Today's data release from the Federal Reserve shows that real net worth per capita rose again in 2005, and is now higher than before the bust. In 2005, real net worth per capita was $155.1 thousand, compared to $148.9 thousand in 2004 and $153.4 thousand in 1999 (all in 2005 dollars).

Real net worth per capita is household net worth, minus credit market liabilities of federal state and local governments, adjusted for inflation and population growth.

As long as real net worth is rising, the trade deficit is not a binding constraint. In effect, our assets are growing faster than our liabilities, including all the liabilities to the rest of the world.

(and for all you skeptics who believe that the housing wealth can't be monetized, remember that the rest of the world bought $172 billion in agency and gse securities in 2005, presumably mostly mortgage-backed securities).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE