Through the 1930s, the US and Europe suffered economic depression. Along came the Second World War and everything changed. After the war, Europe was a basket case. The US, having undergone massive industrial development during the war, wanted to sustain industry. To do that, there had to be somebody to buy American goods. Americans alone could not suffice. Enter the Marshall Plan. Rebuild the economies of Europe and get a ready market in the bargain.
For Great Britain — Europe's greatest pre-war economy and the world's greatest pre-war military power — that was it, the sun set on the Empire. India won independence, Israel statehood, and so on.
We are now seeing the sun set on the American Empire. Precisely what the Niall Fergusons, the Kagans, the George Packers — the broad spectrum of war's idolators — saw as necessary confirmation of American imperial status has instead punctuated the American end. The developing recession, or depression, will be the full realization.
For what must happen for the US not only to recover economically but to regain its status? Americans must find good work, work that pays — something no American employer, in the brave new economics, wants to provide. And somebody needs to buy American stuff. But everybody's buying Chinese, or Asian, stuff.
The best we can hope for is that China and other developing superpowers see the need for the US to remain a solid purchaser. But if those developing powers see better purchasing potential in other regions, then we might just fall by the wayside.
One way or another, I think we cannot hope for the economy of Germany or France or Israel, all of which greatly value education, industry, effort and keeping jobs at home for the sake of the people and the nation.
What we can hope for is Britain, at best. And probably not that. Whatever Obama believes, he will not risk the political blowback of a single-payer — a (horrors!) 'Socialist' medical system. He will not seriously cut military spending any more than Clinton did. We may see some modest improvement in education and research spending. But unlike Clinton's years, we are unlikely to see a brand new bubble in the next eight years to buoy us up as the tech/internet hysteria did through Clinton's terms.
The enormous pension systems which have invested in Wall Street pyramid schemes are now beginning their collapse. Hostile to invention and independent thought, the little giants of American industry — the big three automakers — are failing. And companies, desperate for We the People to buy buy buy, are still determined to lay us off at the nearest possible moment, still determined to cut our wages, to cut our benefits.
So the US becomes the second greatest instance of The Tragedy of the Commons. All, individually, advocate for others what they are unwilling to do themselves. And thus what all advocate (individually) fails to come to pass.
The US marches to replace Britain as the world's richest third world nation.