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You say: "Sure, the trade deficit is scary -- but we can handle it" (News: The United States, May 23): Are you really so sure? Or are you impossibly over-optimistic? Few people can grasp how huge $1 billion is, let alone $696 billion. The first-quarter figure for 2005 represents a 12.8% jump from that of 2004 -- not a small leap by any means. Let the deficit continue to grow at this rate, and it will reach $1 trillion in 2008.
If 696 billion $1 bills were to be placed end to end, the notes would go 2,600 times around the globe. Do not bury your head in the sand. Already, each American, young and old, is $2,500 in debt (mainly from East Asians' generosity). How long can the U.S. really hold on -- never mind if productivity could stall or the housing boom pop?
Singapore When I read "Becoming America" (Books, May 30), the interesting analysis of David McCullough's 1776, I wondered if McCullough had forgotten French participation in the Revolutionary War? Does it reflect the current posture of a certain group of today's Americans who would like to erase the past in order to promote democracies around the world?
As a Dutch citizen, I find that the comparison with Russell Shorto's excellent book The Island at the Center of the World, which describes New Amsterdam's foundation and the imprint the Dutch settlers left on America, is glaring. The author tells us that the war between England and the Netherlands and the tolerance of the Dutch vs. the religious fanaticism of the Pilgrim Fathers have been almost completely obliterated in U.S. teaching of its history. In both cases the "old Europe" is dismissed. Who was it that said if one does not read history it comes back with a vengeance?
Maurice Hendrik Bood
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France One paragraph of "Kerkorian's axman cometh" (News: The United States, May 30), about Jerome B. York's acumen as a dealmaker, cost-cutter, and asker of "difficult questions" to management, concerns me. Notably a reference to his early days at IBM (IBM
): "At one meeting, [York] asked if anyone could recall a time when a company with a 4% share in a segment felled a rival with an 80% share. No one could. In 1995, IBM dumped OS/2."
What sort of a statement are the authors making? Do they think York might have told fellow directors not to bother -- if he had been on the board of Toyota Motor Corp. (TM
) before it took on mighty Detroit, or of Southwest Airlines before it started competing with American Airlines, or of my own company, currently supplying less than 1% of the gaming machine business in Asia Pacific? It makes for sassy sound-bite reading, but I seriously doubt that particular story is indicative of what makes him "Mr. Fix-It."
Tim Shepherd, CEO
Silver Heritage Ltd.
Hong Kong "I have been interested in U.S.-Asia business activity since serving as a General Electric Co. (GE
) executive in Japan in the early 1990s ("Battling Beijing with the gloves off," Editorials, May 30). The demand for "everyday low prices" -- advocated by U.S. consumers and merchants like WalMart Stores Inc. (WMT
) -- makes it inevitable that the U.S. will buy more from China and other nations with dramatically lower wages. The demand for corporate performance -- growth in revenue and profits -- makes it inevitable that U.S.-headquartered global corporations will look for low-cost, high-quality sources of products and services to compete effectively. Changes in the Chinese currency exchange peg may shift the trends slightly, but those fundamentals remain.
I believe the U.S. economy will creatively adapt to those realities, as we have done in the past, with positive consequences that might include: continuation of a "virtual foreign aid" program that is lifting millions out of poverty and starvation in places like China and India far more efficiently and effectively than many government-run foreign aid programs over the years. U.S. consumers may come to equate "everyday low prices" with "ever more jobs moving to low-wage countries" and alter their buying in the direction of U.S.-made products at sustainable prices and labor rates. And, of course, corporations would adjust their sourcing behavior to that change in consumer preferences operating globally, rather than with loyalties to any "home country," as they seek customers to satisfy, investments to make, and employees and shareholders to reward.
Dennis J. Crane
Covington, Ky. "Not enough power to the people" (Asian Business, May 23) reports that India is currently facing an electricity shortage of 13,000 megawatts a day. A shortage of 13,000 megawatts is 13,000 megawatts -- there's no need to qualify it by adding "a day."