The Significance of the Smithfield Acquisition

Chinese food giant Shuanhui  announced the purchase of Smithfield Foods this week.  This is a salient example of a process that has been underway for many years.

If one country has a 40 percent savings rate and another country has a zero percent savings rate, the country with the larger savings rate will, in time, buy all of the assets of the country with a zero savings rate.  That process is underway.

The US has had no net savings for several decades.  The reason for the absence of savings is twofold: 1) the private sector doesn't save because most Americans see no need; after all, the government guarantees income security and health care into old age (social security, medicare, medicaid); why bother to save (the Obama administration's recent suggestion to begin taxing IRA's provides some additional reasons for Americans to avoid saving); 2) the government sector is a big, big dissaver (that's what fiscal deficits are all about).

But America has investment spending.  Who provides the savings for this?  Foreigners.  Foreigners pay for this by buying up US assets.  Every year that passes, Americans own a smaller percentage of American stocks, American housing, American office buildings, etc.  Eventually, we will own nothing in this country.

Government policies that actively discourage savings work.  They are working now.  (Obama policies that actively discourage hiring work as well.  They are working now.  You get what you encourage and you lose what you discourage).


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