U.S. Economy may be beyond repair.

March 29, 2022

On top of all of the other depressing developments in the world, this one was just too much for me, so I’ve been sitting on it all month. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to deal with it is to finally admit the obvious. America’s economy is broken beyond repair. There is no hope of fixing what’s wrong.

The January trade data, released earlier this month (February data will be released in early April), is the final straw. Here’s a chart of our total goods trade deficit. And here’s the deficit in manufactured goods alone. The records set in both categories in the previous month were bad enough, but they exploded further in January. It’s now abundantly clear that the U.S. has become totally dependent on foreign suppliers for our every need. They have a death grip on our economy.

I believe it’s reached the point where we can no longer fix this problem even if we wanted to which, sadly, no one seems to want to do, because no one cares. Even the basic things we’d need to even try would have to be imported. Even the tools we’d need to make the basic things would have to be imported.

Just this morning I came across this article about a senate bill to fund the rebuilding of the computer chip industry in the U.S.: https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/us-senate-approves-52b-chips-bill-in-bid-to-reach-compromise. First of all, you need to understand that this is exactly the kind of thing that politicians do to create the illusion that they’re doing something to fix the problem. It’s exactly what the global corporate benefactors of the politicians pay them to do to avoid what they fear most – a turn away from free trade toward a return to tariffs that are so badly needed to provide real incentive to manufacture products domestically.

It’s nothing but extortion, in essence telling America that we won’t even make a show of fixing the problem we created unless you give us $52 billion. Even then, the problem would persist. Most of that $52 billion would be used to import the products needed to build the facilities. Beginning with the heavy equipment needed to develop the sites – the bulldozers, excavators, cranes, etc. – even many of those would be imported. (Caterpillar would get a small piece of the action.) Most of the steel would be imported. Virtually all of the machinery needed to build the chip-making process would be imported. And, once ready to run, virtually all of the raw materials would be imported. Throughout the building process, much of the labor involved would either be illegal or foreign workers here on work visas.

Then, guess what? Once this new chip manufacturing capacity is ready to start up, foreign-made chips will suddenly be in abundant supply again and the customers will shun the new, American-made chips in favor of the cheaper imports, the price of which will have been suddenly cut. The new plants will sit idle because there are no tariffs in place to protect them. The foreign chip-makers will come in, crate up the equipment, and ship it back to their overseas plants for pennies on the dollar. The global corporations will be $52 billion richer and American taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. We’ve seen this same scenario play out over and over.

Recently, President Biden warned the Chinese not to help Russia avoid the economic sanctions imposed when they invaded Ukraine, or there would be serious consequences. The Chinese must have been rolling in the aisles laughing after that meeting! Serious consequences? Oh, you mean like the ones for completely ignoring the Phase 1 trade deal? The tariffs that China agreed in writing would be fair consequences? The tariffs that not a penny’s worth has yet to be implemented? Don’t be ridiculous! China owns us lock, stock and barrel and they know it. They fear nothing that America says because America never follows through on anything.

America prevailed in World War II thanks to its industrial might. Its military at the beginning of the war was barely up to the task. However, thanks to its ability to convert its industrial capacity to war-time production, by the end of the war the Willow Run bomber plant in Michigan was cranking out a new B24 bomber every hour, while the shipyards on the west coast were building new destroyers at a rate of one every two days. Today, we have no such industrial capability. I doubt that we could sustain a military effort of any size for much more than a month before we ran out of imported supplies.

This morning, it was reported that Ukraine has asked to U.S. to continue to supply them with Javelin missiles at a rate of 1,000 per day. The reporter noted that our own military’s supply has been critically reduced by what we’ve provided to Ukraine already. Seriously, do you think the Pentagon has been paying the builder of the Javelins for spare capacity to make 1,000 per day when we probably haven’t even been using them in training exercises at a rate of ten per week? I doubt that we have the ability to produce even ten per day. They’d quickly run out of chips. GM just announced a 2-week closure of one of its most profitable pickup truck assembly plants for that very reason.

The federal budget deficit and the national debt are tied directly to the trade deficit, which is now contributing $1.25 trillion per year to each of them. (The federal government has to pour that much back into the economy to offset the drain of the trade deficit in order to avoid a deep recession or depression.) It’s a problem that they could ignore as long as interest rates were near zero, since that made the interest on the national debt close to zero too. But now interest rates are rising fast. Suddenly, the current level of federal spending is a major problem as the Federal Reserve finds itself far behind on inflation and is raising interest rates fast. Now, the economy is boxed in from all directions. We can’t spend our way out of the trade deficit to avoid an economic collapse. It’s right around the corner and coming fast.

I wrote Five Short Blasts and began this blog in 2007 in the hope that my warning of the effects of the relationship I had discovered between worsening overpopulation and unemployment could lend some urgency to the need to protect ourselves from badly overpopulated nations who were preying on our market, and the need to avoid their same fate.

Now, it’s too late. The foreign globalists have achieved their goal. America has been brought to its knees without firing a shot. What’s going to happen next is just a matter of time. It was foolish to think I could make a difference. My time and efforts have been wasted. Maybe something will happen yet to change my mind. At this point, it’s hard to see it. I may continue this blog, but the nature of it may change. The economic collision that I hoped my Five Short Blasts could avert has finally happened. Now, all that’s left is to say “I told you so” as the rest of the world begins to scavenge the wreckage.

