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Raiding US Piggy Banks

November 9, 1998



Much of the world's economic establishment is eagerly watching the spending habits of the American public.

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US consumers have helped prop up not only their own economy but also the exports of troubled Asian and Latin American economies.

So far Americans have not disappointed. Consumer confidence may be eroding, but spending continues. Americans as a whole dipped into savings for the first time in nearly 40 years in September - spending more than they earned. Obviously such negative savings cannot and should not go on for long. That's why it's imperative that other factors helping to reverse the global economic swoon go forward without delays or detours.

President Clinton exaggerated when he called the world's current slowdown "the biggest financial challenge in half a century." The crises and stagflation of 1973-1981 were worse.

But Clinton is right that stimulating growth in Japan is crucial to the recovery of Asia. Tokyo has started well. But it must follow through. Thailand, Korea, and other neighbors have courageously done their part. Japan has to keep its part of the bargain.