Empty store shelves. Runaway inflation. Labor shortages. Auto production way down for lack of chips. The Federal Reserve ready to start jacking up interest rates and start dumping bonds into the market. And have you noticed what’s happening with the trade deficit?
Probably not, so I’ll fill you in. It exploded in September, soaring to $81.4 billion, crushing the previous record of $73.2 billion set the previous month. As announced by the Commerce Department last week, the trade deficit in November was just shy of that September record. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. The deficit in manufactured goods soared to a new record of $96.3 billion in November, eclipsing the previous record set only two months earlier by a whopping $5 billion.
Look at this chart of the trade deficit in manufactured goods: https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/manfd-goods-balance-of-trade.pdf. We’ve been told that those empty shelves are due to Covid-related labor shortages at overseas manufacturing plants. In light of the trade data, that’s clearly a lie! If it were true, imports would be declining instead of shattering records. And the trade data is corroborated by the massive backup of container ships waiting to unload at west coast ports.
The fact is that warehouses across the country are stuffed to the rafters with goods, so much so that they can’t keep track of where everything is. Items that you see missing from the shelves are here in abudant supply, but buried so deep in the warehouse by more recent shipments of other things that they can’t even get at it. As a perfect example, the state of Florida recently discovered a stash of a million Covid test kits that had expired, buried so deep amid other stuff that they had completely lost track of them. So they’ll head straight to the landfill.
Our economy is stuck in a downward spiral. Trade deficits suck money out of the economy – money that can only be pumped back in through deficit spending. A trade deficit of $96 billion per month requires federal deficit spending of at least a trillion dollars per year just to keep it from sinking into recession. The only way to pump that much deficit spending into the economy is through social programs – socialism – that only fuels more demand for imported goods, making the trade deficit bigger. More deficit spending, more inflationary pressure and higher interest rates, more disincentive to work for a living. More labor shortages. More socialism.
The U.S. ran its last trade surplus in1975. Thanks to both parties’ embrace of globalism and free trade since the end of World War II, we’ve now had forty-six consecutive years of trade deficits that have transformed America from the richest country the world had ever seen – the world’s preeminent industrial power – into a skid row bum, begging the rest of the world, especially China, to loan us money by buying our debt. The optimism I felt when the Trump administration recognized the problem and began slapping tariffs on Chinese imports is gone.
There’s no hope that Biden will lift a finger to address the trade deficit. Trump left him a perfect tool to tackle it – the “Phase 1” trade deal with China, in which China itself agreed that if they didn’t meet quotas for increasing the purchases of American-made goods, then the U.S. would slap a 25% tariff on the half of Chinese products that weren’t already hit with tariffs. By the end of 2020 they had failed miserably, making a mockery of the deal. Not only did Biden not follow through on the deal, it was many months before he even acknowledged its existence. With only one month of data left to be tabulated for 2021, China’s performance vs. their obligations is even worse. Still the Biden administration won’t act. Not surprising. Biden’s decades of experience in the Senate make him one of globalism’s architects.