Photo: Stephen Saucier via Flickr
As tough macroeconomic headlines lead the S&P lower and political polemic turns the capital into K-Street, we thought it time to take a moment to appreciate all the good accomplished in the U.S.Pundits are quick to point to how the U.S. has fallen behind in innovation, but that’s not what we see.
We see a resilient people, continuing to create new markets and products. We see regulations that allow businesses to operate more efficiently than in nearly any other country in the world.
But that’s not all we see.
Of 227 countries and territories ranked by the CIA World Factbook, U.S. GDP per capita remains in the top 5%, behind natural resource heavy waits like Qatar and the U.A.E. GDP per capita currently stands at $47,200. In this chart from the St. Louis Fed, the rate has increased steadily since the 1960s, even after recessions have taken some bite from it. Already in 2010 and 2011, GDP per capita has re-accelerated as the overall economy begins growing.
American consumers and businesses have relative ease when accessing credit markets -- whether in opening a credit card or obtaining a revolving credit facility. Robust credit agencies and ratings firms provide financial institutions with the ability to judge those seeking credit accurately. Activity by ratings firms that resulted in the 2008 financial crisis put some of that into question. But overall bank lending has returned to healthier levels; measurements from the Fed's H.8 report puts the figure of loans and leases held by the nation's commercial banks at $6.9 trillion, up $130 billion from year ago levels.
DoingBusiness.org rates the U.S. as the seventh best country in terms of contract enforcement. The average time for a dispute to be resolved through American courts is 300 days, 42% less than OECD countries. Costs as a percentage per claim are also less than elsewhere, at 14.4%.
The U.S. is home to wildly inventive entrepreneurs who have shaped industry in nearly every form. Take e-commerce site Gilt Group, founded in 2007. In less than four years it has become a $500 million business with millions of members. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has had difficulty keeping up with all the new ideas sprouting from citizen minds. Last year a record 241,977 domestic patents were filed, nearly four times as many as in 1963.
Countries in Europe and Asia are facing serious concerns on projections that their populations will begin declining over the next few decades. The United Nations estimates that between 2015 and 2020, Germany, Japan and Russia will all see populations contract. The picture is rosier in the U.S., where immigration will offset a relatively slow birth rate. The CIA forecasts 13.8 births per 1,000 people in the U.S., placing it 148 out of 221 countries and territories.
Investor protections remain strong, and could grow even more stringent as Dodd-Frank legislation is implemented. A robust Securities and Exchange Commission continues to press into company misconduct, recently singling out Green Mountain Coffee Roasters for issues with filings. DoingBusiness.org ranks the U.S. fifth for best protecting investors on strong disclosure and director liability rules.
Inflation has remained relatively tame, even as the Federal Reserve aggressively targets monetary policy to stimulate job growth. In this chart from the St. Louis Fed, you can see how the change in the consumer price index stays under 5%. Last month's personal consumption expenditures of 1.6% fell below government targets of a 1.7% to 2.0% increase, good news for consumers.
Even with debt ceiling crisis that pushed the country to the brink, the U.S. remains a safe haven compared to other nations where ruling parties have been toppled and federal governments head towards delinquency. Even the European Union faced a ruckus when the fate of the European Financial Stability Facility was held by Slovakia, which had refused to sign off on the bill.
Corruption takes a massive toll on small businesses overseas; think police and politician payoffs and long procedural hurdles for approval. In Transparency.org's annual rankings of countries, the U.S. placed 22, between Belgium and France. Transparency.org looks at bribery in the public and private spheres and asks both experts and residents to weigh in. For the U.S., that translates to fewer public servants
The U.S. has a large and growing labour force, even as the baby boom begins to filter out in retirement. Compare that to rapidly growing countries like China, which has a quickly ageing population, causing shortages in labour and strains on pension funds. The U.N predicts that the proportion of China's population over 60 will rise from 12.3% in 2010, to 17.4% in 2030.
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