The U.S. going into the great depression around 1929 was the most modern efficient nation on the planet, with people like Stalin of the Soviet Union wanting to copy America’s innovation and efficiency, the US had the capacity to produce more than all the consumers in the world could consume. China currently is the nation that has this capacity.
At the end of World War II the US had seized control of the world, setting up the global functions of the worlds money system with the Bretton wood arrangement which made the dollar the reserve currency in the world and the lynch pin of the global economy.
This wasn’t a problem as the U.S. had the worlds strongest economy which gave it the ability to support this role of it’s currency.
In the the 1950’s 50% of everything made in the world was made in the USA.
This was due to the fact that during World War II the U.S. had bombed it’s two industrial competitors into dust. Those competitors being Japan and Germany.
This destruction of Japan’s and Germany’s industrial infrastructure meant that when they re built their industrial infrastructure after World War II that they were now built on a more modern industrial platform than America’s.
In the late 1950’s and 1960’s New York’s international bankers like Chase Manhattan, Citibank and others started investing more in Europe. Between 1962 and 1965 US corporations in Western Europe earned between 12 and 14 percent return ,according to to a January 1967 presidential report to congress. The same dollar investment in U.S. industry earned less than half that.
So with US Banks getting more return on their capital abroad in Europe and emerging markets, infrastructure investment lagged in the US. If you are not going build and grow the real economy in the USA the underlying reasoning is you don’t need top flight colleges, roads, and water systems to support that economy.
The core of America’s economic problem though is Political rather than economic. The democratic elements in the US republican political system are at this point very weak point.
Democracy defined as how the average person can petition the political process for changes that create positive outcomes in that persons life are currently and have been for many years now very weak.
While corporations petition the political system constantly with request for actions from the political process that benefit the wealth and power of these corporations in areas of trade, tax ,labor ,monetary policy, government contracts , loans and subsidies.
Most of the benefits of these policies that benefit this multinational corporations with transnational alliances come at the expense of the bulk of the American people and a weakening of the nation state that is the United States of America.
One could make a case that some of these polices like the development of China through trade polices, transfer of capital technology, and the continuing allowances of china to manipulate it’s currency(china keeps it currency artificially weak giving it a huge trade advantage).are the actions of those who are not operating in the best interests of the USA.
Since the Democratic elements of the government are so weak a small powerful minority of wealthy interests can subjugate the interests of the many for the few.