I’ve been thinking about buying. Actually I’ve been thinking about trade deficits (the quick deficit), international trade, dollars, oil, and Christmas. The trade statistical recaps of our imports and exports for the month of September 2009 were just made public last week. We are told we are (or rather were in a recession/depression and have been for some time now). One might presume that such economic retrenchment would mean that we as a nation have cut back on our spending. Not so...
You see the US need to buy things (and energy) from the rest of the world has not diminished. The “just out” figures for September raise much for consideration. September exports of goods ($91.1 billion) were the highest since November 2008 ($98.5 billion). September exports of automotive vehicles and parts ($7.5 billion) were the highest since December 2008 ($8.1 billion). September exports of petroleum products ($5.0 billion) were the highest since August 2008 ($8.1 billion). September exports of non-petroleum products ($86.2 billion) were the highest since December 2008 ($86.4 billion). These increases in our exports would seem to be great news. That is... until one considers our imports!
We, the people... did some “serious” shopping from abroad. September imports of goods ($137.6 billion) were the highest since December 2008 ($141.9 billion). September imports of automotive vehicles and parts ($16.4 billion) were the highest since November 2008 ($16.7 billion). September imports of petroleum products ($25.5 billion) were the highest since October 2008 ($38.7 billion). September imports of non-petroleum products ($112.1 billion) were the highest since December 2008 ($119.4 billion). In every breakdown category we bought more from abroad than we sold. This was nothing new and has continued on a month by month basis since the late 1970’s. What is a significantly different now is the fact we are borrowing form the rest of the world to maintain our standard of living and our conspicuous consumption.
During these past 25 to 30 years, we have seen our trade deficits grow. We have seen an outflow of our manufacturing jobs to the rest of the world. We have seen our national debt balloon to almost $12 TRILLION dollars. And... we have seen foreign holders of that debt – the Chinese, the Japanese the UK/EURO zone, and the Arab OPEC’s – rose to “owning” roughly half of our debt. It must be noted that roughly a quarter of our debt is owed to the almost 40 years of Social Security surpluses! The money is gone so when the payments to retirees come due, the public will be “re-taxed.” This fowl kettle of fish goes back to the trade deficits which are increasingly financed from abroad! I fear that the foreign lending largess is soon about to end; and then, we as a nation will slip into a real economic downturn.
Our largest single trade surplus was the $1.189 BILLION ($12.503 BILLION Year to Date) which we had with Hong Kong. Our largest single trade deficit was the $22.101 BILLION ($165.801 BILLION YTD) which we had with Red China. Still... our largest trading partner - combining imports and exports of $38.370 BILLION for September and $311.000 BILLION Year to Date – is Canada. The hands down largest grouping of imports for the US is energy. The September 2009 figures will not be available for approximately 2 more weeks so I’ll fill in with August numbers here.
Our largest August 2009 imports of crude oil came from Canada (2.007 million BPD), Mexico (1.057 million BPD), Venezuela (1.007 million BPD), Nigeria (877 million BPD), and Saudi Arabia (745 million BPD). Our five largest suppliers of August 2009 total petroleum -crude oil and distillates- were Canada (2.524 million BPD), Mexico (1.159 million BPD), Venezuela (1.070 million BPD), Nigeria (917 million BPD), and Saudi Arabia (766 million BPD). One must take into consideration that such energy consumption occurred during a time of diminished economic activity within the US!
It should also be noted that a goodly portion of these above noted increases in dollar denominated purchases and sales, reflect the ongoing decline in the purchasing power of the US Dollar relative to the other major currencies of the world – EURO, Pound, Yen, and Renminbi. The erosion of the dollar impacts the global selling price for oil, distillates, gold, equity stocks, and anything we must buy from abroad – simply because the needed goods are no longer manufactured her. This will not be an easy problem to fix. As we approach the coming Thanksgiving week filled with the Christmas sales and brouhaha, we need to take a moment to TH*NK about what our foreign made goods purchases are doing to this nation. Try being American, by buying American --- that is... if you can!!!
I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on November 16, 2009.