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Russian Invasion of Ukraine Exposes Failed Premise of Globalization

March 23, 2022

Globalization was implemented in the wake of World War II, beginning with the signing of the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, in an effort to prevent any more such wars in the future. Free trade, it was believed, would make all countries more interdependent on one another and would level out living standards by elevating them in poor countries. The world would become one big, happy country where no one nation could derive any benefit from attacking another. Clearly, at least in the form that has been practiced up to this point, it hasn’t worked. War has once again broken out, a war that could easily turn into World War III.

Trade between Ukraine and Russia isn’t the issue. The issue is the notion that rewarding your enemies with lucrative trade deals will make them your friends, and not just wealthier, more powerful enemies. It’s truly no different than businesses paying “protection” money to a local crime syndicate that’s running a protection racket. When has that not ended badly? You pay until they bleed you out of business.

That’s especially true of trade between the U.S. and China. Experts have been warning for years that China is no friend, and that our trade dollars – nearly $6 trillion paid to China since they were granted “Most Favored Nation” status in 2000 – have built them into a superpower that now threatens our very existence.

Now China and Russia – two superpowers made rich and powerful by our naive embrace of the globalist trade protection racket – have aligned themselves against us. Experts have for years been raising the alarm over what we were doing – surrendering the manufacturing sector of our economy to enrich our enemies and fund their military build-ups. Now the two of them are a match made in heaven, or in hell, to use a more appropriate metaphor: Russia has the resources and China has the manufacturing might. Who can stand against that?

Layer this failure – the misguided hope that cozying up to our enemies will make them our friends – on top of the other failures of globalist trade policy. Foremost is its failure to account for the role of population density in driving massive trade imbalances (see “note” below), turning loose badly overpopulated nations to prey on the markets and manufacturing jobs of those more reasonably populated and, in addition, enabling further population growth beyond sustainable levels.

Globalist free trade policies have created huge economic distortions and destabilizing imbalances around the world and, instead of turning enemies into friends, have enriched despotic dictatorships like Russia and China, building them into superpowers that now threaten the rest of the world. Globalism has back-fired, ensuring that this next world war will be far more lethal instead of preventing it.

Note: I’ve been sitting on the latest U.S. trade data since it was released earlier this month. The explosion in our trade deficit is accelerating at an astonishing pace. I found the data to be so disheartening that I’ve struggled to even post about it. I fear that there may be no hope for the U.S. to avoid economic ruin. Nevertheless, I’ll provide the data soon in one of my next posts. Also, look for posts about admitting refugees from Ukraine and the trade sanctions imposed on Russia.


Trade Deficit Down as Exports Rise

December 11, 2021

In a rare bit of good news on trade, as announced by the Commerce Department this week, the overall trade deficit, led by exports of U.S.-manufactured goods, fell by $14.3 billion in October to $67.1 billion. Here’s the chart: https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/balance-of-trade.pdf. The decline in the deficit was due to a big jump in exports, rising by $16.8 billion to $223.6 billion, shattering the previous record of $215 billion set in May of 2018. The jump in exports was more than enough to offset a $2.5 billion increase in imports, which set a new record of $290.8 billion, the fifth consecutive monthly record.

The best news, however, is that the decline in the trade deficit was led by a decline in the deficit in manufactured goods. Here’s the chart: https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/manfd-goods-balance-of-trade.pdf. Exports of U.S manufactured goods jumped by $10.3 billion to $125.5 billion, beating the previous record of $119.7 billion set only two months earlier. It was enough to offset an increase in imports of $1 billion to $207.4 billion – also a new record.

Clearly, the new records set by imports debunk the claim by some that the supply chain crisis is due in part to labor shortages caused by the pandemic at foreign manufacturers. That’s a ridiculous claim. We’ve been inundated with a flood of imports that has left warehouses stacked to the rafters.

The slowing increase in manufactured imports and the accelerating increase in manufactured exports is the best news in this report. It may be the early signs of a manufacturing revival in the U.S. and may also explain, at least in part, the “labor shortage” we’ve been witnessing. That, together with massive spending on infrastructure, have combined to attract workers to higher-paying jobs, leaving other industries that are dependent on cheap labor – like the restaurant industry (where over-building is also a likely factor) – unable to attract workers.

However, it remains difficult to draw any hard conclusion on any economic data until the dust from the pandemic and massive government stimulus spending begins to settle.


U.S. Food Deficit Grows Along with Population

November 18, 2021

We were once known as “The World’s Bread Basket.” But no more. My primary interest in trade data is focused on manufactured goods, since a trade deficit in that category of goods supports my theory that, thanks to the inverse relationship between per capita consumption and population density, it’s inescapable that trade with overpopulated nations will yield a trade deficit. However, I’ve also kept an eye on our balance of trade in food, since it could be an indicator of overpopulation in our own country.

