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John Kerry to poke fun at the President's alcoholism today.


At 4:29 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

Clearly, he and President Clinton smell blood. I think they're probably underestimating Bush's political skills, even though I tend to agree on the issues (Karl Rove -patronage expert - is a poor choice to spend taxpayers 100s of billions, it's irresponsible to fund wars of choice by borrowing from China & Saudi Arabia, etc. etc.).

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

You should look at the percentage of debt owed to china. While they occupy a large percentage of foreign debt, the two countries occupy only a small percentage (less than 20%) of debt generally.

I should find a link...

At 7:32 PM, Blogger oded said...

I wonder what the trend is though. I imagine its growing.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger joŇ°ko said...

They say the huge trade deficit with China isn't a problem as long as the Chinese and others keep investing in (read: lending to) the US. Once that stops, the party's over.

At 11:29 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

from here

Would-be Cassandras have been predicting the imminent downfall of the American imperium ever since its inception. First came Sputnik and "the missile gap," followed by Vietnam, Soviet nuclear parity, and the Japanese economic challenge--a cascade of decline encapsulated by Yale historian Paul Kennedy's 1987 "overstretch" thesis.

The resurgence of U.S. economic and political power in the 1990s momentarily put such fears to rest. But recently, a new threat to the sustainability of U.S. hegemony has emerged: excessive dependence on foreign capital and growing foreign debt. As former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has said, "there is something odd about the world's greatest power being the world's greatest debtor."

The U.S. economy, according to doubters, rests on an unsustainable accumulation of foreign debt. Fueled by government profligacy and low private savings rates, the current account deficit--the difference between what U.S. residents spend abroad and what they earn abroad in a year--now stands at almost six percent of GDP; total net foreign liabilities are approaching a quarter of GDP. Sudden unwillingness by investors abroad to continue adding to their already large dollar assets, in this scenario, would set off a panic, causing the dollar to tank, interest rates to skyrocket, and the U.S. economy to descend into crisis, dragging the rest of the world down with it.

Despite the persistence and pervasiveness of this doomsday prophecy, U.S. hegemony is in reality solidly grounded: it rests on an economy that is continually extending its lead in the innovation and application of new technology, ensuring its continued appeal for foreign central banks and private investors. The dollar's role as the global monetary standard is not threatened, and the risk to U.S. financial stability posed by large foreign liabilities has been exaggerated. To be sure, the economy will at some point have to adjust to a decline in the dollar and a rise in interest rates. But these trends will at worst slow the growth of U.S. consumers' standard of living, not undermine the United States' role as global pacesetter. If anything, the world's appetite for U.S. assets bolsters U.S. predominance rather than undermines it.


Discussion of the United States' "net foreign debt" conjures up images of countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Turkey, evoking the currency collapses and economic crises they have suffered as models for a coming U.S. meltdown. There are key differences, however, between those emerging-market cases and the current condition of the global hegemon. The United States' external liabilities are denominated in its own currency, which remains the global monetary standard, and its economy remains on the frontier of global technological innovation, attracting foreign capital as well as immigrant labor with its rapid growth and the high returns it generates for investors.

The statistic at the center of the foreign debt debate is the net international investment position (NIIP), the value of foreign assets owned by U.S. residents minus the value of U.S. assets owned by nonresidents. Until 1989, the United States was a creditor to the rest of the world; the NIIP peaked at almost 13 percent of GDP in 1980. But chronic current account deficits ever since have given the United States the largest net liabilities in world history. Since foreign claims on the United States ($10.5 trillion) exceed U.S. claims abroad ($7.9 trillion), the NIIP is now negative: -$2.6 trillion at the start of 2004, or -24 percent of GDP.

Unpacking the NIIP gives a better sense of the risk it actually poses. It has two components: direct investment, the value of domestic operations directly controlled by a foreign company; and financial liabilities, the value of stocks, bonds, and bank deposits held overseas. At the start of 2004, foreign direct investment in the United States was $2.4 trillion, while U.S. direct investment abroad was about $2.7 trillion. (Direct investment is relatively stable, changing mostly in response to changes in expected long-term profitability.) Removing direct investment from the equation leaves $5.1 trillion in U.S.-held foreign financial assets versus $8.1 trillion in U.S. financial assets held by foreign investors.

This last figure represents a whopping 74 percent of U.S. GDP--a statistic that would seem to give ample cause for alarm. But considering foreign ownership of U.S. financial assets as a percentage of GDP is less enlightening than comparing it to the total available stock of U.S. financial assets. At the start of 2004, total U.S. securities amounted to $33.4 trillion (some 50 percent of the world total). Foreign investors held more than 38 percent of the $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, but only 11 percent of the $6.1 trillion in agency bonds (such as those issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac); 23 percent of the $6.5 trillion in corporate bonds; and 11 percent of the $15.5 trillion in equities outstanding. These foreign liabilities are the result of a string of current account deficits that have grown from 1.5 percent of GDP in the mid-1990s to an estimated 5.7 percent of GDP--about $650 billion--in 2004. Economists at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimate that ongoing deficits of 3 percent of GDP would bring the U.S. NIIP to -40 percent of GDP by 2010, and that it would eventually stabilize at around -63 percent. If the deficit remains at today's level, they foresee the NIIP growing to -50 percent of GDP by 2010 and eventually to -100 percent.

At 11:31 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

this is good too

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

Ivan, why the distinction between foriegn debt and household debt? They're two different issues. President Clinton was talking about the offial actions of the government, which is responsible for paying for our democracy-promotion agenda, and how it's wrong that that agenda is financed by China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, etc. The fact that American businesses and citizens have leveraged their finances is not related, as far as I can tell.

Also, on a scale of 1-5, with 1 as the worst and 5 as the best, how good of a choice do you think Karl Rove is for Gulf Coast reconstruction? Pros: he's been effective in past jobs. Cons: he's probably going to exacerbate the problems we've already seen with political patronage under president Bush - even a fellow rightwinger like you should agree that $200 billion shouldn't go to political allies, but rather to qualified pros, right?


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