According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), which keeps tabs on such things, the United States first dropped from Number One to Number Two last year in terms of being the most competitive economy and, this year, the country slid to Number Four, behind Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore.

The group also ranked the United States as Number One in “innovation” but 17th when it comes to “technological readiness,” with technology transfer and Internet bandwidth shown as being problematic. The WEF cites “a build-up in U.S. macroeconomic imbalances, a weakening of the country’s public and private institutions, and concerns about the state of its financial markets” as reasons for the change.

Access to financing is the top barrier to doing business here, the WEF notes, and I’ve heard this same opinion several times since the beginning of the year. For example, on a recent flight, I sat next to an analyst for T. Rowe Price, and we started discussing the state of the market and the progress of the economic recovery. He agreed that operators are hesitant to spend money on either infrastructure or personnel right now, but something else he said really got me to thinking. He believes the investment community now is sitting on $3 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”) that it’s refusing to spend to get the money ball rolling again in this country.

U.S. cable, wireless and telco operators have proved during the past two years that they have been able to do more with less – and even showing profits – but how sustainable is this, taking into account increased customer demands and upcoming government mandates ( i.e., the broadbanding of America)?

Here’s what William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution had to say to lawmakers and investors a few days ago: “Either we accept years of sluggish growth and high unemployment, or we shift to a new model that mobilizes the record level of private capital now sitting on the sidelines for public investments that will boost economic activity and employment in the short term, and economic productivity and growth in the long term, while generating rates of return sufficient to interest investors.”

And the Senate just gave the nod to a $30 billion government program to help open lending for credit-starved small businesses while cutting their taxes and boosting federal loan programs. Do you think enough is being done? Email me ( with your thoughts.

The Daily


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