How to Fix It: Cut Up the Plastic

“We have been borrowing massively abroad—some $850 billion in 2006 alone. With the government spending massively, and with American households saving zero, there was nowhere else to turn. We used to lecture other countries about what good economic policy meant; now they are laughing behind our backs—and occasionally lecturing us. While we seem traumatized by the idea of our government running a bank, we seem to accept the notion that a foreign government might have a major share in iconic American financial institutions—banks so important to our economy that they are too big to fail. Economists who have calculated the exchange rate required to end our trade deficit provide horrific numbers, suggesting that the decline in the dollar may have only just begun. Americans will no longer be able to even buy a cup of coffee in Paris. We can avoid these adjustments, which will be painful to us and our trading partners, but only by increasing our savings rate.”