Last week was a huge week for economic reports. Personal Income, The Final GDP Numbers for last year, Durable Goods Orders, all made the headlines, and rightfully so.
But there was one report that didn't receive the attention that it was due, and I'd like to bring it to your attention. Because it promises to have a profound effect on the effort to bring us out of this Covid Induced Economic Weakness.
The report I'm referring to was the Balance of Trade Report released last Friday. Now, I suppose, that we're all so used to seeing bad trade reports that we didn't spend a lot of time on this one, but this one is special.
For one thing, it was the highest trade deficit ever recorded. And it tells me that our economy is simply not producing enough of the goods that the American people want to buy. So lacking is out production levels, that we have to import a steadily increasing amount of goods from overseas.
And to fully understand how this will impact the latest recovery effort, we need a little background on the underlying Economic Theory behind all these stimulus packages.
It all began with a young economics professor out of Princeton University. An expert on the Great Depression of the 1930s, he was also a disciple of John Maynard Keynes. And those two facts are critical to remember.
The young economist was Ben Bernanke, who a few short years later would become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. But back here in 2002, he was speaking to a group in San Francisco.
The topic came round to how Bernanke would pull our economy out of another Great Depression, should that occur. And being a disciple of Keynes, he responded as any Keynesian would, he would get as much money in the hand of the American consumer as possible.
This is the so-called Prime the Pump Strategy. In fact, said Bernanke, if needed he would drop money from a Helicopter, just to get it into the hands of the people. People who would then turn around, spend that money, and thereby jump-start the economy.
I'm sure that you've already guessed the next day headlines: Princeton Economist recommends: Helicopter Money. And expression that is still found on Wall Street today.
Most of us thought the idea was frankly ludicrous. But here we are today, receiving our second round of Helicopter Money.
With the objective, that we'll go out and spend that money, and thereby put American factories, plants, and stores back in business.
But for that to become true, we would have to buy American Goods. And as Fridays Trade Balance Report showed, to a large extent we're buying foreign goods. Goods produced by other countries, principally China.
And It's the amount of this imbalance that's disturbing. For February we reached an all-time high water mark of $86.7billion.
That mean's dear reader, that we're on track to have our first $1 trillion-dollar yearly trade deficit.
So while the government is pumping money in the front door, more than that is leaking out the back door. This current stimulus package includes $380 billion in Stimulus Checks, helicopter money, currently on the way to 150 million households.
And note, that's barely 1/3rd of what our annualized trade imbalance is likely to be.
So you see, in the end, Ben Bernanke is probably right. Pump enough “helicopter money” into the economy, and you'll get the system up and running again.
His only miscalculation is that the system that most benefits are China and the rest of our trading partners, and not the USA.