– Peter Morici is a Professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and former chief economist at the United States International Trade Commission. The views expressed are his own. —
From Berlin to Bangkok, governments are screaming about the falling dollar, because they can no longer rely on reckless American consumers to power their economies.
From the late 1980s to 2007, the global economy enjoyed The Great Moderation-low inflation and sustained growth interrupted by brief recessions. Driving global growth was an eight fold increase in the U.S. trade deficit, facilitated by a doubling of the value of the dollar against other currencies from 1989 to 2002.
Deregulation and new technologies powered U.S. growth, and Americans flush with success bought whatever the world had to sell. However, when imports substantially exceed exports, Americans must consume more than they earn producing good and services, or demand for what they make is inadequate, inventories pile up, and layoffs and recession follow.
From 2003 to 2007, the U.S. trade deficit averaged $665 billion, and Americans massively borrowed from abroad to keep the U.S. economy going. They posted as collateral overvalued homes financed on shaky mortgages. When mortgages failed, banks failed, home prices dropped, and retail sales tanked. The U.S. economy was thrust into the worst recession in 70 years and pulled the rest of the world into crisis.