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What does this sentence mean?

The private sector is seeking to run down its debts.

A similar construction is the following one:

The Janets must be prepared to dissave, to run down their assets.

Is "to run down your assets" the same as "to dissave"? Do these expressions more broadly mean "to spend", or is there any subtle difference between them?

For reference, the above quotes were taken from http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/death-by-accounting-identity/ and http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/death-by-hawkery/.

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I see three questions here. Could they maybe be split into three questions? –  Flimzy Nov 25 '11 at 18:16
    
meaning of dissave –  Matt Эллен Nov 25 '11 at 20:03
    
@Flimzy Paragraph 6 of the original article; eight paragraph, counting the new introduction. –  Jadasc Nov 25 '11 at 20:29
    
@Jadasc: That's not the original quote :) The one I couldn't find was "The Sams must be prepared to to run down their assets." –  Flimzy Nov 25 '11 at 20:30
    
@Flimzy Ah. Noted. :) –  Jadasc Nov 25 '11 at 20:31
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closed as not a real question by simchona, kiamlaluno, MrHen, Daniel, Mitch Dec 7 '11 at 18:15

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3 Answers

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Answering the first one - "running down debt" means to actively reduce the debt. Debt planning is expected to have a lifespan based on certain assumptions. If the core assumptions change, the original plan may no longer be the most profitable/cost effective/efficient solution so a new model may require some of that debt to be offloaded by changing the balance of payments to give a net gain.

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In both these sentences, run down means reduce, as is clear from the context.

This usage seems to me to be economics jargon, as I haven't heard run down used in this way otherwise.

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It's not common in economics, probably more of a nonce usage than anything. –  Charles Nov 26 '11 at 20:07
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According to Merriam-Webster (and backed up by Wikipedia), to "dissave" is to pay off current expenses using saved money. That's different than simply spending liquid cash — if you're dissaving, you're explicitly draining your reserves. (Thus, the reverse of the act of saving, which would build up your stores of money.)

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