The Vanishing American Consumer and the Coming Trade War

Robert Reich
Huffington Post

President Obama has vowed to double U.S. exports within the next five years. That’s because exports are critical for rebooting the American economy. It’s clear American consumers can’t get the economy going on their own. They can’t restart the jobs machine. They’ve run out of money and credit.

It’s not just that one out of four Americans is unemployed or underemployed (working part-time, overqualified, or at a lower wage than before). More significantly, the Great Recession burst the housing bubble that had let American consumers turn their homes into ATMs. Now the cash machines are closed.

So the administration figures foreign consumers will have to fill the gap.

Problem is, most other economies also relied on American consumers. Remember the trade gap? Americans used to be the world’s biggest and most reliable customers — sucking in high-tech gadgets assembled in China, car parts from Japan, shirts and shoes from Southeast Asia, and precision instruments from Germany.

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