As the U.S. population has grown, our trade surplus steadily shrank. By 2015, it was gone. Now, as the population continues to grow (almost all growth in the U.S. population is due to immigration), we now have a growing trade deficit in food. Check this chart of our food trade deficit. The data for 2021 is year-to-date through the month of September. Annualized, the deficit for 2021 will come in at about $21 billion – a record deficit in food for the U.S.

Let’s do some math. In six years, we’ve gone from a balance of trade in food to a deficit of $21 billion. Now, let’s assume that it takes about $10/day to feed a person in the U.S. That’s $3,650 per year. Divide $21 billion by $3,650 and that deficit represents what it takes to feed 5.75 million people. In 2015, our population was 322 million. It’s now 333 million. That’s a growth in the population of about 11 million people.

So, the population has grown by 11 million people in six years, and our food deficit has grown by an amount that it would take to feed half of them. One can conclude that, despite improvements in crop yield, we’re falling further behind in our efforts to feed our own population. We now find ourselves in the position where we have to rely on other “Bread Basket” nations less densely populated than ourselves, like Canada, Australia and South American nations.

It’s a sad state of affairs when America can’t even feed itself any more. Immigrants, pack a lunch and bring a cooler and a basket full of food with you. You’re going to need it.


Supply Chain Chaos Fueled by Overpopulation

October 18, 2021

We’ve all seen the empty shelves in our stores and have had to adapt and substitute as everyday items that we’ve long taken for granted are suddenly out-of-stock. And we’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures of massive back-ups at our ports – shipping containers stacked high and dozens of cargo ships anchored off-shore, waiting to be unloaded. The global supply chain is in chaos. The Covid pandemic is taking the blame because the globalists who created the global supply chain don’t want you to understand the real issues.

The global supply chain is a “system” and, like any system, requires controls to keep it stable. The more variables there are in a system, the more difficult it is to control. Take your car, for example. Maximizing your fuel mileage requires a computer that adjusts the fuel-to-air ratio to any given combination of conditions – air temperature, engine temperature, octane rating of the fuel, throttle position, oxygen level in the exhaust, and so on. When your car is first started, all of these variables are in such a state of flux that it’s impossible to control in such a way that minimizes your fuel consumption. So your car runs in “open loop” mode until the variables settle down. Only then does it go into “closed loop” mode where the computer (using that “chip” you hear so much about that is in short supply because of the global supply chain chaos) can actually fine tune the fuel injectors and spark timing. Any disruption in any variable that’s out-of-range will cause the computer to throw up its hands and default back to open loop mode and your “check engine” light comes on.

That’s just your car. Now think of more complex systems. Think of nuclear power plants, for example. Maintaining precise control is absolutely critical. Loss of control can result in a core melt-down which isn’t just a matter of life and death, it’s an existential threat to everyone and everything within a huge radius. Everything has to work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t. A weather event, a power failure, a failed cooling pump, a crack in a pipe, a failed valve and pretty soon you have a Three Mile Island, a Chernobyl or a Fukushima.

Complex systems that experience loss-of-control can deteriorate until they experience a catastrophic failure. Control algorithms can be developed to reduce the risks to an infinitesimal level, but the risks can never be completely eliminated. So there must also be plans in place to mitigate the destruction and clean up the mess.

With all that said, let’s now look at supply chains. You’re a company that needs a widget. You go to a widget manufacturer down the road. “Sure, I can supply you with your widgets. Tell me how many you want and when you need them. Here’s your price.” Pretty simple. Not a global supply chain, though. There’s nothing simple about that. In fact, there may be nothing more complex. The variables are almost infinite. Your manufacturer may be in China, and has a whole supply chain of his own to manage just to make your part. Then there’s obtaining a shipping container, transporting it to a port in China, obtaining and loading a cargo ship, traversing a stormy ocean, dealing with customs, unloading at the port on the west coast, loading your container onto a truck and, after your container has made its way from one distribution center to another, with multiple carriers involved, it’s supposed to make its way to your door just in time – just as you’ve used the very last widget from the previous shipment.

A failure anywhere along the line can throw your whole supply chain out-of-control. So why would you set up such an elaborate supply chain? Sure, the labor may be cheaper at your manufacturer in China, but all of that around-the-world shipping doesn’t come cheap. The fact is, it isn’t cheaper. So why don’t you just get your widget from a local source? Because there isn’t any. There used to be, but they were driven out-of-business by the global supply chain. Wait, you say. That doesn’t make any sense. If the supplier in China isn’t cheaper, then how did they drive the local supplier out of business? They did it by selling at a loss. Why would they do that? Because the purpose of globalism isn’t to reduce the costs for American companies. The purpose is to establish an economy in third world countries, like China, where they have four times as many consumers as the U.S., and turn them into U.S.-style consumers. That way, sales volumes and profits for global corporations grow four times as fast as they would have if they focused only on the American market.

