Opinion

David Cay Johnston

The troubled trade deal with South Korea

David Cay Johnston
Jul 31, 2012 18:11 UTC

SEOUL — In March, the United States and South Korea implemented a Free Trade Agreement that President Barack Obama touts as more significant than the last nine such agreements combined. He also said it was central to his goal of doubling American exports within five years.

I think the president suffers from irrational trade exuberance, a view reinforced by my reporting in this city of 10 million people.

This deal is likely to turn out badly for American taxpayers and workers, especially autoworkers.

The president predicted 70,000 American jobs would be created as U.S. exports to South Korea grow faster than imports.

That would be terrific for generating taxes and reducing demand for government services like food stamps, which have become the sole income for about 6 million Americans.

Idle corporate cash piles up

David Cay Johnston
Jul 16, 2012 14:45 UTC

IRS data suggests that, globally, U.S. nonfinancial companies hold at least three times more cash and other liquid assets than the Federal Reserve reports, idle money that could be creating jobs, funding dividends or even paying a stiff federal penalty tax for hoarding corporate cash.

The Fed’s latest Flow of Funds report showed that U.S. nonfinancial companies held $1.7 trillion in liquid assets at the end of March. But newly released IRS figures show that in 2009 these companies held $4.8 trillion in liquid assets, which equals $5.1 trillion in today’s dollars, triple the Fed figure.

Why the huge gap?

The Fed gets its data from the IRS, but only measures the flow of funds in the domestic economy. The IRS reports the worldwide holdings of U.S. companies, which I think is the more revealing measure.

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