What Every American Needs To Understand About The Economy

Monday, January 24, 2011
By Paul Martin

Richard Duncan

As the United States debates its economic future in light of large government budget deficits, it is important that the public has a clear understanding of how the economy works. A good starting point for understanding how the economy works is to understand how it is measured.
Economies are measured in terms of their Gross Domestic Product or GDP. GDP is made up of personal consumption expenditure, private investment, net trade (i.e. exports minus imports) and government spending at both the federal level and the state and local level. If the size of each of these components is known, it is only necessary to add them together to find the size of the whole economy. In 2009, the United States GDP was $14.1 trillion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Of that amount, spending on personal consumption accounted for 71% or $10 trillion; private investment 11% or $1.6 trillion; and government spending 21% or $2.9 trillion, with federal government spending of $1.1 trillion and state and local government spending of $1.8 trillion. Net trade deducted 3% or $390 billion from GDP because exports from the US were $390 billion less than imports into the US.

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