Earlier this week, I awoke to an email from a Costa Rican friend of mine who works for a large broker/investment bank in institutional equity sales. He forwarded me a Joseph Stiglitz article from the Financial Times arguing that America is no longer the land of opportunity. While Mr. Stiglitz makes some relevant points regarding income inequality and the potential negative effects on economic growth and social stability; I could not disagree more with his overall position that America is “no longer the land of opportunity.”
When it comes to creating, growing and managing businesses there is no place on earth like the USA, and therefore it is still the greatest engine for wealth generation, poverty reduction and increased standard of living the world has ever seen. Let’s look at the facts:
1. The United States is by far the largest and most productive economy on the planet. While the US is home to only 4.5% of the world´s population, it is responsible for more than 20% of global GDP. Compared to China, the US economy is twice the size and trounces China´s per capita GDP by a margin of $48,387 to $5,414. Source: US Trust Capital Market Outlook June 2012
2. The fact that the US runs a constant trade deficit seems to make everyone forget that it is the world´s largest exporter of goods and services as well as the second largest manufacturer behind only China. So, yes, America is still in the business of making things. Value of Exports: Unites States $2,103 B, China $2,086 B, and Germany $1,726 B. Source: US Trust Capital Market Outlook June 2012
3. America is still home to the most powerful and valuable brands in the world. In fact, of the top 100 over 50 are American and if we look at the top 10 brands, 90% are American. How do you like them Apples?
(I am surprised China Mobile even made the list with Facebook now public.)
4. The United States is the undisputed champion when it comes to entrepreneurial culture and investment in technology. This position allows the US to attract and retain the top talent from across the globe to further cutting-edge research, development and innovation.
Global IT Spending 2011
5. Lastly, and in my opinion, the most definitive rebuttal to the claim that the US is “no longer the land of opportunity” is the fact that the USA is once again the world´s top choice for greenfield FDI projects. As Joseph Quinlan from US Trust stated, “it is precisely this type of investment that is new and additive to the productive stock of the nation; practically speaking, it´s about turning a greenfield into a factory, plan or industrial park that creates new jobs and churns out goods.” So Mr. Stiglitz, if the rest of the world is willing to put their money to work in the US it must be because they see an opportunity.
Number of Greenfield FDI Projects in US vs China:
In summary, I do agree with Mr. Stiglitz that the gap between the rich and the poor is at historically high levels and probably not sustainable or beneficial to the society as a whole. However, I am encouraged by the facts, and they indicate that the US is still the land of opportunity. I personally continue to look for investment opportunities in strong US companies that are benefitting not only from the improving US economy, but also the global growth story fueled by emerging markets. Thanks for reading and good luck.
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of his employer or any other person or entity.
No positions in any of the securities mentioned at the time of publication.