It has been said that the hegemony of the US within the international
financial system amounts to an arrangement in which the US makes the
dollars while the rest of the world makes the things they can buy. The
comment is an exaggeration of course, but given the increasing
indebtedness of the US as its balance of payments deficit climbs to
over $500 billion per year it does contain more than an element of
The US rose to global pre-eminence in the twentieth century on the
basis of the vast growth of its manufacturing industries. Today,
however, major US corporations are becoming increasingly dependent on
profits derived from the provision of financial services.
Recent results from General Motors-the world's largest
manufacturing company-are a case in point. In the second quarter of
this year, despite a weak economy and falling car sales, the company is
BusinessWeek recently commented: "These days, GM looks more like a
financial institution that happens to sell cars and trucks than a
It does not seem likely that profits from car and truck making are
going to increase in the near future. Faced with over-capacity and with
inventories running 21 percent above normal, GM will cut production in
the third quarter and expects to lose heavily million on its auto
The GM result raises questions about how secure are profit figures from
other major corporations. As a recent Reuters report noted, despite the
predictions of an economic rebound, "revenue growth remains
elusive" and there are concerns that companies are "cutting
corners" to reach profit forecasts.
Besides the GM result, the report noted that much of Coca-Cola's jump
in profit was due to the impact of a lower tax rate and a weaker US
dollar. IBM matched Wall Street forecasts but relied on acquisitions
and foreign exchange gains to generate a increase in revenue. Microsoft
reported a gain in its investments of which most came from interest
income. United Technologies, which makes elevators, jet engines and
helicopters, reported an increased profit due to cost-cutting and
increased global sales. But it later disclosed that half of the profit
growth came as a result of changes in foreign exchange operations.
The increasing dependence of US corporations on financial operations to
boost profits and the continued decline of US manufacturing
industry-more than two million manufacturing jobs have been lost in
the past two years-have drawn attention to comments by US Federal
Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan. Speaking at the House Financial
Services Committee last month, Greenspan questioned whether the US
needed a manufacturing industry at all.
"Is it important for an economy to have manufacturing?" he asked.
"There is a big dispute on this issue. What is important is that
economies create value, and whether value is created by taking raw
materials and fabricating them into something consumers want, or value
is created by various different services which consumers want,
presumably should not make any significant difference so far as
standards of living are concerned because the income, the capability to
purchase the goods is there."
In other words, so long as it is possible to "make the dollars"
through financial operations, it does not matter how the commodities
and services they are used to purchase are created.
are true. But the situation changes when the issue is examined from the
standpoint of the economy as a whole. Here the crucial question is
whether a particular type of economic activity involves the extraction
of additional surplus value from the workforce or whether its profits
come from the appropriation of a share of surplus value that has been
created elsewhere in the economy.
If, for example, a bank lends money to a corporation to manufacture
commodities or to a high-tech firm to provide computer software, the
bank will make a profit from the interest it charges on its loans. But
that interest does not represent additional wealth. It is a portion of
the surplus value obtained by the corporation from the employment of
its workforce but which it is forced to hand over to the bank.
While financial institutions play a crucial role in the functioning of
the modern capitalist economy the profits they obtain for their
"services" do not represent an addition to the overall mass of
surplus value but are an appropriation of already created surplus
In other words, the profits obtained by these institutions are the
result of essentially parasitic activity. As can sometimes occur in
Nature, this parasitism performs a necessary function-no modern
economy, and certainly not manufacturing industry, would be able to
operate without the provision of financial services. But when the
profits derived from what are essentially parasitic financial
operations start to assume ever increasing importance-even to the
extent that manufacturing corporations such as General Motors become
dependent on them-it is a sure sign of a crisis in the very heart of
the capitalist economy itself.
The major manufacturing companies are bound to go under and be gone in
a few months or years if they continue on this route. As it looks now
the management in these companies do not seem to be in touch with
reality and think that because they have been big in the past and
always been able to borrow money that this is just a bubble that will
pass. The reality will catch them by surprise soon and even if the debt
is huge and it will rock the foundation of the USA someone will be
coming to point at the naked men and wonder why they think they have
everything in order.
Is that a deficit of payments or a deficit or trade?
There's a huge difference. A deficit of payments is essentially credit, but
a deficit of trade only means that you buy more stuff overseas than you
sell. If you pay for the stuff you buy, there is no credit with the selling
country(ies), and no deficit of payments.
Vehicle sales were down by about 1,500,000 in 2005 vis a v 2004, which was a
record year. It is light truck and SUV sales that are down, not cars sales,
in general. More importantly US manufactured vehicle retail selling prices
are down, as much as $5,000 on some light trucks. Lower prices, fewer sales
and growing costs are having an effect on the manufactures.
As the economy, it is certainly not weak. It is the largest economy in the
history of the country and the federal treasury is taking in more money than
at any time in our history as a result, particular since the recent tax RATE
cuts were enacted. The problem is with increased domestic spending in time
of war. Unlike WWII American are not willing to sacrifice to protect their
own freedom, they still expect the government to provide even more freebees
every year, like free prescription drugs.
