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 Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog

Economists still failing to understand the effects of mercantilism
Howard Richman, 7/31/2010

When John Maynard Keynes explained to economists why mercantilism works and how it destroys the prosperity of its victims, most economists ignored him. Although the recent success of Chinese mercantilism is forcing economists to revisit the issue, most still oppose any action by the United States against it.

Take for example a 2010 working paper (Undervaluation through foreign reserve accumulation: Static losses, dynamic gains) by U. of Maryland economist Anton Korinek and World Bank senior advisor Luis Serven. The authors correctly conclude that the accumulation of foreign currencies by the mercantilist countries produces short-term (static) losses and long-term gains. But at the end of the paper, they conclude, without citing any evidence whatsoever, that there is no harm to the victim countries.

Here is their second-to-last paragraph in which they argue that the victim countries (developed countries) actually benefit from mercantilism and that the only fellow developing countries are harmed:...


Comments: 3

Trade Deficit Saps 2nd Quarter Growth
Howard Richman, 7/30/2010

Today's economic story is very simple. The Obama administration and Congress have been trying to pump up the economic tire, without first patching the trade deficit leak. The faster they pump, with stimulus after stimulus, the faster the trade deficits grow.

As shown in the chart below, taken from data released this morning by the BEA, increased purchases by consumers contributed 1.1% to 2nd quarter economic growth, increased fixed investment purchases by businesses contributed 2.2% to growth, increased purchases by government contributed 0.8% to growth, and inventory build-ups contributed 1.0%. But net exports sapped 2.7% from GDP growth as imports increased without a corresponding increase in exports. If you add it all up, GDP grew by 2.4%.




Comments: 0

Pres. Obama's $787 Billion Recovery Act Has Produced Few Sustainable Jobs
Raymond Richman, 7/28/2010

 On Feb. 13, 2009, Congress passed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly referred to as Pres. Obama’s economic stimulus plan.  As of May, 2010, about 62% has been paid out. According to Prof. Romer, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, the act has saved or created 2.5 million to 3.5 million jobs. If the purpose of the act was to save some jobs, it may have succeeded. Indeed, analysis of the expenditures suggests that the act was poorly conceived. If its object was to create jobs and promote a recovery, it was a complete failure. The employment data of the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the following table shows does not evidence any net job creation. The number employed fell by 3.0 millions from March 2009 to December, 2009 and increased just over 1.1 million by the end of March, 2010 for a net job loss of 1.9 million jobs.  

Employment status of the civilian non-institutional population 16 years and over                                     




Not in Labor





























































































































Source: USBLS, Household Data Historical ...


Comments: 9

Geithner's job is to finance federal government expansion
Howard Richman, 7/26/2010

On a football team, each player has his own job to do. The quarterback's job is to throw the ball. The receiver's job is to catch it. The offensive line's job is to protect the quarterback and block for the running backs.

Each member of the Obama administration also appears to have his own job. On the July 25 Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Geithner revealed his job. He was congratulating himself on keeping U.S. long term interest rates low saying, "My job is to make sure we can borrow to finance."

Other things being equal, keeping long-term interest rates low would not only help with the administration's huge expansion of the U.S. government, it would also be good for the U.S. economy. After all, low interest rates usually encourage business investment. But that is only true when there are investment opportunities.

As my father, son and I demonstrated in our 2008 book (Trading Away Our Future), when low interest rates are produced by mercantilism, the same factor that produces the low interest rates also takes away investment opportunities.

In February 2009 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited China. Her job was to beg the Chinese government for loans. If the Chinese government would have let their people buy our products, we would have gotten investment opportunities. Instead they loaned us the dollars earned from trade, and we got low interest rates. Breitbart reported at the time:...


Comments: 0

Some criticisms of our Scaled Tariff proposal
Howard Richman, 7/25/2010

On Monday (July 19) we published our Scaled Tariff proposal at Enter Stage Right (The Scaled Tariff would Resuscitate the U.S. Economy). Essentially we were proposing a tariff upon the countries that have been practicing mercantilism, as evident from their foreign exchange accumulations. The tariff rate would go up when our trade deficit with that country goes up, go down when our trade deficit with that country goes down, and disappear when trade approaches balance.

There have been 5 criticisms of our proposal in the discussion on the Enter State Right website. Here are those criticisms, and my responses:...


Comments: 2

Congress busts the budget to create 90,000 manufacturing jobs
Howard Richman, 7/22/2010

Some people do things the hard way, and some people do them the easy way. Right now Congress is doing things the hard way. They are spending money that they don't have, in order to create thousands of manufacturing jobs. They don't even seem to know that there is an easy way that would raise money that they need while creating millions of manufacturing jobs.

