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Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Really Worries American Business

The President's claim that we have a "crumbling" infrastructure is based on the World Economic Forum's rankings of factors that presumably affect international competitiveness. In reading their latest publication, I learned that their rankings are based on surveys of some 100 businesspersons/experts from each country. In other words, Ethiopians ranking of their infrastructure is compared with the rankings of U.S. businesspersons of U.S. infrastructure. This methodology yields all kinds of odd results, such as U.S. public trust in politicians being below Kazakhstan, Iran ranking better than the U.S. in favoritism of government officials, and so on.

Therefore, I suggest that in general the World Economic Forum's rankings are questionable, putting it  in the most favorable light. In some cases, it is better to ignore their results.

I did find one comparison that made sense and whose results are interesting. U.S. business persons are asked to select the most problematic factors in doing business.  Their answers show the real concerns of American business.  The results also make sense.

As the figure shows, the major concern is financing. Credit has dried up. No one is lending. We already know that; so this result makes sense.

The second greatest concern is bureaucracy. We suspected that, but here it is in numbers.

The next two concerns are tax rates and tax regulation. Again no great surprise. 

Although our inflation is low and the Fed tells us not to worry, concerns about inflation rank high, especially to those facing higher prices of materials.

The next two factors of concern are a poorly educated and motivated work force. 

Not surprisingly, businesses are worried about policy instability. They have been buffeted by too many changes in the last few years.

Two major policy issues -- health care and infrastructure concerns- rank among the lowest of concerns of American business persons.We spent the first three years of the Obama administration fighting about something the business community does not regard as a problem. We will begin a debate on a state infrastructure bank. The business community does not appear concerned about our "crumbling" infrastructure.

Studies such as these suggest we should not shoot from the hip in the upcoming political campaign. We should not assert concerns that are really not there.


  1. If Washington would tackle the top four, boy would you see job creation. But the idea that government spending will create jobs is ludicrous.

  2. The next two factors of concern are a poorly educated and motivated work force.

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