Look at these charts, updated through August, the latest month for which trade data is available: https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/balance-of-trade.pdf, https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2021/10/manfd-goods-balance-of-trade.pdf. The first is a chart of our overall trade deficit. It’s a perfect representation of the state of our supply chain. Stable until the onset of the pandemic, it’s now out-of-control. If this were a chart of a nuclear power plant’s reactor core temperature, rising as fast as the trade deficit is rising, you’d be in a state of panic if you were an operator at that plant, and lights in the control room would be flashing red. The 2nd chart is more narrowly focused on our deficit in manufactured goods. It, too, is out-of-control, though in recent months it’s begun to show signs of stabilizing. Are trade policy changes enacted under Trump – the USMCA agreement with Mexico and Canada and the tariffs on Chinese imports – showing signs of having the desired effect of boosting domestic production? Or are we seeing signs that companies are awakening to the follies of the global supply chain? It’s too early to tell.

The global supply chain is in a state of “melt-down.” The crisis is more likely to get worse than improve. Thousands of businesses are responding by increasing orders in reaction to their empty shelves and are scrambling to find new suppliers. A few major retailers are bypassing the shipping companies by chartering their own ships. All of this will add to the chaos. However, perhaps the biggest factor working against regaining control of the supply chain is the fact that the main purpose of the global supply chain isn’t supplying us with goods at all. The real purpose of the global supply chain is to tilt the balance in favor of the “developing world” in the global war for employment. The economies of badly-overpopulated nations need to be propped up with manufacturing-for-export in order to employ their bloated labor forces and maintain political stability. As the supply chain chaos begins to unravel that grand plan, nations and global organizations like the UN, the IMF the World Bank and others will begin to react in ways that aren’t necessarily productive toward restoring stability to the supply chain. It’s impossible to predict the effect on such a complicated, out-of-control system.

As proof that powerful global forces are at work shoving the “global supply chain” model down our throats, consider this. We’re subjected to a daily drumbeat of warnings of an existential threat posed by carbon emissions. So dire is the threat that our energy industry must be converted to wind and solar and our auto industry must become all-electric, they say. Beyond that, elaborate plans are underway to “capture” CO2 from the atmosphere and from smoke stacks and to store it in underground caverns, in tanks, or anywhere they can hide it. Yet, you never hear anyone utter a single peep about the fact that the vast fleet of ships plying the oceans as part of the global supply chain consume five billion barrels of oil per year – not gallons – barrels. Those are emissions that could be completely eliminated by returning the world to a domestic supply chain.

Nor do you hear a single peep about the role of out-of-control population growth. No one bothers to even ask the question, “What will we gain if we reduce per capita oil consumption and carbon emissions by 50% if we double the population?” Globalists don’t want you to think that far. They deceive you into believing that the existential threat of climate change can be controlled by elaborate plans for reshaping our entire economy, and by throwing around oxymoronic terms like “sustainable development” so that you won’t begin to ask about simple, cheap fixes like returning to domestic supply chains and stabilizing the population. Those simple, cheap fixes would pose a threat to what they’re really concerned about – big profits available from developing third world countries and never-ending population growth. They think we’re all idiots.

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As an aside, I went to a home improvement big box store this week to purchase a shop light to replace one that I use throughout my basement and garage for lighting. To my dismay, I discovered that all such lighting has been converted to LED. You can still get flourescent bulbs for your existing light fixtures, but new flourescent fixtures are no longer available. This particular store used to stock at least 20 of these basic shop lights because, as you can imagine, there was a constant demand for them. But they didn’t have any of the basic 4-foot, two bulb shop lights available in the new LED design. I went home to search online for stores in the area might have them in stock. Not a single store in the whole metropolitan area had a single one in stock! Supposedly, I can get one within a couple of weeks if I order.

Doing some research into these new LED light fixtures, I made another interesting discovery. Every single LED light bulb, regardless of its configuration, uses a “chip” to make it work. Think about that. Just converting lighting to make it more efficient requires an additional billions of “chips” per year (which will add to our landfills), and now we can’t get enough chips to build cars. The entire world has gone mad.


Existential Threats

September 21, 2021

“Existential threat.” It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. What is an existential threat? It’s something that threatens your very existence. Someone who wants to murder you is an existential threat to you. You will stop at nothing to stop that person because your life depends on it. Another nation that wants to overthrow our own nation and make it their subject is an existential threat. Our nation’s continued survival depends on stopping that other nation, just as we had to do in World War II to stop Japan and Germany. Every citizen took part in mustering everything we had to fight them.

So, when you hear that term used today, you would expect an all-out effort to combat the threat. Consider China. Over the past 2-3 decades, China has used trade to its advantage to put it on a path to becoming the world’s most dominant economy, making us utterly dependent on them for virtually everything while draining the wealth from our own economy through their massive trade surplus. And, using those trade dollars, they’ve engaged in a massive military build-up and have begun bullying other nations in that part of the world. Belatedly, our own leaders now consider China to be the biggest existential threat that we may face in the world.

To counter that threat, Biden just cut a deal with Australia and Great Britain to provide Australia with eight new nuclear-powered submarines. That’s about $24 billion worth of naval power. If we’re willing to go to that extent, wouldn’t you think that we’d jump at the chance to put an end to China’s ambitions for a teeny, tiny fraction of that cost? Trump, Biden’s predecessor, left him with the perfect tool to do exactly that when he cornered them into agreeing to the “Phase 1” trade deal in January of 2020. Take major steps toward reducing their trade surplus with the U.S., or have a 25% tariff slapped on the remaining half of their exports to the U.S., just like Trump had already done to the other half. That was the deal.

