PUBLIC OPINION polls indicate that many Americans are convinced that the U.S. is declining rapidly from its long-established position of global economic leadership; the country is headed in the wrong direction; Pres. Barack Obama badly has mishandled the economy; and Congress is not to be trusted. Who can blame the public for its loss of confidence in the nation's future? Recovery from the Great Recession has been sluggish; "real" unemployment has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression, especially for adult men (the actual unemployment rate for 1 adult males is nearly 20%, about double the government's estimate of 10%); the real estate market remains stagnant; and gas prices are soaring. Despite these dire straits, the wealthiest Americans have become richer--income distribution in the U.S. is the most unequal among developed countries--while large corporation have reported record profits and the stock market has recovered from the 2008-09 collapse of share prices.
The real income of American workers essentially has stagnated since the 1970s, while that of male workers, the traditional breadwinners for most families, has, in many cases, declined. The Federal government has relied upon massive deficit spending measures to stimulate the economy--with scant effect except for creating greater uncertainty. Most individuals believe that their prospects are bleak because the economy is burdened with excessive debt and jobs continue to be outsourced mailnly to China and India, among other countries.
This concern is well-founded, although Pres. Barack Obama and his liberal Democratic cohorts contend that these difficulties can be overcome quickly and the nation's leadership role reclaimed. However, the specter of "declinism" simply cannot be wished away, as the economists point out with their warning about the recession: this time it is different.
The world has changed significantly since the astonishing breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 allowed the U.S. to emerge as the sole economic and military global superpower. However, it looks as if the U.S. may be headed to second-role status, as has been the case with all other great nations throughout the long sweep of history. Historians have been only too eager to explain the process. There are the dreary comparisons to the abrupt decline of the British Empire following World War II with the relatively short period of American dominance after the breakup of Russian-styled communism. Historians also have pointed out the parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and the precarious nature of the U.S.'s global leadership.
Measured solely in economic terms, the U.S. still maintains the world's largest economy (with only four percent of the world's population of 7,000,000,000 people), although China, India, and Brazil are gaining. The U.S. has an impressive industrial base, an aging infrastructure, an entrepreneurial culture committed to promoting economic growth, a tradition of technological innovation, most of the world's leading universities, and a well-educated labor force. However, this once-proud nation is saddled with a government that seems determined to bury its citizens under a blizzard of deficit spending amid a host of taxes and regulations that are strangling economic growth.
Paraphrasing Mark Twain's famous comment about his reported demise, the rumors of the passing of American industry have proven to be somewhat premature, even given the emergence of China as the "new workshop of the world." Despite widespread fears to the contrary, the U.S. still has the world's largest manufacturing sector as measured by the dollar value of its goods. This has been made possible by the transition of its mature manufacturing base into a more vibrant sector producing goods in modern factories, with cutting edge technologies coupled with extensive job retraining, strategic business acquisitions, and more emphasis on products designed for the export markets. …