Happy Fourth of July, America! We’ve got some celebrating to do. Don’t listen to the naysayers who wring their hands over the U.S. debt ceiling or scold drought-ridden Texans that they shouldn’t be lighting firecrackers this year.
Let's listen instead to Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report: "If our Founding Fathers wanted us to care about the rest of the world, they wouldn't have declared their independence from it."
So it's official—America is still the best darn country in the world! In that spirit, here’s AdvisorOne's top 10 list of reasons why the USA is No. 1 on Independence Day.
#1: We Rule the Worldwide Stock and Bond Markets
A year after the financial crisis of 2008—at the height of the recession—U.S. equities nevertheless accounted for the greatest portion of the world’s stock, at $14.28 trillion, just under one-third of the global stock market value, according to the Asset Allocation Advisor.
U.S. bonds accounted for 38% of all global bonds, making the United States the largest player in the market. As of 2009, total debt outstanding in the worldwide bond market was an estimated $82.2 trillion, and of that, U.S. debt outstanding came to $34.3 trillion, says the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).
In stocks, the U.S. market may have lost a bit of its luster when the New York Stock Exchange and Euronext merged in 2007. Still, NYSE Euronext, NYSE Amex, NYSE Alternext and NYSE Arca today represent a third of the world's equities trading, the most liquid of any global exchange group. As of April 30, NYSE Euronext leads the U.S. market for initial public offerings and new listings in total capital raised and number of transactions for 2011, with $18.52 billion in IPO proceeds raised and 33 IPOS.
#2: The Almighty Dollar Is Just That
OK, so Moody’s and Standard & Poor's have both warned that the United States could lose its triple-A debt rating if our deficits aren't cut. But that hasn’t stopped the U.S. dollar from retaining its position as the world’s top currency.
Worldwide, the dollar is involved in 90% of all transactions, and it is the world’s foremost reserve currency.
“The dollar remains pre-eminent as the world's primary currency, and no other paper currency has the market presence to take over for the greenback. Neither do gold or silver,” said the Los Angeles Timesin April.
No. 2: Bill Gates, $56 billion, Microsoft mogul and now co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
No. 3: Warren Buffett (left) $50 billion, Berkshire Hathaway CEO and everybody’s favorite stock-picking oracle.
No. 5: Larry Ellison, $39.5 billion, college-dropout CEO of another kind of Oracle—the highly successful computer software company.
Who got the No. 1 spot? Sadly, it did not go to the United States. It went instead to our southern neighbor, Mexico, whence Telmex Chairman Carlos Slim Helú originates. His net worth totals $74 billion in 2011. The No. 4 spot goes to a Frenchman, Bernard Arnault, whose chairmanship of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy has helped earn him a fortune of $41 billion.
#4: We’re Home to the World’s Largest Companies
Welcome to Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest employer, counting 2.1 million workers as of 2009 (some of them numbering among the 1.6 million women whose sex-discrimination lawsuit was recently thrown out of Supreme Court).
In 2010, CNNMoney counted the Bentonville, Ark.-headquartered mega-corporation as the world’s largest company overall, with profits of $14 billion and revenues of $408 billion.
In 2011, The Financial Times reported in its FT Global 500 that Exxon Mobil resumed its position as the world’s most valuable company and PetroChina is No. 2. This followed the shocking results in 2010 that favored China over the United States, when for the first time, a Chinese company, PetroChina, had overtaken Exxon Mobil as the world’s most valuable company.
#5: Who Is the World’s Military Leader? That Would Be U.S.
We spend more money on the military—by far—than any other country in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. The U.S. military budget is $515 billion compared to a paltry $100 billion for China and $53 billion for the United Kingdom, the latest statistics show.
For overall military might, www.globalfirepower.com ranks the United States first, followed by China, Russia, India and the U.K.
#6: Barack Obama Is the Most Famous Living Person in the History of the World
Like him or not, U.S. President Barack Obama is the most famous living person in the history of the world.
