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Spending Beyond Our Means: US Trade Balance By Decade

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How many zeroes are in 690 billion? Most of us need to write it out, just to make sure we’ve got our numbers straight. President Obama can probably tell you in his sleep. He’s presiding over a $690 billion trade deficit, the largest in the history of the United States, both as a number (that’s ten zeroes, by the way) and as a percentage of our country’s GDP (that’s 5%). Our latest infographic takes a look at deficit spending through the decades.

A trade deficit occurs when a country imports more goods and services than it exports. In the United States, imports have been out-sizing exports since the 1980s. In fact, the last time we produced a trade surplus was in 1975, with President Gerald Ford in residence at the White House. Ever since, our country has been living beyond its means, and the debt is steadily mounting.

Sound familiar? Many blamed the current economic crisis on the fact that millions of Americans spent more than they earned. Perhaps it’s in our genes.

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