"We are buying a lot of housing at rising prices, but home ownership has become a vehicle for borrowing as much as a source of financial security. As a nation we are consuming and investing about 6 percent more than we are producing."
Another case of deja vu here, Paul Volker in 2005 foreshadowed the housing implosion and consequent Wall Street melt down, by looking at sectors of the economy. Some things you would like to forget, but your friends keep you honest. Thanks to surf master and at large editor DA for sifting through the past for this one.
By Paul A. Volcker
Sunday, April 10, 2005;
The U.S. expansion appears on track. Europe and Japan may lack exuberance, but their economies are at least on the plus side. China and India -- with close to 40 percent of the world's population -- have sustained growth at rates that not so long ago would have seemed, if not impossible, highly improbable.
Yet, under the placid surface, there are disturbing trends: huge imbalances, disequilibria, risks -- call them what you will. Altogether the circumstances seem to me as dangerous and intractable as any I can remember, and I can remember quite a lot. What really concerns me is that there seems to be so little willingness or capacity to do much about it.
We sit here absorbed in a debate about how to maintain Social Security -- and, more important, Medicare -- when the baby boomers retire. But right now, those same boomers are spending like there's no tomorrow. If we can believe the numbers, personal savings in the United States have practically disappeared.
To be sure, businesses have begun to rebuild their financial reserves. But in the space of a few years, the federal deficit has come to offset that source of national savings.
We are buying a lot of housing at rising prices, but home ownership has become a vehicle for borrowing as much as a source of financial security. As a nation we are consuming and investing about 6 percent more than we are producing.
What holds it all together is a massive and growing flow of capital from abroad, running to more than $2 billion every working day, and growing. There is no sense of strain. As a nation we don't consciously borrow or beg. We aren't even offering attractive interest rates, nor do we have to offer our creditors protection against the risk of a declining dollar.
Most of the time, it has been private capital that has freely flowed into our markets from abroad -- where better to invest in an uncertain world, the refrain has gone, than the United States?
More recently, we've become more dependent on foreign central banks, particularly in China and Japan and elsewhere in East Asia.
- M O R E -
Thanks to DA for this post.