So says Dee Dee Myers on Huffington Post. (Myers served as White House press secretary during President Bill Clinton’s first term and is author of The New York Times bestseller Why Women Should Rule the World.) To quote: “Barack Obama is the most famous living person in the history of the world.”
There’s really nothing more to say here, except that U.S. President Barack Obama is the most famous living person in the history of the world.
#7: Times Square Is the Most Popular Travel Destination in the World
Tourists from far and wide love to visit New York City’s Times Square! Broadway! Bright lights, big city, sweating bodies in ill-fitting garments, large groups of gawkers suddenly lurching to a halt in the middle of the sidewalk, conflicting smells, pickpockets, The Naked Cowboy, loud noises, cheap trinkets, angry taxi drivers, suspicious suitcases left in the middle of the street…. What’s not to love?
Note: While Forbes Traveler lists Times Square as the most popular travel destination in the world, at an estimated 35 million annual visitors, the World Tourism Organization lists France as the most visited country, with the United States coming in third after Spain. Quel dommage.
#8: Hollywood Is the Movie Capital of the World
Step aside, Bollywood and Hong Kong action flicks. Hollywood is the movie capital of the world. British website www.hollywoodusa.co.uk/ says so, so it must be true:
“Hollywood is the land of stars to its visitors, you can visit your favorite Celebrity Grave or drive past Celebrity Homes and Famous Hollywood Houses. Whilst driving you will also recognize many famous Hollywood Film Locations, from films which the stars appeared in. The world famous Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard and Sunset Strip are just a few minutes away, as is the Hollywood Bowl, and opposite is the historic ‘Barn’ where the worlds first full length movie was made.”
Not convinced? How about this: according to the Internet Movie Database, unadjusted for inflation, American-made films Avatar and Titanic are the top-grossing films of all time. (Never mind that the director of both films, James Cameron, is Canadian.) Avatar opened in 63 countries in December 2009 and has pulled in $2.78 billion in worldwide box office grosses as of Thursday, while second-ranked all-time top-seller Titanic has grossed $1.84 billion. The all-time champ, adjusted for inflation, is still Gone With the Wind.
#9: The World’s Biggest Drinks Are American
America's favorite convenience chain, 7-Eleven, is home to Big Bite hot dogs and microwaveable burritos at 3 a.m., and what other country can lay claim to that unless it, too, has 7-Eleven stores? Perhaps more importantly, 7-Eleven is also home to the 44-ounce Super Big Gulp fountain soft drink. That's 1.3 liters for you foreigners.
The drink is so big that it has its own Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Super-Big-Gulp/127056265704
In the spirit of good old-fashioned American competitiveness, Starbucks this year launched its own giant drink, a 31-ounce cold cup size called “Trenta," available in all U.S. stores as of May 3.
“Why did we launch the Trenta? We listened to you,” the company says on its website. “You told us on My Starbucks Idea and through your purchases that you love refreshing iced coffee and tea beverages but want them in a larger size. Did you know that over 60% of our iced tea customers currently order our largest size, the 24-ounce Venti?”
#10: We’re the Fastest People on the Planet—Regardless of Size
Of the top 12 all-time fastest in the men’s 100-meter sprint, the United States numbers five runners, more than any other country, including Tyson Gay (center, setting a new American record in 2008 with a time of 9.77 in the men's 100-meter race at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.), Maurice Greene, Leroy Burrell, Justin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers.
But that’s not all. According to Guinness World Records, the heaviest person to complete a marathon is an American, Kelly Gneiting, who completed the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon weighing 400 pounds on March 20.
“Gneiting, a national champion sumo wrestler, finished the race in 9 hours, 48 minutes, 52 seconds,” Guinness reported. "Gneiting weighed 400 pounds a half hour before the start of the race and had dropped to 396.2 pounds by the conclusion.”
Go, USA! And have a happy Independence Day.
(Photos on pages 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11: The Associated Press)