority, preapproving the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the public finds out what is in it, is coming up very soon. It is even possible it could happen later this week. The Senate has already passed fast track; if the House passes this it goes to President Obama and he will sign it. That will make TPP a done deal.

Fast track is a weird procedure, invented by President Richard Nixon, whereby Congress sets aside the normal procedures for considering, debating and voting on a bill – but only for so-called “trade” agreements. Under fast track Congress agrees to rush the agreement through with little debate, agrees not to make any amendments, and not to filibuster it. (How else could they get approval for deals that allow companies to ship jobs and factories out of the country to places where workers and the environment are not protected?)

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Trade Deficit At Root Of Negative Economic Growth Report

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that the gross domestic product (GDP) fell at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Much of the reason is our trade deficit.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that the gross domestic product (GDP) fell at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Our enormous, humongous trade deficit is literally draining our economy. The trade deficit is because we import things we used to make here and sell there, but we allowed companies to move the factories and jobs there in order to force wages down here. This makes a few plutocrats vastly wealthy but it is killing jobs, wages, factories and our middle class.

Trade Deficit Subtracted 2 Percent From Growth

The White House issued an analysis by Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, explaining this was because of “harsh winter weather, tepid foreign demand, and consumers saving the windfall from lower oil prices.” The statement largely (and correctly) blamed “net exports.”

From the White House analysis: “A decline in the trade balance was another major contributor, partially reflecting the continued drag on U.S. exports from the slowdown in foreign growth. Indeed, net exports subtracted nearly 2 full percentage points from quarterly GDP growth.”

“Decline in the trade balance,” “tepid foreign demand” and “net exports” are other ways of saying our “trade” policies have caused an enormous, humongous trade deficit that sends away jobs, factories and our ability to maintain a middle class. A negative “net export” balance means we import more than we export, which means we have a trade deficit. We have had a trade deficit every year since the neoliberal “free trade” and “free market” ideology ascended in the late 1970s. But you won’t find the words “import” or “trade deficit” anywhere in the statement.

Now that we know what “net exports” really means, here it is again: “net exports subtracted nearly 2 full percentage points from quarterly GDP growth.” The trade deficit subtracted almost 2 percentage points from the quarter’s growth.

Close Factories Here And Move Them There = Trade Deficit

We have a trade deficit because we make “trade” deals with countries that sell to us without buying from us and then we don’t do anything to fix it. A lot of this “trade” deficit is because companies here close factories in the U.S. that made goods to sell in our retail outlets and move them to countries with little democracy, resulting in low wages and few pollution regulations. They send the goods back here to sell in the same outlets. Our “trade” deals let them do this with no cost or penalty. The executives and investors then pocket the difference in wages and cost of controlling pollution for themselves. This is why the plutocrat class that now controls our government supports these so-called “trade” deals. (It’s also why these “trade” deals have to be kept secret until Congress preapproves them with Fast Track.)

The Wall Street Journal’s At A Glance blog explains how the trade deficit cut into growth:

Trade was the biggest drag on top-line GDP figures in the opening months of the year. U.S. exports of goods fell by the most since the first quarter of 2009–the midst of the recession–while overall imports climbed. The widening deficit subtracted 1.9 percentage points from economic growth. A stronger dollar has tamped down overseas demand for U.S.-made goods while making foreign products cheaper to import. Meanwhile, congestion at West Coast ports constrained trade earlier in the year.

In “Yes, Trade Deficits Do Indeed Matter for Jobs,” Josh Bivens explains (in economese) at the Economic Policy Institute how the trade deficit is creating jobs, but not here – especially in manufacturing. He blames the trade deficit largely on currency manipulation by our so-called “trading partners”:

Trade deficits occurring when the U.S. economy is stuck below full employment and at the zero lower bound (ZLB) on short-term interest rates are a drag on economic growth and overall employment, period. And this describes the U.S. economy today, so a reduction in the trade deficit in the next couple of years spurred by a reversal of trading partners’ currency management would boost growth and jobs.

[. . .] if the trade deficit was reduced in coming years by ending widespread currency management by our trading partners, the United States would see a pick-up in output and employment growth.

[. . .] Yes, the relationship between trade deficits and jobs can be nuanced, but it’s really not that hard. In today’s U.S. economy, trade deficit reductions engineered by ending currency management would boost U.S. output and employment, and trade deficit reductions will (all else equal) always and everywhere boost manufacturing employment.

This Is The Result Of Intentional Policy Choices

From the recent post, “Enormous, Humongous March Trade Deficit Creating Jobs Elsewhere“:

This didn’t just suddenly happen. Globalization is not some kind of inevitable natural process of history that has caught up with us. This was and is the result of intentional policy choices, designed to force deindustrialization, break unions, drive down wages and benefits and increase inequality as that pay differential is pocketed by a few. This is the result of the “free market, free trade” ideology that rose up in the late 70s. Free trade policy was and is designed to give a few plutocrats and their giant corporations — “the 1 percent” — increased power over governments.

We have a trade deficit (negative “net exports”) because we import more than we export. A lot of this is imports of things that used to be made here by people who used to be paid here. Congress lets this go on because it makes a few plutocrats vastly wealthy – at the expense of the rest of us.

The trade deficit is eating our economy, closing factories, killing jobs, forcing wages down. But the White House isn’t allowed to say that because they want fast track trade authority to pass next week.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.