Lot of buzz today about the Paul Krugman column in this morning's New York Times arguing that the Obama stimulus package may be too chintzy (see, e.g). Joel points to Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, making a similar argument here. Note in particular Wolf observing that Obama may be able to palliate matters in the short term, while the long term looks far dicier: "The opnly real way out for the Americans is to become a net exporter. … That's only possible if the rest of the world starts spending and buying American products, and that's stopped." I think I heard Krugman say something similar a couple of weeks ago: he could see relief in the near future, but he had difficulty writing the drama after that.
I've been reading some financial history lately, and it is unsettling to recall that there was a time when America made just a heck of a lot of stuff--cars and steel and aluminum and plastics and drugs and whatnot. Moreover we often made them under protection, de facto or otherwise. It's worrying to wonder whether we can learn to compete again--whether we ever knew how in the first place.