A controversial look in ~ today"s economy and the worries to consider in planning for the future and also for retirement.

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Exit polls native the 2008 new Hampshire primary evidenced that 97 percent the Democrats and also 80 percent the Republicans room worried around where the economic situation is headed.<1>

Photo: Mehmet Dilsiz

Forecasting economics is among the an ext dangerous endeavors that life. The reason is actually fairly simple: “History is business economics in action,” as karl Marx noted.

Marx, who got nearly everything rather wrong but most likely obtained this right, linked economics to everyday reality.

In your famous book The lessons of History, Will and also Ariel Durant explain that economics in action is the contest among individuals, groups, classes, and also states for food, fuel, materials, and economic power.<2> economics is a really dynamic system that changes quickly due to the moving causes and directions that individuals, and is as such a very difficult system to forecast.

Most people are unaware the the business economics underway that could seriously erode your retirement plans and could an extremely well reason them to change their investment choices.

This article will not forecast, however rather will address what many think to be “The peak 10 U.S. Economic worries to Monitor.” castle were favored by the author, and also are not noted in stimulate of importance.

Number One: government Expenditures and also Deficits

In The class of History, the Durants wrote:

The endure of the past leaves little doubt that every financial system should sooner or later on rely top top some type of the benefit motive to stir individuals and also groups to productivity.<3>

Hence, the U.S. Kind of capitalism need to be embraced. Indeed, basically all corporate retirement investment selections assume this concept as a given. A commitment to capitalism suggests a significant commitment of sources to individuals and limits on the power and resources that government. One of the many disturbing economic trends is the ever before increasing percent of government expenditure in the U.S. Gross domestic Product (GDP).

GDP is the sum of intake (C), invest (I), and government (G) expenditures in a close up door (no products in or out) economy. That is, GDP=C+I+G. In the joined States, the government is taking an enhancing share the resources and this has trended sharply upward since 1947. Federal defense spending is to run at a rate of around 5 percent the GDP; commonwealth non-defense spending is in ~ 7 percent; and also state and also local federal government is roughly 12 percent-a complete of 24 percent that the U.S. GDP. This number walk not include transfer payments choose Social Security.

If the trend continues, the amount of federal government expenditure might have a very negative impact on the nation’s capability to consume goods and also build plants and also equipment for future financial growth. Former U.S. Commonwealth Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave a clear warning that this threat as soon as he stated prior to Congress, “Unless we execute something to ameliorate that in a very significant manner, we will be in a state the stagnation.”<4>

In addition, the size of federal government debt has increased from $2.13 sunshine in 1986 come $9 sunshine today.<5> In 2006, the federal federal government reported a deficit that 1.8 percent, a statistic that did not take into account the excess money spent from social Security. The really deficit number offered by the Comptroller general David walker is -3.3 percent.<6> also he states the stated government number is wrong! This number is just unacceptable and unsustainable, especially in irradiate of the forthcoming social Security and Medicare capital problems. The an essential question is: “As a society, are we deriving value for all of our taxes?”

Number Two: society Security

There is no such thing as a society Security<7> save account. Social security takes in enough taxes now to stay viable until 2017 (depending on that you speak with and also on what day). Unfortunately, this funds room not in a piggy-bank. They are invested in special government securities (IOUs). The borrower (the U.S. Federal government), according to both previous Secretary the the Treasury Paul O’Neil and also now Comptroller general David walker of the federal government Accountability Office (GAO), is in major financial challenge that demands to be handle immediately. Walker has actually said that is essential to balance the budget plan within the next five years, do a under payment ~ above the $50 trillion imbalance, and begin reforming federal government programs. “Time,” the said, “is working versus us.”<8>

Many believe that there will certainly be tiny return indigenous Social security and/or Medicare unless comprehensive changes room made very soon. These transforms might include:

Raising or remove the maximum payroll ceiling because that Social defense and/or Medicare;Raising the payroll taxation rate(s);Raising the retirement age;Adjusting Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) to reflect true inflation;Investing part funds hosted by Social protection in domestic and foreign bonds and stocks;Taxing social protection benefits for really wealthy Americans;Reducing benefits for retirees in the very distant future (perhaps affecting those currently in their 20s); and

Currently, the anticipated services of social Security and Medicare to individuals are better than your contributions. Including to the complexity of this difficulty are: the graying of America (the growing aging populace of America and the industrial world), and also the truth that American workers just face higher taxes and also lower wages. This does no take into account the decline in intake (other 보다 healthcare) that will result from the ageing American population. The end an outcome is a further decrease in the typical of living because that the median American.