Reuters reports that on July 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that will bust the budget in order to create 90,000 manufacturing jobs. The bill eliminates duties paid by U.S. manufacturers on raw materials when the raw materials are inputs into final products. Democrats voted 245 to 1 in favor. Republicans voted 129 to 42 in favor. But the Republican leadership opposed the bill because eliminating tariff revenue on raw materials would expand the already sky-high U.S. government budget deficits.

According to Reuters, House Democrats plan other measures to help U.S. manufacturing. If this bill is any indication, the other measures will also bust the budget in order to create some tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

But saving manufacturing jobs need not require any budget-busting expense. In fact, doing so the easy way would greatly reduce the budget deficit. Congress would take in tens of billions of dollars of tariff revenue while producing millions of new manufacturing jobs simply by balancing trade through the scaled tariff that my father, son and I proposed in our July 19 commentary, we wrote (The Scaled Tariff would Resuscitate the U.S. Economy):...


Comments: 4

Prof. Blinder Believes He and Obama are Keynesians But Keynes Would Disown Them
Raymond Richman, 7/19/2010

In the Wall Street Journal 7-19-10, Alan S. Blinder, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University writes in an opinion piece entitled “Obama’s Fiscal Priorities Are Right”, writes: that the “deficit hawks” believe the federal budget deficit is already too large and that the first stimulus failed.  He disagrees. He writes, “The hawks have even dug in their heels against extending unemployment insurance benefits at a time when the unemployment rate is 9.5%, or helping states and localities avoid laying off teachers in September. That’s pretty anti-Keynesian thinking.” The first part is not even true; the Republican leadership wants Congress to specify the source of the funds. Why not the Tarp program or the economic stimulus bill? They are loaded with billions of unspent funds. Why are the Democrats against specifying the source of the funds? And while it may not be popular in the polls to say so, many economists believe, that many, not all, receiving unemployment compensation are really not making a serious effort to find work. And these economists could be Keynesians and they include Prof. Blinder.  Prof. Blinder’s answer later in his piece is that “the right level of unemployment insurance means balancing these costs and benefits—a  tricky calculation.”

As for school districts that the economic stimulus plan is supporting, not a single new job has been created supporting them. Yes, Prof. Blinder, we believe the economic stimulus bill has been a failure. We believe the money should have been used to stimulate private investment in new factories and equipment. New factories create sustained employment and have a real multiplier effect. ...


Comments: 0

The Scaled Tariff would Resuscitate the U.S. Economy
Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman, 7/19/2010

[Note: This commentary was initially published by Enter Stage Right ( on July 19, 2010.]

In a commentary in the July 5 issue of Business Week (How to Make an American Job Before It’s Too Late), Andy Grove, a founder of Intel and its former CEO makes the spectacular prediction that the outsourcing of production of technologically advanced products by our product innovators is an act of economic suicide. He writes:...


Comments: 2

Real Policies for a Sustained Economic Recovery
Raymond Richman, 7/17/2010

For reasons that we have mentioned many times in this space, we believe the Obama administration’s policies to recover from this depression (technically, a recession) have been practically worthless, notwithstanding their enormous cost. The administration’s economists, who should know better, have endorsed the economic stimulus plan notwithstanding the fact that it throws money at a variety of programs that provide no sustainable stimulus to the private sector. Oh, the rebates, the klunkers’ program, subsidies for energy spending give temporary stimuli but nothing sustainable. To achieve sustainable economic growth, investment in manufacturing and industry is required. Stimuli to alternative sources of energy, principally wind, solar, and biochemical will not produce sustainable growth until we begin to run out of petroleum and natural gas which is likely to be delayed three to six decades.

All the while, there were cost-free and revenue-producing measures that could have been taken to stimulate private investment. In a posting on this site on June 28, 2010 entitled “ Bush and Obama's Economic Stimulus Attempts”, we criticized the administration’s policies as well as  Republican proposals and promised to put forth our own proposals for a speedy recovery. Our first proposal is to end our foreign trade deficits which have caused the closing of thousands of American factories and the loss of millions of good-paying industrial jobs.  We need to stop the outsourcing of the production of goods that Americans consume and produce the products of American ingenuity here. ...


