Bush will go down in history as the worst President. He does not hold the whole blame. Since Carter we have replaced factories, farms and even software with derivatives and leverage. We have invested our tax dollars, perhaps 2/3 of them, in the disposable wealth of air craft carriers and star wars rather than in roads and universities.
An amazing portion of the American economy has been devoted to capital with no intrinsic ability to produce goods. Capital gains became an end unto itself. Productive companies like Microsoft and Google reached capitalizations that could never be justified by any possible level of real income. Housing prices rose so far beyond any rational ability of most folks to buy homes that leveraged devices .. eg ARMS and mortgaged backed securities were invented to keep the capital accretion going.
This is not merely the old thought that money only makes sense if it is backed by producing hard goods. Productivity could mean movies or books or software or services ... anything but leverage. I would like to see a chart of the investment of different countries in non-monetary production over the last thirty years. I would bet a beer that the USA would come out way below Germany, Sweden, Canada, China, ..even Cuba.
Even if the leveraged economy made sense for some people, there is a challenge to our national existence. A leveraged economy is as portable as the internet itself.What is American about a Wall Street Bank when the world's productive wealth is held by China?
The challenge facing all of us, is whether we can change enough to rebuild the infrastructure needed for Americans to compete with the new, flatter world?