Slowly, the U.S. economy has been gaining steam and rhetoric in Washington has seemed a little less painful. Perhaps that’s only apathy caused by four years of unease and turmoil. But the picture is definitely not nearly as bleak as in Europe.Sure, economic data can be spun, and pundits who wish to point that the country’s best may be behind it have ammunition.
But, we see a country that is ready to innovate, get back on its feet, and put people back to work.
Of 227 countries and territories ranked by the CIA World Factbook, U.S. GDP per capita remains in the top 5%, behind natural resource heavyweights like Qatar and the U.A.E. GDP per capita currently stands at $47,200. This rate has increased steadily since the 1960s, even after major recessions took some bite from it. Already in 2010 and 2011, GDP per capita has re-accelerated as the overall economy returned to growth.
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 relatively accurately. Sure, the 2008 financial crisis put the rating's agencies' credibility 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 $152 billion from levels a year ago.
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.
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.
Investor protections remain strong, and could grow even more stringent as Dodd-Frank legislation is implemented. 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. The change in the consumer price index stays under 5% for years. 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.
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 other OECD countries. Costs as a percentage per claim are also less than elsewhere, at 14.4%.
While the debt ceiling crisis seemed to have 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 in the European Union, the smallest member nations have the capacity to hold the whole region hostage.
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.
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.