Comments: 3

Fed: Possibly 5 or 6 years before sustainable growth
Howard Richman, 7/15/2010

According to minutes of the Federal Reserve's June 22-23 meeting, released on July 14, Federal Reserve officials downgraded the prospects for future U.S. economic growth. Connie Maden reports:

Fed officials expect below normal growth through 2012, and their outlook on unemployment has dipped. They said that it may take as long as five or six years before the economy returns to a longer run sustainable path.

There seems to be little pressure on inflation. The Fed uses the price index for personal consumption expenditures, excluding food and energy, as its main tool. The estimates are for inflation to remain in the 0.9% to 1.2% range.

Growth estimates were lowered to between 3% to 3.5%, down from 3.2% to 3.7%.

At the meeting Federal Reserve officials considered resuming buying long-term bonds or further increasing the money supply. They finally decided to just wait and see what happens. In a Seeking Alpha commentary (Quarterly Forecasts: Slow Growth or Double Dip?), University of Maryland economist Peter Morici notes that they are out of answers:...


Comments: 0

Michael Pettis: U.S. is "likely to be swamped by a tsunami of foreign capital"
Howard Richman, 7/14/2010

In a very clear-thinking blog entry, Michael Pettis explains that the biggest danger to the American economy is that the world's mercantilist countries (he calls them the "capital exporters") are flooding the U.S. with foreign capital. He writes:...


Comments: 0

Trade deficit rises again in May
Howard Richman, 7/13/2010

The Commerce Department just released the trade deficit data for May. U.S. exports were up, but imports rose even faster. Here's the opening paragraph from the press release:

The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that total May exports of $152.3 billion and imports of $194.5 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $42.3 billion, up from $40.3 billion in April, revised.  May exports were $3.5 billion more than April exports of $148.7 billion. May imports were $5.5 billion more than April imports of $189.0 billion....


Comments: 0

Outsourcing Production Is Committing National Suicide, Says Andy Grove, Former Intel CEO
Raymond Richman, 7/10/2010

There is growing concern in this country about the outsourcing of manufacturing production and its effect on American jobs. In our book, Trading Away Our Future (Ideal Taxes Assn., 2008),  we blamed foolish U.S. government policies recommended by foolish free trade academics for permitting the trade deficits that have led to our industrial decline and permitted our former enemies Germany and Japan, and our current enemy China to grow their industry dramatically at the expense of the American worker. In the July 5, 2010 issue of Business Week, Andy Grove, a founder of Intel and its former CEO makes the spectacular prediction that the outsourcing of production of technologically advanced products by our product innovators is an act of economic suicide.  He writes,

The great Silicon Valley innovation machine hasn’t been creating many jobs of late -- unless you are counting Asia, where American technology companies have been adding jobs like mad for years. …Today, manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is about 166,000 -- lower than it was before the first personal computer, the MITS Altair 2800, was assembled in 1975. Meanwhile, a very effective computer-manufacturing industry has emerged in Asia, employing about 1.5 million workers -- factory employees, engineers and managers. … Some 250,000 Foxconn employees in southern China produce Apple’s products. Apple, meanwhile, has about 25,000 employees in the U.S. -- that means for every Apple worker in the U.S. there are 10 people in China working on iMacs, iPods and iPhones. The same roughly 10-to-1 relationship holds for Dell, disk-drive maker Seagate Technology, and other U.S. tech companies.

American economists viewed this development with benign neglect. Groves cites the following quote by Princeton professor and former member of the Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton and member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System under Greenspan: “The TV manufacturing industry really started here, and at one point employed many workers. But as TV sets became ‘just a commodity,’ their production moved offshore to locations with much lower wages. And nowadays the number of television sets manufactured in the U.S. is zero. A failure? No, a success.” (Italics mine.)...


Comments: 4

Geithner's Three Currency Manipulation Reports
Howard Richman, 7/9/2010

The typical folk tale has three examples, as in the Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. After the third example, even little children can see the pattern.

On July 8, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gave us the third example from which we can judge his reliability. He issued his third semiannual report to Congress about which countries are manipulating their currencies. For the third time, he concluded that China is not manipulating its currency.

In contrast, the report's annex notes that the Chinese government had accumulated $2.4 trillion worth of currency reserves by December 2009 as part of its mercantilist strategy....


Comments: 1

Obama Touts his Failing Trade Policy
Howard Richman, 7/7/2010

President Bush, whose trade policies caused a decade of American stock market decline, liked to tout them while standing outside a Boeing (BA) aircraft factory, Boeing being one of America's premier exporters. On July 7, President Obama, having continued Bush's trade policies, brought Boeing CEO Jim McNerny Jr. to the White House to flank him while he discussed a progress report claiming success in enhancing U.S. exports. The report noted:

The Council of Economic Advisers’ analysis shows that over the past nine months, the increase in US exports contributed more than one percentage point to the US growth rate. During our recovery, exports have contributed as much as domestic consumption to our growth.

