The dramatic decline of the U.S. dollar has left the greenback weaker than a 100-pound high school freshman, hitting a 15-month low last week.
That frailty has big and important ramifications for the national and local economies. But whether those ramifications are good or bad ... well, that depends on your circumstances.
Do you have, for example, a long commute and a gas-guzzling car?
Then the diminished dollar will hurt you, because it's making gasoline more expensive.
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Do you work for a company that exports or competes against foreign competition?
Then the weak dollar is helping to ensure the safety of your job, because it makes American products more attractive to shoppers.
Indeed, most economists believe the dollar's slide is helping the national economy and dulling the recession's effects. They say the nation's grim unemployment rate would be even more bleak if the dollar was eating its spinach.
That probably explains why the federal government seems less than fretful about a tumble that has the dollar down 18 percent against the euro in the past year, down more than 40 percent against the Australian dollar, and nearly at parity with the Canadian dollar.
Essentially, the weaker dollar is adding to the cost of nearly everything made overseas, from Japanese cars to French cheese. But it's making homemade products more competitive, leading to hopes for a revival of American manufacturing.
The reasons for the dollar's fall are complex, but are tied, at least in part, to U.S. policies designed to boost the economy - like printing huge amounts of money, spending in ways that increase the budget deficit or keeping interest rates low.
Hany Shawky, a State University of New York at Albany finance professor, believes government officials couldn't really boost the dollar - assuming they want to - without whacking our already wounded economy. They simply won't raise interest rates. Nor will they slash federal spending.
They also can't make foreign investors, whose worries also are driving down the dollar's value, more bullish about the U.S. economy. "We can't do any of the things that really prop up the dollar," Shawky says. "We can only pray that the economy gets better."
The Japanese are becoming increasingly grumpy about the dollar's fall. So are the Europeans. Both have economies that depend largely on selling things to Americans.
And while Parisians might be loathe to admit it, European wallets get a big bump from touring Americans. But they're not visiting as much these days. With the dollar so weak, they can't afford the trip.
Meanwhile, more Europeans are coming here.
Some economists, looking at long-term rather than short-term trends, worry that the dollar's value will continue to decline without changes from the federal government. If it falls too far, there could be grim consequences, including rapid inflation. Some even believe the dollar could lose its status as the world's reserve currency.