Saturday, November 19

Tsk, tsk

It's "complement", not "compliment". It was spelled correctly in the article, though.

Anyway, from the article itself:
With its high level of savings, South Korea has a trade surplus. The two go together, just as low savings go with trade deficits. By running those surpluses, South Korea is in effect squirreling away resources for the future -- probably more than it needs to, many economists contend -- at the expense of current consumption.

By posting big deficits, the United States is going to the opposite extreme, behaving like an individual who borrows year after year to cover the gap between spending and income. America's creditors have recently shown a remarkable willingness to cover that gap; in September, foreigners bought a record $101.9 billion in U.S. securities, mostly bonds, according to government data released Wednesday.

But foreigners might get nervous about the rising U.S. debt load and insist on earning much higher interest rates on their U.S. bonds. That could squeeze U.S. living standards, as industries such as housing and autos falter for lack of low-cost credit. Worse, an avalanche of selling by foreign holders of U.S. bonds and stocks -- triggered, perhaps, by a terrorist attack or a surge in inflation -- could spell economic calamity worldwide.

The risks increase the longer the imbalance persists, said Cline of the Institute for International Economics, adding, "Do we want to get ourselves, and for that matter our children, in a situation where we want to have to take an enormous hit because we have been increasingly enjoying excess consumption?"

...the lack of thrift characteristic of Americans is evident among [the employees of Bob Miller, who imports motorcycle helmets]. In interviews, several reported saving well under 10 percent of their incomes, and even putting aside that much is difficult, they said. Few put the maximum allowable amount in the company's 401(k) savings plan, according to Chief Financial Officer Randy Hutchings, and a substantial number do not contribute at all.

"I would venture to say that of my 125 employees, 80 percent live paycheck to paycheck, and maybe even before paycheck to paycheck," Miller said. "There are employees I've had, when they earned $50,000, they owed money; when they earned $100,000, they owed money. It's not what they earn; it's just the way they do things."

Small wonder, given such saving and spending patterns, that the global trade imbalance continues to burgeon.

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