Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Weakening of the Dollar is Spooky

Last night, ``NBC Nightly News'' ran this succinct report on the consequences of the weakening of the US dollar. The network hooked its story on the proposed takeover last week of Anheuser-Busch, which makes Budweiser, by InBev, a Belgian beer company. The report also refers to the possible transfer of the Chrysler Building to foreign ownership.
The point is that the extent to which fewer American-based manufacturers and pieces of real property in America owned by Americans, the standard of living here will go down. The big money behind our business and our real estate migrates. As the report quotes one of its sources:
``We've been buying more than we've earning, and as a consequence the world wants to be paid. And the only thing we have left to pay them with is our property.''
The only trouble with the story is that it does not say one way or the other whether it is too late to do anything about the problem. And if it is not too late, what can government do about it? How should individuals change their habits?
We can't kill this recession through a program of conspicuous consumption. After all, the weakening of the dollar was caused by ``buying more than we've been earning'' (read=consumer and government debt). As a whole, we certainly aren't earning a lot now. I don't see how more conspicuous consumption on credit would suddenly bring about a positive result.
Furthermore, when we talk about consumption, we talk inevitably about using up petroleum and food. Energy is involved in the production and transportation of everything, and corn is used in production of food, goods, and fuel itself. The supply of gas is finite, the supply of corn short. The laws of supply and demand dictate the price of these can only rise.
We also have to do away with government debt in the form of massive military budgets. For what it's worth, I elaborate on that a little here.
All of this is scaring the hell out of me.
``Somebody get me a Bud. I want to get a little wiser.'' -- Mississippi bluesman R.L. Burnside, from the stage of the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Massachusetts, around November 1995.

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