Sunday, March 19, 2017

While the foreign stake in our economy continues to grow, the net worth of American households and businesses has grown by an even larger amount

See Inflow of foreign capital makes Americans richer, not poorer by Daniel Griswold of Mercatus. Excerpt:
"Since 2000, the U.S. has run a deficit on the current account that has averaged just above $500 billion a year. That means, in a typical year, foreign investors are acquiring about $500 billion more in U.S. assets than Americans acquire in foreign assets.

Have we been slouching, as Navarro and Buffett warn, toward a state where “we are likely to be owed by foreigners,” where “our net worth [is] being transferred abroad at an alarming rate,” where “we will have nothing left to trade,” and where we are “working long hours just to have food and service our debt”?

No, no, no, and no.

From 2000 through the third quarter of 2016, the value of U.S. assets owned by foreigners did indeed increase by $23.4 trillion, from $9.2 trillion to $32.6 trillion. But in that same time, the net worth of U.S. households and non-profits increased by $47.3 trillion, to $90.8 trillion. The net worth of U.S. businesses, corporate and non-corporate, increased by another $18.7 trillion. While the foreign stake in our economy continues to grow, the net worth of American households and businesses has grown by an even larger amount. Our net worth is not being transferred anywhere except to the bottom line of our own balance sheets.

Nothing left to trade? Americans exported $2.2 trillion in goods and services last year, more than double in dollar value what we exported in 2000. Since then, U.S. exports as a share of our GDP have climbed from 10.5 percent to 11.9 percent. Although export growth has stalled in recent years, that’s because of slowing growth abroad, not because we have less to offer for export.

And finally, if Americans are working longer hours, it’s not primarily to buy food and service foreign debt. Food continues to decline as a share of consumer spending, as it has done in every other advancing economy down through human history. Outward payments on foreign investment in the United States — profits, dividends, and interest — have been rising along with the stock of inward investment, but so too have inward payments to Americans who own assets abroad. In fact, in recent years Americans have earned about $200 billion more a year on the foreign assets they own than foreigners have earned on their U.S. assets. Millions of Americans may struggle to pay their bills each month, but their condition is not caused by any increase in what they pay for food or service on foreign investment."

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