Iowa Public Television


U.S. Trade Deficit Soars

posted on March 18, 2005

It's not surprising, of course, that the Democrats would have problems with the president's budget. One of their chief complaints is that it ignores the true cost of fixing Social Security.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan also is worried about Social Security. He's warning Congress that failure to ensure its future solvency will lead to deep economic problems.

There also are problems on the trade front, where the U.S. appetite for foreign goods is hard to satisfy. It's been 30 years since U.S. exports exceeded foreign imports. But times have changed and the $12 billion trade surplus the U.S. enjoyed back in 1975 now seems long ago and far away.

U.S. Trade Deficit Soars According to Commerce Department figures released this week, the U.S. trade deficit soared to an all-time high of $665.9 billion (B) in 2004... up more than 25 percent from the previous record posted one year earlier. Put another way, the trade deficit amounts to $2,252 for every man, woman and child in America.

The Bush administration contends the skyrocketing trade deficit reflects a U.S. economy that is growing faster than the rest of the world, driving up imports and squelching demand for U.S. exports. But private economists are concerned that the large amount of assets being transferred into foreign hands will eventually lead to lower U.S. living standards.

The trade balance -- or lack thereof -- represents the amount in resources the United States is transferring into foreign economies in exchange for oil, cars and other products. And trade hard-liners claim the trade deficit serves as an ominous reminder of U.S. indebtedness to the rest of the world.

However, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan believes the trade deficit can be resolved without creating chaos in the financial markets. Greenspan claims the weaker dollar makes U.S. goods more competitive in foreign markets while making imports more expensive for Americans.

Agriculture, historically, has been the lone bright spot in the overall U.S. trade picture. But the string of more than 40 consecutive trade surpluses, going all the way back to 1959, is in jeopardy. While the U.S. still is the world's largest exporter of agricultural goods and currently enjoys an agricultural trade surplus of more than $10 billion, imports are rising nearly twice as fast as exports. And some economists predict that if current trends continue, the U.S. agricultural trade surplus will turn into a deficit before the end of the decade.

Tags: debt deficit news trade