When the 1970 Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson was asked what it takes to win a Nobel Prize, he volunteered, "It doesn't hurt to have good students."
But even Samuelson's overachieving students -- he has taught economics at MIT for six decades -- sometimes need to be put in their place. At least that seems to be the subtext of a new Samuelson paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives..
While it is still unclear how large the trade problem will loom in the presidential election, there is surely plenty to be worried about. On several occasions under George W. Bush, the monthly trade deficit has exceeded the total annual deficit -- $41 billion -- in the entire last year of his father's administration. Of course, Bush Junior cannot be blamed entirely for the deterioration. In reality, most of it occurred under Bill Clinton. But even compared with the record trade deficit in Clinton's last year in office, last year's ran about 20 percent higher.
Free Flight: From Airline Hell to a New Age of Travel By
Public Affairs, 256 pages, $25.00
Breaking Gridlock: Moving toward Transportation That Works By Jim Motavalli.
Sierra Club Books, 304 pages, $23.00
If ever there were a time for top-to-bottom reassessment of the U.S.
transportation system, now is that time. James Fallows's Free Flight,
published last summer, and Jim Motavalli's just-released Breaking Gridlock
provide stimulating insights into the ways better technology and sensible
planning might come together to improve methods of travel.
By recent standards, the dismal U.S. trade figures for April 2000 counted as a relief. After all, imports fell slightly, and this helped narrow the trade deficit for the first time since August 1999.
So much for the good news. Now for the bad: At $30.4 billion, the April deficit was just fractionally below the record $30.6 billion deficit set in March. That makes it the second-highest deficit ever. Worse, the narrowing trade gap in April was evidently no more than a temporary aberration, reflecting an all too brief easing of world oil prices for a few weeks in the spring. The underlying trend remains worrisome--far worse than almost anyone has noticed.