Back in the 1980s, we were obsessed with the current account deficit. Every quarter, the deficit would be the subject of national self-flagellation. We've long stopped worrying about it -- various things like foreign debt and productivity have replaced as national sackcloth-and-ashes rationales, but for a while it was a big thing.

Paul Keating used to argue that the government's reforms and budget discipline would turn around the deepening deficit graph, which would thus turn into a "J". A cartoonist at one point had the current account deficit going off its wall chart, down the wall, and through a hole in the floor. Keating stood over the hole, with binoculars, peering down. "I swear it's a J!" he was saying.