China agreed to it but, not surprisingly, they never intended to comply, believing that we would never enforce it, just like we had demonstrated for decades that we never enforce any trade deals. A year and a half into that two year trade deal, China has reneged on every aspect of it. They agreed to very specific goals for imports of American agriculture products, energy products, manufactured products and total goods. Through July, the most recent month for which trade data has been released by the Commerce Department, China is $74 billion short of its goal for manufactured goods, $43 billion short of its goal for energy products, $25 billion short of its goal for agriculture products, and a whopping $134 billion short of its goal for total goods.

When Trump slapped the 25% tariffs on half of all Chinese imports (something Biden has wisely left in place), it put a real hurt on China. Their total exports to the U.S. have fallen by – guess how much? – 25%, falling $108 billion in 2020 from their record amount of $418 billion in 2018.

China has thumbed its nose at the U.S. on this deal. What has Biden done in response? Absolutely nothing. In fact, not one time has he ever even acknowledged that the Phase 1 deal even exists. I don’t get it. The U.S. is desperate to counter China’s growing influence, willing to spend many billions of dollars to do it, yet the Biden administration won’t take advantage of this powerful tool – the one China fears the most – and, in relative terms, it wouldn’t cost a damn dime to implement. Why? It’s difficult to come to any other conclusion than Biden doesn’t want to give any credit to Trump. We’re faced with an existential threat, and Biden won’t lift a finger for political reasons.

Another example is global warming. Just today, Biden addressed the UN and emphasized the need to take more drastic action to blunt this threat to the very existence of our planet. On Sunday, when questioned by Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation about his claim that the Democrats’ infrastructure bill should be $6 trillion instead of $3.5 trillion, Bernie Sanders replied by asking “How much would we be willing to spend to save the planet?” It’s a good question, actually. If the earth could become uninhabitable, then we should stop at nothing to prevent it, no matter how great or small the cost and no matter how complex or simple the solution.

Global warming (or climate change, if you prefer) is caused by human activity which generates greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane to name a couple, which trap heat in the atmosphere. It was never a problem until, during the last couple of centuries, the human population exploded, doubling over and over again while clearing forests to develop cities and fueling an improved standard of living with fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions grew beyond the planet’s ability to absorb them. The problem is total emissions, which is the product of per capita emissions multiplied by the size of the human population.

But what if we didn’t have to spend trillions of dollars (maybe quadrillions?) to wean the world off of fossil fuels in favor of renewable sources like solar and wind? What if greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced for free? It can be done. It was demonstrated by the Covid pandemic when most people stayed home during the early weeks of the spread of the disease. Amazingly, the air cleared all over the world and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere dropped for the first time in many decades, something that all of the thousands of wind turbines and millions of solar panels had yet been able to achieve. When so many people hunkered down, it simulated what the world would be like with a smaller population.

It wouldn’t cost a thing and could be done more quickly than the decades-long or century-long timelines we’ve heard for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by X percent that scientists say needs to be achieved, though there’s little agreement on what “X” is. It can be done ethically, without resorting to Draconian measures. Birth rates can be influenced by something as simple as tax policy, and immigration can be cut. Reducing the population would not only solve global warming but virtually every other environmental threat along with it.

Yet no one utters a word to suggest reducing the population. In fact, the powers that be want it to continue to grow. The Paris Climate Accord pulls no punches in admitting that its real mission is not to stop global warming, but to reduce it to a manageable level so that “sustainable development” can continue. It’s not the planet they’re worried about. It’s “Sustainable development” – an oxymoron designed to fool you into believing that there really is such a thing – that you don’t need to worry about the environment because they’ve got everything under control.

In fact, the whole environmental movement has devolved into a scam meant to lull you into believing that everything is under control so that you won’t think about the situation so hard that you stumble upon the real problem – that it’s impossible to continue growing our population in a finite world. It’s a lesson that you learned as a child when you watched all the baby guppies die in your aquarium simply because there were too many for that little ecosystem to support. But that lesson has been tamped down by the purveyors of “sustainable development,” by the environmental proclamations of global corporations who are desperate to prop up growth in sales volume with population growth, and by politicians who tighten their grip on power by growing their electorate.

We are, in fact, facing existential threats, but the supporters of free trade and economic growth (code for population growth) would rather continue to profit from unsustainable policies in the short run, the future for our children be damned. They’d rather continue to trade with communist dictators today. Who cares if our children one day live under them? They’d rather have you believe that the recycle you put out on the curb for collection isn’t really going into a landfill, that your water-efficient appliance is actually saving you water, that your electric utility’s wind turbines and small solar panel farms are anything more than a drop in the bucket relative to the problem. Worst of all, the economists want you to believe that mankind is clever enough to overcome all obstacles to growth. I can think of two obstacles that we have yet to demonstrate we can overcome – stupidity and hubris.


Pro-China Lobby Groups Lying in their Quest to End Tariffs on Chinese Imports

August 7, 2021

Let me begin with a question. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce whose mission it is to aid U.S. businesses. True or false?