Unlike my generation, individual responsibility is no longer something many
Americans care about. It some body else's fault or somebody else should pay
my bills. The Dims in Congress, for six years, have been preventing most
every cost cutting bill coming from the Houses, from getting through the
Senate. The Dims support any bill that spends more money so they can take
credit on election day for 'supporting the troops and helping the working
man' knowing they can blame the Republicans for deficit spending because
many of the uninformed in this country THINK the Republicans 'control all
three branches.' You hear the Dims doing it every day, all the while
voting for every spending bill, even for the war in Iraq they say they do
not support. In the end we all loose.
I agree to a certain extent with what you say, but there is one thing that I
have to put in my two cents about. The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
is a sham and the government did it to themselves for no other reason than
stupidity and greed. By law, Medicare is prevented from negotiating with
the drug companies for bulk discount rates and must pay retail price for the
medications. This is insanity. Ever since the Drug Benefit was enacted,
the pharmaceutical companies raised the prices on the top 20 medications
prescribed to seniors by as much as 3 times the previous amount, and by law
Medicare must pay the price.
Whatever drug company lobbiest got that provision put into the bill when it
was being passed certainly earned his bonus that day. The Drug Benefit had
the potential for producing possibly billions of dollars in savings but not
for the stupidity and greed of our elected officials in DC. Now it's going
to cost us more than it will ever save.
Cheers - Jonathan
I find that not to be the fact, competition for people to buy a from a
particular insurer for their drug coverage has LOWERED the price. I never
applied for SS benefits, nor do I use Medicare but for me to be able to BUY
the kind of medical coverage that I want, from any insurer I must buy part
'B.' Since I have part 'B' I must receive drug coverage from my insurer.
The coverage has result in a saving of nearly $2,400 a year in premiums,
drugs, co-pays and all with no deductibles. The government does NOT pay for
the drugs when one has an HMO, PPO, or private insurance. Those companies
receive a set amount of money from the government for each person over 65 in
their area, that signs with that company, whether you use any service or
not. Capitalism at work. These insurers negotiate with the drug
companies, just as they do with the doctors and hospitals for rates for
services for their members. If you don't have an HMO, PPO or private
carrier you should look into them, in Florida the coverage is FREE to their
members since there are so many elderly people.
Why do you believe it is the governments responsibility to provide your
healthcare or prescription drugs? The government does nothing to produce
income, it can only take money from those that do.
The problem with this analysis is that GM and Ford's troubles have nothing
to do the fact that they manufacture cars in the US versus overseas. Toyota,
Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and others have significant manufacturing capability
in the US and are investing billions in more capacity.
The real problem with GM and Ford is the labor unions and the huge benefit
packages that they pay out (in excess of $20 per hour just in benefits). No
company can survive paying $20 per hour in benefits on top of $20 per hour
It is true that the US dollar has been traditionally overvalued, primarily
for political reasons in that it is the most stable government in the world,
backed by a strong economy and strong military. But as oil prices rise
(world oil prices are tied to the US dollar) and the dollar decreases in
value, that makes manufacturing in the US much more attractive, which is why
foreign auto companies are investing heavily in the US.
If the underpaid American workers, in the Japanese US assemble plants, were
smart they would be joining a Union as well. As it is Americans are paying
a 20% to 30% premium to buy a Japanese car and they and the worker in the
plant are subsidizing the Japanese corporation, just as does the Japanese
government with huge incentives to bring back foreign capital to Japan.
Toyota corporation and the Japanese government are making billions on the
hard work of the American workers, and short sighted American consumers,
just as did the Japanese Emperor and the futile Lords before WWII.
Perhaps it is time for the US federal government to level the playing field
for Japanese corporation operating in the US, much as the way it is in
Europe for foreign corporations like Ford and GM of Europe. Japanese
companies are not doing nearly as well in Europe where the tax laws do not
allow the Japanese corporations to benefit from the subsidies provide by the
Japanese government in Japan and the US. Either that or the US government
must subsidize the US auto industry, to the tune of 1,000,000,000,000, as
does the Japanese.
It makes one wonder why Americans continue to buy from foreign companies and
foreign manufactures to save a few dollars, that is the cause of all that.
They are simply exporting their own jobs and those of their children and
grand children. Individual consumer greed is a terrible thing for any
economy. Americans should be more like the Japanese consumer who only buy
imported products when a similar product, made by a Japanese company, is not
available. The education system in this county no longer teaches basic
economics nor does it promote patriotism and it is sad. Hell half of the
people in the US do not even want to fight for their own freedom. Americans
are not willing to protect their own economy but they want those that
do produce wealth in this county to pay higher taxes so the government will
give them their basic needs for free. Where do people think the government
gets the money, certainly not from foreign corporations. If we lose those
willing to volunteer to fight and die for this county then we will all be
wearing beards and berkas and it WILL be the end of the US
You make a good point here, but to be effective products need to be
labeled as to country of manufacture or non USA content in %.
Of course GM would lobby against such a move. Those foreign made cars
GM sells would be a very poor image for good old USA GM.
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