Number Three: Concentration the Wealth

The Durants additionally noted: “Since practical capacity differs from human to person, the bulk of together abilities, in almost all societies, is gathered in a decimal of men. The concentration of riches is a natural result of the concentration of ability and on regular basis occurs in history.”<10>

One the the major trends that have to be monitored is the increasing concentration of riches in America. Capitalism and democracy advice this problem. This deserve to be seen clearly in the following data, which mirrors entrepreneurship rewards, as well as-unfortunately-an enhanced concentration the wealth.

The richest, or optimal 1 percent of the country, now own 34.3 percent that the nation’s exclusive wealth and also 36.9 percent of all corporate stock. These numbers are growing. In 2005, this group received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income-just 30 years ago, in 1976, they only accounted because that 8.9 percent of U.S. Income. The total inflation-adjusted net worth the the Forbes 400 climbed from $470 exchange rate in 1995 to $1.25 sunshine in 2006.<11>

This concentration may reach a point, as the Durants state, “…where over there is an unstable equilibrium which results in redistribution of riches through tax or redistribution that poverty v revolution.”<12> In the past, the unified States has actually chosen taxation, because that example, throughout the periods of 1933 to 1952 and 1960 come 1965, however it is unclear even if it is the government will monitor this peaceful path yet again.

Number Four: Median family members Income

One the the many illuminating ways to view any type of economic trouble is through the standing of the middle class of a population. In general, the middle course has identified the political outcomes of virtually every contemporary nation because the French Revolution. In the minds of many, the middle course will recognize America’s fate.

To discuss the middle class, one must develop a standard. Many think that the middle course standard is finest described together an educated group (actually, this would certainly be upper middle) v upward financial mobility, that is: safe homes and also workplaces, worthwhile work with compensations the advance above inflation and also are in line with demonstrated raised productivity, acceptable levels of healthcare, comfortable retirements, and also acceptable quantities of debt. This is the traditional that America has worked to attain since people War II. If the variety of people in ~ this category starts to decline, many think that all is lost.

Using median financial data, the middle course is under siege. Statistics display that the median family members income (inflation adjusted) sharply increased from 1947 come 1970, early in part to sharp increases in productivity. Because then, however, incomes have been stagnant; 2000 to 2005 actually proved a decline of 0.5 percent in median family members incomes.<13> One should likewise note the these numbers are obtained before, not after, taxes.

The expectation that each generation will do better than their parents has become a basic part the what we call “The American Dream.” In a recent short article the Brookings institute stated, “New data argued that this once solid ground might well be shifting. This raises provocative questions around the continuing capacity of every Americans to relocate up the economic ladder and calls right into question even if it is the American economic meritocracy is quiet alive and also well.”<14>

Number Five: The save Rate

Already listed is the the median family members savings rate has substantially declined. (One should be mindful that in ours GDP equation, all savings equal, invest by definition).

From 1960 to 1990, the an individual savings price in the United says was 8 to 10 percent. As family members incomes have stagnated, this rate has actually collapsed and also in 2006-for the an initial time because the an excellent Depression (when plenty of individuals invested their critical nickel for food)-the personal savings rate was negative. As soon as the dire outlook for Social defense is taken into account in addition to this statistic, one alarming picture of the future the the United claims is painted.

Given the condition of society Security/Medicare (discussed in Number Eight), if America is walking to have actually long-term viability, the an individual savings price must relocate upward come a an ext realistic hopeful level-not just to provide for retirement, but additionally to carry out capital for irreversible investment <15>

Number Six: intake Binge

One of the factors that personal savings room so low is the individuals have gone top top a intake binge, also in the challenge of stagnate incomes. Normally, market pressures would exactly this party in part by boosting the costs of consumable goods. However recent times have actually been different. There are groups out there (especially one-China) willing to profession consumable goods for America’s seed stocks by financing federal budget deficits v the acquisition of commonwealth debt, thus allowing the resources of higher mortgages top top consumer’s homes. So, the usage binge continues. The is, however, moderating together the dollar declines in value and also home worths decrease.

Number Seven: No Retirement Funds

A current Wall Street Journal article reported that most baby boomers under 65 have actually less 보다 $150,000 conserved for retirement; those under 50 have actually saved less than $50,000.<16> Such low savings are clearly not enough for a comfortable retirement and also may force retirees ago into a lifetime of work.

