Such a claim by the critics is a-historical. America started with a subsistence level of standards of living in colonial days. They were exporting agricultural (e.g., tobacco, rice, etc.) and extractive resources (e.g., timber, fish, etc.) to England. Yet, by the time of the American revolution, American standards of living were on par with those in England. America continued to have comparative advantage in agricultural and extractive industries during the 19th century as it was becoming an industrial power. Even today, we export large amounts of agricultural and extractive goods. America is the world’s leading exporter of natural gas.
Similar stories could be told about other countries such as Canada.