If you answered “true” to this question, as most people would, you’re dead wrong. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a lobbyist organization that promotes business interests and is funded by its member businesses – from the smallest of local businesses to global corporations. Naturally, the interests of those businesses that provide the lion’s share of their funding – global corporations – take precedence over all others. And they’re not above speaking out of both sides of their mouth in promoting those interests.

The subject of trade is a good example. Check out this “policy priorities“page from their web site. Click on the “Internation Trade, Investment and Regulatory Policy” link. Scroll down about half-way to the section on “International Trade, Investment and Regulatory Policy.” The third bullet item reads:

“Press for a China policy that seeks improved access to the Chinese market, advances structural reforms in China and tariff relief through new negotiations …”

Now, see the links to “Go Deeper” articles in the right-hand margin of the page. There you’ll find two conflicting articles. One is titled: “Two Big Wins for U.S. Trade: Completion of USMCA and the Phase 1 deal with China mean big things to American business.” The other, just above it, is titled “They’re Still There: Tariffs Weigh Heavily on U.S. Economy.”

Those tariffs on China – 25% on half of all Chinese imports – were the only thing that brought China to the negotiating table – and the threat of imposing them on the rest of all Chinese imports was the only thing that forced them to agree to big increases in their purchase of American products as part of the Phase 1 trade deal.

You can’t have it both ways. Either the Phase 1 deal was good for American business or it wasn’t. You can’t argue that it is and then complain that the very heart of the deal – the tariffs – is bad for American business. Yet, that’s exactly what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does. To placate their small, local business members, they praise the deal. But, in the interest of big, global corporations, they complain that it’s a bad deal and what it terminated.

As further evidence, check out this article: https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/business-groups-call-biden-restart-trade-talks-china. Here’s the key excerpts:

“Nearly three dozen of the nation’s most influential business groups — representing retailers, chip makers, farmers and others — are calling on the Biden administration to restart negotiations with China and cut tariffs on imports, saying they are a drag on the U.S. economy.”

“In a Thursday letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the business groups contend that Beijing had met “important benchmarks and commitments” in the agreement, including opening markets to U.S. financial institutions and reducing some regulatory barriers to U.S. agricultural exports to China.”

“The trade groups include some of Washington’s most influential big business associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce …”

The claim that China has met its commitments and therefore qualifies to have the tariffs dropped is a flat-out lie. The Phase 1 deal set very specific goals for Chinese imports of American products. Meet those goals and the existing tariffs could be dropped. Fail to meet them and the tariffs would be extended to cover all Chinese imports. That’s the deal, stated in very clear terms. So far, through June, the most recent month for which trade data is available, China has failed to meet a single commitment.

In 2020, China fell short of its commitment for purchases of total U.S. goods by 33.5% or $62 billion. They fell short of their goal for the purchase of energy products by 64%. Among the four categories of goods for which specific goals were set – manufactured goods, energy goods, agricultural goods and total goods – they met the goal for agricultural goods only during the last three months of 2020, but fell far short for the year. Four categories of products. Twelve months in the year. That’s 48 opportunities to demonstrate a willingness to meet their commitments. They failed 45 out of those 48 times. In fact, for the year, they barely exceeded the 2017 baseline of the deal. In the all-important category of manufactured goods, they actually imported less than the 2017 baseline.

Six months into 2021, their performance is even worse. Their imports of total goods are 46% below their commitment. Their imports of energy products is 78% below. Even their imports of agriculture products, the category where they at least met the goal for the last three months of 2020, have collapsed in 2021, falling short of their commitment by 46% and even falling short of the 2017 baseline by $10 billion.

China hasn’t met their commitments, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims. It’s failed abysmally. Contrary to the Chamber’s claim that China has earned the elimination of tariffs on its products, it has blatantly thumbed its nose at the Phase 1 deal, believing (and rightly, so far) that the U.S. will continue its long-demonstrated practice of failing to enforce trade deals.

President Biden, don’t listen to these globalist lobbying organizations. They’re lying to you. It’s time – past time, actually – to declare China a failure and to enforce the Phase 1 trade deal by extending the 25% tariffs to all Chinese imports. Fail to act and the U.S. will continue to be the laughing stock at the trade table for all other countries for years to come. That’s certainly not in America’s interests.


Biden Tackles Minor Corporate Abuses While Ignoring the Biggest and Most Obvious

July 11, 2021

As reported in this Reuters article, Biden has signed an executive order that tackles many corporate abuses in an effort to help American consumers. Good for him. Many of these actions have been long overdue. But he has completely ignored the one “corporate abuse” that dwarfs all others in terms of its impact on American workers. I’m talking about the trade deficit and the practice of off-shoring millions of manufacturing jobs.

To his credit, while ignoring the abuses that Biden addressed with this executive order, Trump is the only president since World War II who took the trade deficit seriously and took concrete steps to address it.

You may wonder why I focus so much attention on the trade deficit since the purpose of my book, Five Short Blasts, and the purpose of this blog, is to raise awareness of the economic consequences of overpopulation – namely, that falling per capita consumption as over-crowding worsens must inevitably drive up unemployment and poverty. And poverty kills. Ultimately, if nothing else gets us first, it will prove to be mankind’s undoing.

It’s really not that hard to understand once you understand that increasing over-crowding as the population continues to grow inevitably drives down per capita consumption and, along with it, the need for labor. People living in crowded conditions live in ever-smaller dwellings. They own little furniture and appliances because there’s no room for them. They own less clothing because of a lack of closet space. They don’t have yards and gardens, so they don’t need tools to maintain them. They don’t own cars because roads are choked with traffic and there’s no place to park. So they don’t have garages. They don’t participate in sports because there’s nowhere left to play them. They don’t engage in recreational boating because launch and dock space is all taken.

You get the idea. But what does this have to do with trade? Consider a country with a reasonable population density. Let’s say there’s 100 million people in this country. Their lifestyle resembles that of the U.S. Now suppose that they engage in free trade with another nation that is far smaller – say one tenth the size – but also has 100 million people. It’s ten times as crowded and people live in conditions like those described in the previous paragraph. For that reason, their consumption is only half that of the first country.

Through free trade, these two countries, though each is still a sovereign state with borders, behave economically as one country. The work of manufacturing the products that their combined population needs is spread evenly across the work force, but the consumption of those products isn’t. Consumption in the 2nd country remains low because of their over-crowding. The end result is that the first country has lost 25% of their manufacturing jobs and has lost even more in terms of market share. In essence, the first country has been forced to pay the price for the 2nd country’s overpopulation.

By trading freely with the 2nd country, the first country has immediately taken on the economic traits of a country twice as populated – something it would have taken decades to happen through the course of normal population growth. Worsening unemployment and poverty are the inescapable consequences of free trade with overpopulated nations. This is why my concern for the economic consequences of overpopulation has driven me to put such heavy emphasis on trade.

With all of that as a backdrop, what has Biden done to address our massive trade deficit – now an annual one trillion dollars in trade in manufactured goods? Absolutely nothing. Oh, he’s paid some lip service to wanting to help American workers and has encouraged us to “buy American.” But he’s done nothing about our trade policy and hasn’t spoken a word about our trade deficit.

As reported this past week by the Commerce Department, our trade deficit in May continued to hover at a near-record level of $71.2 billion, the 2nd worst reading ever since setting a record of $75 billion in March. In fact, in his first four full months in office for which trade data is available – February through May of this year – Biden owns the four worst monthly trade deficits ever recorded.

Our largest trade deficit is with China. Thanks to Trump’s enactment of 25% tariffs on half of all Chinese imports, however, that deficit isn’t nearly what it once was. Our annual deficit with China peaked at $418 billion in 2018. Thanks to Trump’s tariffs, that fell to $344 billion in 2019, and fell again in 2020 to $310 billion. So far this year, it’s on track to remain at that level.

Trump left Biden the perfect tool to build on that progress. In January, 2020, he got China to sign the “Phase 1” trade deal which held at bay his threat to extend his tariffs to all Chinese imports in exchange for China’s agreement to dramatically increase their imports of American goods. What’s happened? China is failing miserably in its commitments and, not only has Biden done nothing to enforce the agreement, he hasn’t even acknowledged that the Phase 1 trade deal even exists. So far, through May, China is 39% behind its commitment on manufactured products, 43% short of its goal for agricultural products, and is a whopping 78% short of it goal for energy products. They’re barely exceeding their imports in 2017 which formed the baseline for the agreement.

So far, the Biden administration makes a good show of supporting American workers but, on this most critical issue – the one that would help us the most – all we hear from the White Houe is …….. the sound of crickets.


Time to Leave the World Trade Organization

September 16, 2020

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china-wto/wto-finds-washington-broke-trade-rules-by-putting-tariffs-on-china-ruling-angers-u-s-idUSKBN2662FG

As reported in the above-linked article, the World Trade Organization has announced its finding that the U.S. broke its rules when it imposed tariffs on Chinese imports two years ago.

The timing of this announcement is curious.  Of course the U.S. broke the rules.  Everyone knew it at the time.  Trump didn’t care.  It was the only way to make any progress on halting the explosion in the trade deficit with China.  So why wait until now?  Is it because Trump faces re-election in less than two months, running against a candidate who played a big role in the advancement of the globalism that the WTO enforces?

The WTO is the enforcer of the ill-conceived trade scheme hatched in the wake of World War II to bring the world together by employing the unproven concept of “free” trade.  Decades later, the results are in and “free” trade is now a proven failure.  Instead of lifting all economies of the world and bringing the world together through an inter-dependency, the WTO has destabilized the world by establishing a host-parasite relationship between reasonably-populated nations, like the U.S., and the others – like China, so badly overpopulated that they are totally dependent on manufacturing for export and feeding off of America’s market.  The WTO is directly responsible for building up a totalitarian communist regime bent on dominating the rest of the world.

It’s time to put an end to this.  Trump can do it by simply withdrawing from the WTO, a move that would quickly lead to its collapse.  Let’s return to truly free trade, where every nation is free to set its own rules in its own best self-interest.


