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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

Naked, guns

By Tom Toles

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The other deficit

Whichever deficit you happen to be talking about, somebody will tell you that there is ANOTHER deficit.

If you give me your house, I'll give you this old, dirty shoe. No wonder people are grumpy. Because while everybody has been talking about the budget deficit, the realities of the TRADE deficit are offering us a really crappy deal that we can't refuse. We have been spending more on imports than we are selling in exports and that has to stop, according to some economic law apparently as powerful as the law of gravity, and actually similar in its effect. We have to spend less and save more and produce more and what a headache THAT sounds like. The bigger house and bigger car and bigger TV and bigger closet have kind of filled up our field of vision over the last, well, forever, and now we need to recalibrate.

Consumption has come to BE the American Dream, and now we need to trade that for...WHAT? Hard to say, because the very portion of our brain that might begin to answer that question has atrophied from lack of use. And there is MY candidate for the other deficit. The BRAIN PORTION deficit. --Tom Toles

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By Tom Toles  | December 6, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Guns, Metro  
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Comments

The trade deficit is not hard to understand. America used to be a nation of ultimate manufacturers and ultimate consumers. Problem is we're still consuming at the usual planet-killing pace, but we no longer want to do the heavy lifting necessary to make the stuff to feed our habit.
Posted by: PrairieDog60

My Comments...
Our economics is based on a consumption standard not a gold standard.
That is why it is so important that the working people have enough spending power to support the requirements of the economy.
Because the economy is a dynamic system; it is necessary that the personal income system can support a dynamic economy with a dynamic flow of sufficient funds for a quality society.
The original meaning of conservative was “the best possible use of resources”; now it means "shop until you drop" and an insatiable desire for wealth.
Dave

Posted by: OckamsRazor | December 6, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

China also does not invest nearly the percentage we and Europe and Japan do into R&D... they spend much more time making things and less time developing it.

For all the manufacturing capacity that exists in China, there are very few Chinese-designed products exported to anywhere else in the industrialized world. Why? Because American industry (and to some extent European and Japanese industry) have contracted our manufacturing there while keeping design and R&D in-house... which also accounts for the increasing wage gap in the U.S.

American industry has contracted manufacturing outside the U.S. because it can. Not so easy to contract out our crop-picking and meat-packing and nannying and carpentry and roofing and other construction, so those things will likely remain here as long as there's land to cultivate and meat to pack and buildings fall down and children are born.

Should this surprise us? Not really; a majority of us seems to have facilitated the whole thing based on empty promises.

The fact is that, the "invisible hand" of the marketplace has no patriotism... has no commitment to any particular country. It is all about predatory capitalism which, as long as you're the predator, is a fine thing. What's happening here, like what happened in Japan a decade ago and in (grown-up) Europe earlier in this century is that...

We're looking around and realizing that what's great for the predator is not necessarily good for the prey.

Posted by: jonroesler | December 6, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

This continuous economic growth/labor abuse model is unsustainable, and is rapidly taking us to economic, environmental and social places that are the stuff of nightmares. Our only hope is to build a sustainable, locally-based economy in every way we can...energy, food, manufactured goods. Problem is, this flies in the face of the corporate and media fed capitalist "Matrix" that we're all feeding, consciously or unconsciously, day in and day out. And government is at the helm of this Matrix, paid handsomely by their handlers. Feel the Matrix now and chant the Mantra with me..."Everything will always be available, cheap and convenient".
Posted by: PrairieDog60

My Comment...
Your post is a very comprehensive analysis of our current dilemma.
I was listening to a Chinese economist on my truck radio when he stated that the economic pie has to grow in proportion to the funds required to support the needs of the society. The more populated and advanced technology wise the society, the larger the pie has to be.
When my eleven grand children come over and we serve pie it takes a whole lot more pie then when there is just my wife and I.
This is consistent with my theory of economics that recognizes that economics is a dynamic system that has to expand and contract according to necessity.
At the present time, we do not have enough funds in the system to support a large population, extreme wealth and money draining out of our country to foreign nations.
The demand side of economics must have sufficient funds to provide quality life styles for the nation’s people, government needs, and reasonable profits for corporations. Otherwise, the social system will fail and everyone will suffer the consequences. The supply side of economics will also fail and those who are not used to poverty may not survive.
If we could rebuild nation’s economies after a devastating world war, we can rebuild our economy now and do what is necessary to rebuild our infrastructure and the quality of people's lives.
Dave

Posted by: OckamsRazor | December 6, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

But we ARE better than everybody - we all know that - and so is everyone else!
We just don't want to pay for it any more...

Posted by: thanksforfish | December 6, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The trade deficit is not hard to understand. America used to be a nation of ultimate manufacturers and ultimate consumers. Problem is we're still consuming at the usual planet-killing pace, but we no longer want to do the heavy lifting necessary to make the stuff to feed our habit.

In order for our corporations to continue to grow and stocks to continue to rise, we must decrease the cost of making stuff. In the 19th century, we just imported (or "owned") people to do our really crappy work, like slaves and former slaves, Chinese, etc...any number of immigrant laborers that would work for little or no money. As that became harder to do in the 20th century (due to some laws and stuff), we began to export our labor to places where the laws and stuff didn't exist...places where people would work a whole lot cheaper than we would, for longer hours, with little or no benefits. Don't get me wrong...cheap, abused laborers still exist in the US (check out farm laborers and meat-packing laborers as a couple examples). But making clothes, making shoes, making toys, making gadgets, most of that is all being done by cheap labor on the other side of the planet. Our capitalist corporate government will ALWAYS do everything it can to make sure things can be made on the cheap, while making sure stocks for those that employ the cheap labor, have every opportunity to soar through the roof no matter what.

This continuous economic growth/labor abuse model is unsustainable, and is rapidly taking us to economic, environmental and social places that are the stuff of nightmares. Our only hope is to build a sustainable, locally-based economy in every way we can...energy, food, manufactured goods. Problem is, this flies in the face of the corporate and media fed capitalist "Matrix" that we're all feeding, consciously or unconsciously, day in and day out. And government is at the helm of this Matrix, paid handsomely by their handlers. Feel the Matrix now and chant the Mantra with me..."Everything will always be available, cheap and convenient".

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | December 6, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

"Sort of an odd rant today coming from someone who makes their living from an industry that makes its living through the constant promotion of consumerism."
The universe runs on irony.

Posted by: Capn0ok | December 6, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Toles laments the horrendous US $630 billion trade deficit (which conbtributes massively to our 9.8% unemployment rate), as he should. But he is way off base as to why it exists. It is not that the US imports too much but that we export far to little. On a per-capita basis the Swiss import six time and the Germans twice as much as the US, yet they have unemployment rates of 7.5% and 3.6% and record-breaking job-creating trade surpluses of $20 billion and $210 billion respectively. This they achieve even though their products are higher priced than ours. How do they do it? The Germans per-capita exports are 4 times more and the Swiss 8 times more than the US. Why these massive differences? They, and every other nation on the face of the earth, encourage their citizens to go abroad and create jobs at home by selling their exports. But the US does just the opposite: We double tax the world-wide income of our ctizens who go abroad which has already been taxed once where they live, as punishment so they can't survive and therefore will stay home and not sell our exports. This tax law makes it fiscally impossible for an American entrepreneur, for example, to start a business abroad selling US exports by requiring he keep a second set of books in US dollars and pay taxes to two countries having very different accounting rules and tax systems. Americans can't even compete for jobs abroad, like teaching in foreign universites, because they can't survive abroad being taxed twice unless they are paid a lot more money than professors from any other country. Congress absolutely must repeal this rediculous citizenship based world wide double taxation and re-establish territorial taxation, the norm for every other country, as just recommended by the President's Deficit Reduction Commission, or forget about ever solving our job-destroying trade deficit dilemma and creating US jobs manufacturing for export. What good will a Free Trade Agreement with Korea do for the US unless our government removes this ball and chain of double taxation that prevents Americans tax-wise from going abroad to sell our exports? Exports are not bought. They have to be sold and that takes feet on the ground which all our trade competitors have, but because of our own tax laws, the US does not.

Posted by: rogerconklin | December 6, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Good post EarlyBird1 but don't you know, at least 20% of the voters aren't interested in "facts".....any maybe the percentage is even greater than 20%, based on the results of the last election.

Posted by: cmarston99 | December 6, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

What is...?

Studies have determined that there are two types of citizens in the USA.

Those who think there are two types and those who do not.

We do have an exceptional history. But so does everyone else. Each of us occupy our own high point on the globe. But that is the nature of a sphere.

Exceptionalism by geometry?

I vote for that.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | December 6, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

And when was the last time we had trouble on a train?

One might infer from Mr. Toles cartoon that gun control does not give us any benefits tht we can measure. Why not? Because laws will never control guns or drugs or anythig else that society has a divided opinion on.

Get rid of gun laws?

No need. Just do not count on them.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | December 6, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Sort of an odd rant today coming from someone who makes their living from an industry that makes its living through the constant promotion of consumerism. The Washington Post comes loaded with advertisements trying to get people to go out and consume. The Sunday edition of the Washington Post has a special advertising insert as thick as an old phone book enticing people to go out and consume.

You could check guns on Amtrak before 9/11 so this is nothing new, but Amtrak is still its old self which is more expensive and slower than driving the SUV.

Posted by: billybeer6 | December 6, 2010 6:09 AM | Report abuse

I would think that the conservatives should at least be open to allowing TASAR weapons, swords, and baseball bats.

Posted by: mehrenst1 | December 6, 2010 3:38 AM | Report abuse

The new U.S. Exceptionalism: We’re # 1 in confidence. So even though it might seem like we're not the best, we still think we are.

I still think America is the best place in the world to live. Maybe we're also #1 in misperceptions....

Posted by: EarlyBird1 | December 6, 2010 3:28 AM | Report abuse

According to the World Fact Book, written by the CIA, America is #1 in oil consumption, natural gas consumption, electric consumption, natural gas imports, oil imports and external debt.

We’re now 2nd in GDP behind the European Union.

But when it comes to basic life measures, we’re not in the top ten for:
Life expectancy: 49th.
Infant mortality: 178th.
Unemployment: 110th.
GDP per capita: 11th.

In it’s economic summary of the U. S. the World Fact Book states:

“ The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households.

Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.”

The best and brightest still come to America to get degrees at our universities, which are some of the best in the world. By allowing more foreigners who graduate with advanced degrees in fields like engineering and basic sciences to stay in this country, we’ll skim the cream of the crop of the world.

Posted by: EarlyBird1 | December 6, 2010 3:02 AM | Report abuse

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