For the last couple of weeks, we've been asking for your ideas on whether America--despite its political dysfunction, government shutdowns, and slow growth--remains a strong investment for the future. Join the conversation here!
In the meantime, here are a few of the more interesting comments from readers.
Reader "erjlenz" sees the rise of the hard-line Tea Party contingent as increasing the riskiness of all U.S. investments and slowing future growth.
Yes, the US is still a good investment. But because of Tea Party Republicans, it is a less good investment. The mere fact that House Republicans even attempted to govern as a minority party via threat of default could increase borrowing costs forever for everybody.
Essentially, Republicans introduced risk into the one risk-free investment. And this one risk-free investment is used as a baseline to price all risky investments. And so, while we may not see it now (because of being up against the zero lower bound), it's entirely possible that in the future we could see a slight risk premium being charged to the US government that will increase the costs of borrowing for everybody else. In other words: priced into all investments is the assumption that Treasury payments are 100% certain; as long as this assumption is questioned in the minds of investors, then borrowing (for everybody) will cost a little more than it otherwise would have - stunting all future growth by a small, but not insignificant amount.
But reader "DOops" sees a different risk that emerges from the no-compromising stance of a large contingent of the House GOP. Not that it will cause a breakdown in American governance, but that it will cause a political backlash that will lead to one-party Democratic rule.
The market priced in the Teaparty rant a while ago. What they haven't priced in yet is the longer-term prospect of the teapartiers costing the GOP the House, leave alone not delivering the Senate or the White House. LIike most people, I believe in balanced government. I fear that a repeat of the one-party rule of 2008-12 will produce such uncertainty on taxes and social spending as to weigh the markets down in more than a cyclical way for several years.
And reader "csmith932" argues it is worth it to differentiate between different ways of investing in America.
Stocks? Don't bet on it. The profit growth upon which stock valuations are predicated simply cannot continue indefinitely, since it has relied on corporate profits continuing to grow as a share of the economy at the expense of wages. There's a mathematical limit of 100% on that. Long before that limit is reached, a limit of democratic legitimacy will put a damper on profits - i.e. the majority can only take so much of a beating before they strike back.
Bonds? They're a worthwhile gamble. The nihilistic political dysfunction in America is a passing phase. Reactionary politics are nothing new, but insurgents aren't supposed to actually gain power over the government. A perfect storm of partisan gerrymandering, general public malaise, and cynical big-money politics has temporarily empowered the anarchist wing of the Republican party, but if we can survive the next couple of years without default then the tea party will crawl back into the sewers and America will once again be the safest place in the world to park your cash.
General prosperity, i.e. invest your life as an American? That's a qualified yes. On one hand, the developing world is going to be a dynamic place to live as it plays catch-up to the developed world. On the other hand, part of the way poorer nations will play catch up is immigration to America - something that isn't really possible for our overcrowded European counterparts. Population growth - especially of young immigrants - will offset the graying of the population and drive GDP growth. This demographic trend plus the inevitable tipping of the scales back to wages from profits will make America the star of middle class prosperity in the developed world...although it could take 20-30 years to get there.