Glass Half Full, America

Posted by on Jul 4, 2012

I’m a Brit who is lucky enough to live in America. I hugely admire this great nation of yours.

But on July 4th, I feel it my duty to say to you, America – you’re getting perilously close to acting like the country you sought independence from in 1776. Then you will be in trouble.

In Britain we are self deprecating to the point of the glass always being half empty, which may be charming, but is often self-defeating. We may still sing with much gusto that “Britannia Rules The Waves”, but it obviously doesn’t. We Brits accept that the empire has been consigned to the history books, where it will remain. I am so proud to be British – (this is me in a Union Jack outfit extolling my place of birth on American television), but although we Brits will always make a unique contribution to the world, we’re never again going to be its most powerful player.

But you, America, still are. Perhaps because you’re currently experiencing the worst election that money can buy, the positives are being drowned out. Let me remind you of some of them.

America is still, by far, the world’s largest economy, with a GDP of more than $15 trillion. To put it into perspective, the world’s second largest economy, China, is at around $7 trillion. A survey earlier this year by the consultant Accenture, found that 40% of companies moving manufacturing operations in the past two years had moved them to the US, compared with 28% that moved facilities to China.

Even if China does become the world’s largest economy (optimistic, see below), it has been before – in the early 19th century, but that didn’t make them top dog. Europe, especially Britain, was ruling many a wave back then. Likewise, America will be the real power – China’s GDP per capita will still be smaller than America’s and it doesn’t have political stability. America, you coped with the Soviet Union sitting menacingly on the doorstep of all your allies, and the rise of Japan’s economy. You’ll manage the dragon.

Here’s the thing – the rest of the world would love to have America’s so-called decline right now. The United States’ share of world GDP was roughly 25% in 1969 — and is still roughly 25%. Measure America against other developed countries and it has done well since the credit crisis of 2008. Of the G7 countries only Canada has done better – but even it had one quarter in 2011 where the economy declined. Not America, where of 14 developed world economies, it was the only one to show consistent growth over the most recent four quarters and has reported a growing economy for 11 consecutive quarters. There’s even glimmers of hope in the housing sector. In May, sales of existing homes rose 9.6% and other indicators suggest the market will continue on an upward trajectory.

Admittedly the United States’ recovery could be faster, but speaking as someone whose homeland is going through a double dip recession, we’d be happy to swap these sort of improving economic indicators. If you need further convincing, let’s just take a further look at how your competitors are doing.

We’ll begin with the much vaunted BRICs – Brazil, Russia, China and India. All are facing some big hurdles. In Brazil, there are major issues with manufacturing. Russia is an oil based economy with not much else going for it and it needs oil to be at $117 a barrel for its budget to break even. Oil is currently at around $100 – no wonder Putin looks even more murderous than usual. India has multiple issues including problematic politicians and bureaucracy, a falling rupee, double-digit consumer inflation and a rising trade deficit. Meanwhile, China has a multitude of difficulties – manufacturing in decline, the threat of the housing sector bubble bursting big-time and political instability.

Europe? Well we basically invented civilization and are now doing our level best to destroy it, ourselves first.

Of course there are issues with the American economy. But here’s the thing, when the US is down, it comes back stronger than before. The 1890s, the 1930s and the 1970s were all lows. But then came the fight back and highs of the 1910s, the 1940s and the 1980s.

America is still exceptional. Your military is by far the strongest in the world, with the United States spending more on defence than the rest of the other great powers combined. Silicon Valley is spearheading the future.

I was asked in an interview the other day what I liked most about America. My reply? That you see the glass as half full. Don’t lose that positivity – it drives you.

It is of course vital to be aware that there is much to fix in this nation of yours, but as long as you see the glass as half full, the American dream will still exist – in minds and reality.