The United States has not run a trade surplus since 1975.

The United States' last trade surplus was in 1975, when Gerald Ford was President, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" won best picture, and toy rocks were a thing. Since then, the United States has racked up a 9.5 trillion dollar trade imbalance. America's nasty habit of consuming more than it produces will have serious consequences when the debt is called in. The United States needs to make sure that we are in a position to pay off our debt to the rest of the world on our own terms, by leading the world in high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-based service exports for which foreign consumers will want to spend hoarded dollars. To reach this objective, we should design policies that encourage Americans to substitute consumption for investment, lowering the current trade imbalance and setting the stage for future growth.