Many times, the accumulation that room invested in the stock sector are invested more as a gambling in an effort to “catch up.” Apparently, the relationship in between savings and also the time worth of money is uncertain to many employees. From early debt repayment to life cycle decisions, the burden is on individuals to fend for themselves. A long-term plan with adequate contributions is necessary in order to prepare because that retirement, specifically in irradiate of the Social protection dilemma.

Photo: Steve Woods

Number Eight: High household Debt

The median family members has never had actually so much debt. It has actually been far too straightforward to attain home credit and personal credit, specifically through credit cards. Probably the best way to explain it is in state of complete liabilities as a percent of full assets. In 1999, the mean (not median) to be 19.7 percent per average family. In 2004, that percentage rose come 29.3 percent. Practically everyone trust the portion is well over that today. This statistics room “mark to the market”-in other words, actual sector values the both real estate and stocks room used. (Remember blame is fixed, however asset values space variable.) If we watch a decline in values in the housing market and/or the share market, these total liability percentages will certainly jump dramatically. A heavy recession would wreak destruction on this asset categories, in addition to pass on the danger of unemployment.

Number Nine: Healthcare

Most financial experts simply do not recognize what come say about this exceptionally important and looming issue. There is already pressure top top the system, as baby boomers require more healthcare together they age. America likewise has an increasing immigrant population that has actually had small or no medical care in the past and also is as such likely come be more expensive to treatment for in the future. This method that healthcare expenses should continue increasing well over the inflation rate.

The just viable equipment for many employees is to money any and all health care savings alternatives as swiftly as possible. Assume over there is no Medicare. If one receives it, the retirement years will also be the much more pleasurable.

Number Ten: The present Account Deficit

It has already been stated that over there are groups willing to lend to us so we can proceed our intake binge. This dilemma to add a new economic concept to our equation. A country can now have actually imports and exports (NE) right into our economy, that is, GDP=C+I+G+NE. It i do not care a little more complex when one takes into account the commonwealth government’s get loan of accumulation to operate, which additionally falls right into this current account category.

The present account deficit is about 7 percent of ours GDP-more than double the previous contemporary record of 3.4 percent in the center 1980s. Earlier then, the value of the U.S. Disagreement dropped by 50 percent versus the other significant currencies over a three-year period from 1985 come 1987 together a result. The Euro might go together high together US$2.00 from the approximate US$1.47 of beforehand 2008.

Many, however, including our present Federal to make reservation Chairman Ben Bernanke, do not think that this high current account deficit will be the harmful,<17> largely because of the capital account (see explanation below).<18> In financial reality, the capital account is much more interesting than the existing account since it is the account the takes under economies. Since trade deficits (current accounts) room traditionally well balanced with surplus capital accounts, the scales will tip against everyone if the funding account collapses. This is also more complicated to forecast because capital markets are the an outcome of expectations, not realities.

Nonetheless, many agree the this high deficit level is unsustainable. Further, economists agree that it is feasible that the current account deficit might be the single greatest threat to the ongoing prosperity and stability that the unified States and also world economies.

Lou Jiwei, Chief invest Officer the China, is maybe the many influential human being in the U.S. Economy today. He monitor the $1,250 sunshine or so Chinese investment fund, i m sorry mostly is composed of U.S. Treasuries. Since he is investing greatly in the U.S. Government (about two-thirds of the fund), us have very low attention rates. This is great for the U.S. As long as the positive financial party continues. Yet what happens if the music stops?<19>

Many carry out not believe the Chinese will cause a major disruption come the world financial markets. The author expects very small from them until after the Beijing 2007 Olympic Games. After the Olympics, many anticipate changes much more in line v their recent $3 billion invest in the blackstone Group, i beg your pardon purchases U.S windy companies and privatizes them. The Chinese watch this together a logical first step considering the xenophobic watch from America once the Chinese tried come buy Union Oil agency of California directly.<20>

It is feasible that the Chinese will financially squeeze America. However, if China is financially rational, lock will pressure the suggest over the lengthy run till America becomes of little importance come the people while China ascends.<21> 2 centuries ago, Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed it for this reason well: “When China awakens the whole people will tremble.”<22>


The Durants identified civilization together “social stimulate promoting cultural creation.” Yet history is littered v the damages of civilizations. These looming economic concerns seem to indicate that America is top top its deathbed. Many Americans will certainly refuse to think that this nation must endure Shelley’s Ozymandias,<23>-that fatality is the destiny that all. Unfortunately, the disturbing fact is that countries do die. One only has to look earlier to the early years the the great Depression to see that we have actually experienced every one of this before.

America is no yet on its deathbed.

