Economic progress occurs when we have more and better consumer goods to enjoy. Because consumer goods are heterogeneous, it isn’t possible to scientifically measure economic growth. GDP is a crude attempt at a metric of our capacity to produce final goods and services. Private Product Remaining is a better metric, because it nets out of GDP, the influence of government.
GDP in 2012 was $16.2 trillion. In other words, the production of final goods and services in the United States during 2012 was $16.2 trillion. We do produce things. Exports minus Imports in 2012 was -$535 billion. So our trade deficit was 3.3 percent of GDP. Surely, these facts do not warrant the conclusion that “we don’t produce anything.”