–Do you know what you want? Deficits vs. exports vs. stronger dollar vs. inflation

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

Here is a little test for you. Check all you believe will help the U.S. economy:
|__] 1. Reduced federal deficits
|__| 2. Increased exports (positive balance of trade)
|__| 3. Stronger dollar
|__| 4. Low inflation

Actually, it’s not so “little” a test. Many lay people, including most politicians and media people, would check all four. But you, being smarter, realize that #2 and #3 are incompatible. A stronger dollar makes our exports more expensive, while making imports cheaper. So to achieve increased exports or even a positive balance of trade, the dollar must weaken. This comes as a great disappointment to those who equate “stronger” with better. Sorry.

Now we get to the tricky pair: #1, reduced federal deficits vs. #2, increased exports. Who doesn’t want those?

Federal deficit spending increases the number of dollars in the economy, which many people reject because of fears about inflation. Ironically, these same people want increased exports – a positive balance of trade – which also increases the number of dollars in the economy. In short, federal deficit spending and exporting essentially are identical.

In the first case, the federal government buys, and pays with dollars, for goods and services. It is the customer. In the second case, foreigners buy, and pay with dollars, for goods and services. Foreigners are the customers. In both cases, dollars are added to the U.S.economy.

Admittedly, there is are differences. First, unlike exports, federal deficit spending adds to the federal debt, which most people mistakenly believe adds to our tax burden. However, because spending by a monetarily sovereign nation is not constrained by taxes, or any other income, there has been no historical relationship between tax collections and deficits, no will there be. See: Summary, numbers 9 and 9a. Your grandchildren will not, and actually cannot, pay for deficits. So this supposed “difference” amounts to a non-difference.

Second, while federal deficit spending adds to the world’s supply of dollars, our positive balance of trade does not. So, which is better? A growing economy requires a growing supply of money. So, any amount of inflation, plus population growth requires increases in the nominal supply of currency, just for GDP to remain level, let alone grow. Because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, world GDP growth requires ongoing growth in the world’s supply of dollars. So, on balance, federal deficit spending is more beneficial to America and to the world, than is U.S. exporting.

Returning to the four questions, above, I suggest that this would be the ideal mix for America and the world:

1. Increased federal deficits, for world economic growth
2. Reduced exports (negative balance of trade), to supply the world with dollars.
3. Stronger dollar, for more imports, providing us with better goods and services at lower prices
4. Modest inflation, to stimulate present demand for goods and services.

Sadly, the U.S. federal government wants to do the opposite –reduce deficits, increase exports and reduce the value of the dollar — and that is just a sampling of reasons why we fall into a recession, on average, every five years. With a record like that, why do Americans believe what their leaders tell them?

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity