WASHINGTON - The American Century is dead. Long live the next American Century.
The subtext of political debate these days is that the United States is in decline - a proposition often portrayed as self-evident.
The economy lacks dynamism; unemployment near 8 percent remains at recession levels. The president and his Republican critics barely talk to each other. Stalemate seems unending.
But what if America isn't in decline?
A powerful rebuttal comes from an unlikely place: Wall Street.
In a report to clients, analysts at Goldman Sachs argue that the United States still has the world's strongest economy - and will for years. There is a growing "awareness of the key economic, institutional, human capital and geopolitical advantages the U.S. enjoys over other economies," contend Goldman's analysts.
As proof, they deploy voluminous facts.
- For starters, the U.S. economy is still the world's largest by a long shot. Gross domestic product (GDP) is almost $16 trillion, "nearly double the second largest (China), 2.5 times the third largest (Japan)."
- Per capita GDP is about $50,000. Although 10 other countries are higher, most are small - say, Luxembourg. The size of the U.S. market makes it an attractive investment location.
- Next, natural resources. In a world ravenous for food and energy, the United States has plenty of both.
Its arable land is five times China's and nearly twice Brazil's.
The advances in fracking and horizontal drilling have opened vast natural gas and oil reserves that, until recently, seemed too expensive to develop. The International Energy Agency predicts that the United States will become the world's largest oil producer - albeit temporarily - by 2020.
In turn, the oil and gas boom bolsters employment.
A study by IHS, a consulting firm, estimates that it has already created 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs.
By 2020, there should be 1.3 million more, reckons IHS. Secure and inexpensive natural gas also encourages an expansion of U.S. manufacturing, Goldman argues. That's another plus.
Poorly skilled workers are often counted as a U.S. economic liability. Goldman's perspective is different.