Here's another look at the balance of payments data back to 1980 (BEA data here
), demonstrating graphically Don Boudreaux's statement
that "another name for “U.S. trade deficit
” is the “U.S. capital-account surplus
” – that is, inflows of investment funds into America that supply (directly or indirectly) financing for more capital creation in America."
As a direct consequence of our current account deficits, the U.S. economy has been the beneficiary of more than $8 trillion worth of capital inflows from foreigners since 1980. Because the Balance of Payment accounts are based on double-entry bookkeeping, the annual current account and capital account have to net to zero, so that any current account (trade) deficit (surplus) is offset one-to-one by a capital account surplus (deficit) and the balance of payments therefore always nets out to (equals) zero. And that's why it's called the "balance" of payments, because once we account for trade flows and capital flows, everything balances, and there are no deficits or surpluses on a net basis.