Repeat After Me: We Are Responsible for Our Own Mistakes

Fri, 26 Dec 2008 23:28:27 +0000

Mark Landler makes a number of good points in his New York Times article, "Chinese Helped Inflate American Bubble," but he leaves out the most important one. The U.S. government, on behalf of U.S. citizens, decided to run budget deficits during a fiscal expansion. U.S. consumers decided to use their lower tax burden during the last eight years to spend rather than save. No one else can be held responsible for those decisions.

The thrust of the article is that the willingness of the Chinese government to orient itself around exports, keeping its currency cheap (and thus the consumption of its citizens down), did enable us to make those decisions at a lower cost than we would have otherwise. The Chinese government was so desperate to hold Treasuries that it was willing to overpay for them. How did we take advantage of that willingness? We consumed rather than invested. We borrowed to buy houses, not infrastructure. Many things were possible -- we chose some of the least sensible things. The fault for that lies within our borders, not outside them.