It cited a couple of examples of recent success at promoting U.S. exports:

  • U.S. pork exports. In March the Chinese government agreed to stop preventing its people from buying US pork products. But the report neglected to mention that in February the Chinese government had placed new tariffs of up to 105% on US chicken products.
  • Boeing aircraft exports. Last week, the WTO ruled against European subsidies to Airbus, which should make it easier for Boeing to compete. But the report failed to mention that the Chinese government has been pouring billions of yuan into a new Boeing competitor, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China.

The chart below shows that both imports and exports have been growing since the depths of the recession in May 2009:


Indeed, as the Council of Economic Advisors reports, the growth in exports during the 9 months from July 2009 to April 2010 has been impressive:

  • In July 2009, U.S. exports were $130 billion.
  • In April 2010, U.S. exports were $149 billion.

But, just as exports add to U.S. growth, imports subtract. From July 2009 to April 2010, the growth in U.S. imports has been even greater:

  • In July 2009, U.S. imports were $163 billion.
  • In April 2010, U.S. imports were $189 billion....


Comments: 0

The First Step for a Sustainable Economic Recovery -- Balanced Trade
Raymond Richman, 7/5/2010

Now gather round all you Democrats and all you Republicans, and all you left and right leaning independents and all you tea party people and we’ll tell you how to quickly turn this recession into sustainable prosperity, with real jobs, millions of them. We know most of you who haven’t read our book, Trading Away Our Future (Ideal Taxes, 2008) are in a state of disbelief. How could we, three relatively unknown Ph.D.s, know what we must do when the former Chancellor of Harvard University, economist Larry Summers, and his protégé, former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, and, Cristina Romer, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, approved the 2009 Recovery Act that budgeted the costly $787 billion economic stimulus program which created not a single net new sustainable job to date? The answer my friends is not blowing in the wind, nor even on Facebook. The answer is because the economic elite to which they belong are Keynesian and we aren’t. And they are ideologues on "free trade" and we are not.

They believe that increased government spending regardless of what it is spent on will stimulate the economy and promote a recovery.  We maintain that an increase in deficit spending will provide only a temporary stimulus which will disappear as soon as the money runs out. Lord Keynes would turn over in his urn to observe what is being done in his name.

It isn’t that the Obama economic stimulus program doesn’t create or save some jobs, especially for teachers and other government employees, ninety-nine percent of whom voted for Obama, surely a coincidence. It just has no sustainable stimulating effect, i.e., it has no multiplier. It raises GDP temporarily and the stimulus disappears as soon as the money appropriated is exhausted. Plus, they are “free trade” ideologues. We know of no economic theory that holds that free trade is beneficial to both trading partners even when it is one-sided. Free trade does work in the 50 states where the U.S. Constitution forbids the states from imposing barriers to trade and the free movement among the states of workers and capital. Free trade works only when the trading partners are subject to those conditions, which means nowhere except in the U.S. ...


Comments: 5

The Currency Reform Bill Won't Work: What Should Replace It and Why
Howard Richman, 7/4/2010

In a July 4 commentary, Ian Fletcher, author of Free Trade Doesn't Work: What Should Replace it and Why, argues that the bipartisan Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Bill would only be a small first step toward solving our trade problems. He begins:

It's nice to see the long-stewing Chinese currency manipulation pot bubbling a bit again, thanks to China's latest blatantly disingenuous move to allow a token fluctuation or two of the yuan. And it's great that Senator Stabenow's currency bill is inching towards the floor of the Senate. (The underlying idea, giving American industries formal trade remedies against currency manipulation by foreign governments, was actually thought up several years ago by Kevin Kearns, president of my organization, the U.S. Business & Industry Council.)

Later in the commentary, Fletcher points out that the bill is seriously flawed because (1) it acts slowly and (2) it relies upon industries filing lawsuits with the Commerce Department:

Would the ... currency-reform bill get us out of this trap, if it passed? As noted, it's definitely a positive move, but it's still just a start. Its key limitation is that its approach is gradualist and, above all, reactive, because it depends on victimized industries filing lawsuits under the trade laws. So it will ultimately need to be supplemented with a much more comprehensive strategy.

Fletcher doesn't mention two other very serious flaws:...


Comments: 0

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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]