Trump’s Efforts on Trade a Spectacular Failure

September 9, 2020

I can’t tell you how disheartening it was to sift through the latest trade data, for the month of July, released by the Commerce Department late last week.  There’s just no getting around the fact that the administration’s efforts to cut the trade deficit and bring manufacturing back to the U.S. have failed.  “Failure” would be the word to describe results that haven’t shown any improvement.  But America’s trade picture has deteriorated so badly that the scope of the failure can only be described as “spectacular.”

In his inauguration address, Trump observed:

…  rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation …

Earlier in the address, regarding situations like that noted above, he proclaimed:

… That all changes – starting right here, and right now …

The July trade data comes 3-1/2 years into his administration – plenty of time to implement changes and to see the effects.  It’s hard to find any silver lining.  Consider:

  1. The trade deficit in manufactured goods in July soared to $80.4 billion, a new record that completely blows away the record set under the Obama administration ($63.3 billion in March, 2015).  Check out this chart:  Manf’d Goods Balance of Trade.
  2. During the 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to quickly tear up the NAFTA deal and replace it with a much better deal.  Most of his term has been wasted negotiating the new “USMCA” trade deal that replaces it.  It finally went into effect on July 1st of this year, but the terms have been known for a long time, so you’d expect that manufacturers would have been busy implementing plans to get in compliance.  The results?  In July, the trade deficit with Mexico soared to $10. 6 billion.  When Trump took office in January, 2017 it was $3.8 billion.  Since then it has nearly tripled.
  3. When Trump took office, the deficit with China was $31.4 billion.  In July of this year it was $31.6 billion.  After Trump took office, the deficit with China continued to grow until, finally fed up with China’s promises to buy more American products, Trump imposed 25% tariffs on half of all Chinese products.  Almost immediately, the deficit with China began to shrink dramatically.  However, all momentum was lost with the signing of the “Phase 1” deal with China, when the U.S. agreed to halt plans to impose tariffs on the remainder of China’s products in exchange for Chinese promises to dramatically increase their purchases of American goods.  The results were predictable; China reneged on the deal.  They haven’t even measured up to the 2017 baseline that was used as a starting point.  Here’s the data, updated through July:  Phase 1 China Trade Deal 2020 YTD.  What has Trump done in response?  Nothing.  He continues to insist it’s a good deal, in much the same way that Obama stuck by his trade deal with South Korea while our deficit with them exploded.
  4. What progress was made in at least stagnating the deficit with China didn’t translate into any benefit to American workers.  Instead, it contributed to the tripling of the debt with Mexico and also ballooned the debt with Vietnam.  When Trump took office, the trade deficit with Vietnam, an economic back-water, was $3.3 billion per month.  In July of this year it was more than doubled to $6.8 billion per month.  Why?  Because no tariffs were applied to anyone other than China.  The tariffs motivated manufacturers to begin moving out of China, but there was no disincentive to simply move to secondary suppliers in Mexico, Vietnam and other places.

Some might say that such conclusions are unfair in the midst of the pandemic.  Not so.  The effect of the pandemic has been to cut economic activity to a depression-like level, and the effect of an economic slow-down has always been to shrink the trade deficit, not grow it.  That makes the enormous deficit in manufactured goods in July even more troubling.

Speaking of the pandemic, at least people are beginning to realize that being dependent on foreign suppliers for critical goods like ventilators and face masks is a threat to national security.  It’d be nice if that realization extended to other products that would just as easily be cut off during war time.  Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice if people realized that an economy that needs to stand on agriculture, construction, manufacturing and services is hollowed out and unstable if one of those legs is gone?

I don’t doubt Trump’s desire to truly “make America great again” by bringing back our manufacturing sector.  But he sees himself as a “deal-maker” and believes he can deal his way out of the trade deficit.  That’s where the problem lies.  For America, at least, there’s no such thing as a good trade deal.  I defy anyone to identify a single trade deal that has ever left America with anything but a growing trade deficit.

And forget about “free trade.”  That centuries-old concept is about as relevant to today’s trade environment as theories about a flat earth and how the sun rotates around it.  Today, trade is war – a war for increasingly scarce jobs in an ever more over-populated world.  Unlike America, the rest of the world understand this.  They know that what they really need is access to America’s market so that they can keep their bloated populations employed manufacturing goods for export.  Americans don’t have a clue.  They think it’s about lower price and more choice.

Had Trump simply applied tariffs everywhere where America was suffering a big trade deficit in manufactured goods, manufacturers would have come running back like refugees fleeing a war.  Instead of improving incrementally, our economy would have exploded.  Manufacturers would have eagerly snapped up any workers who lost their jobs to closures of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, etc. during the pandemic.  Trump’s re-election would be a foregone conclusion.  Instead, he’s going to be lucky to win.  Forget about the pandemic.  It’s his failure to make progress on truly making America great again that has left him vulnerable.

Don’t interpret this post as an endorsement of Biden.  It’s reported in the news today that Trump has criticized Biden as a “globalist.”  He’s not wrong.  But it’s not just Biden.  Until Trump came along, every politician, Democrat and Republican alike, were and still are globalists.  I’d vote for Biden in a heartbeat if he vowed to use tariffs to restore a balance of trade, but he won’t.  Though the results under Trump have been disappointing, things could and would be much worse under virtually anyone else, at least until more American politicians are willing to engage in the trade war that they don’t even acknowledge today.