In the post-World battle II years, America enjoyed a considerable increase in its traditional of living. The concern is: will it proceed under the brand-new world realities? It will not, in the opinion that the author, unless there is a change in social and economic behavior. America and also the human being are undergoing an essential and signal social and also economic shifts. The human being has not seen, perhaps, such a major shift since the pre-dawn morning of July 16, 1945, in the desert close to Alamogordo, new Mexico.<24> In plenty of respects, this brand-new shift and also the rise of the age of globalization is even more difficult than the rule of the atom age as result of globalization’s personal impact on so plenty of individuals.

As Hedrick smith stated, “In this restless brand-new world, what is needed above all is a brand-new mind set, if America is going to sustain a high standard of living right into the 21st century and to prevail together a worldwide economic strength in the long-run.”<25> This mental set-to make America work far better for more Americans-must readjust or our retirement portfolios space in jeopardy.

<1> PBS Online. “Candidates effort to deal with Voter comes to on Economy,” Online News Hour, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june08/economy_01-10.html

<2> Will and also Ariel Durant. The class of History, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968).

<3> Ibid, 54.

<5> Kyle Almond. “One Man’s Campaign versus Federal Debt,” CNN.com, in march 30, 2007, http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/28/federal.debt/.

<6> David J. Walker. “Long-Term budget plan Outlooks: Deficits Matter-Saving our Future calls for Tough choices Today,” testimony prior to the U.S. Committee on the Budget, residence of Representatives, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Tuesday, January 23, 2007. Http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07389t.pdf.

<7> established in 1935, Social protection is a U.S. Federal government program to provide benefits come retirees and also some other individuals, based on required contribute made throughout the individual’s working years.

<8> Almond.

<9> A ideal estate tax would involve placing a lid on the non-taxed portion of the estate and taxing the remainder in ~ a an extremely high steady rate v the proceeds going directly to social Security.

<10> Durant, 55.

<11> There room a number of websites dealing with these economic statistics. See: Michael Hodges. Grandfather economic Report, http://mwhodges.home.att.net. (no much longer accessible).

<12> Durant, 57.

<13> Barry Bluestone. “Household Incomes and also Housing Costs: A new Squeeze because that American Families,” testimony before the U.S. Residence of representatives Committee on gaue won Services, April 4, 2007. Http://www.house.gov/apps/list/hearing/financialsvcs_dem/htbluestone040407.pdf. (no longer accessible).

<14> Isabel V. Sawhill, john E. Morton. “Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and also Well?” Economic Monthly, Brookings Institute, may 2007. Http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2007/05useconomics_morton.aspx.

<15> It have to be listed that, in the genuine world, savings has three macroeconomic components: (1) an individual savings, (2) federal government savings, and (3) international investment (with one open economy coming from foreign savings). That is the foreign investment that is fueling our economic engine and keeping this nation afloat.

<16> Maria Bartiromo. Weekend wall Street newspaper Report with Maria Bartiromo, CNBC, The wall surface Street Journal, march 27, 2007.

<17> Ben S. Bernanke. “The worldwide Saving Glut and the U.S. Current Account Deficit,” remarks in ~ the Homer Jones Lecture, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Federal Reserve Board, April 14, 2005. Http://federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2005/20050414/default.htm.

<18> In economics, the resources account is just one of two primary materials of the balance of payments, the various other being the current account. The capital account documents all transactions in between a domestic and foreign separation, personal, instance that involves a adjust in the ownership of an asset. It is the net result of public and also private international investment flowing in and also out the a country.

<19> if China is not the just investor in the unified States, they space the many dominant. The world, uneven the unified States, has actually a savings glut.

<20> James Kynge. China Shakes the World, (Massachusetts: house Mifflin, 2006).

<21> One caution about China is that countless have noted that the Chinese people do not favor the Communist Party and also the vast majority wishes for a less corrupt, an ext equitable regime. One infinitesimal variety of people have actually benefited from financial development. For many Chinese, the emotion of deep-seated unjust is far greater than the hope because that a much better tomorrow. Hence, the cautionary comment around equilibrium is warranted because that China as well; your redistribution could lug poverty however again, v their prominence vastly diminished. Finally, that is quite feasible that the Chinese will certainly themselves face economic difficulties that will bring a major downturn.

<22> Kynge.

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<23> A sonnet written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1817 v the central theme of mankind’s hubris. Many think that Shelley condenses the history of not just Ozymandias’ rise, peak, and fall, but also that of whole civilization. See: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias, http://www.rc.umd.edu/rchs/reader/ozymandias.html.