Of course, we all know now (as some did then) that Reagan merely inflated the FIRE sector into a bubble, ran up record deficits - a pattern for all his ideological followers, especially Bush II - and got more-or-less lucky when the Soviet Union began to collapse under the twin weight of its sclerotic system and Afghanistan (sound familiar?). Bush I and Clinton benefited from the happy turn in history when 2/3 of the world's people either came out from behind the iron curtain and/or engaged in the world marketplace. (What's less well known is how Reagan's Interior Secretary, James Watt, gave away billions in Land Resources to the oil and resource companies - a pattern that continues to this day - under either party's Administrations.)
That chapter is already written and closed. Now, we have to compete, and we are failing. China is, or will very soon be, the world's second largest economy, and its model of authoritarian capitalism is becoming the world's model as well. The world is shaking its head at our broken system and our broken dream, not just for us, but for them. A world where China shows the way will be a world where Human Rights are only whispered about in dark and secretive corners, where countries with large natural resources, like Burma and the Sudan, are courted and exploited, while their people endure a living torture.
America's exceptionalism comes at the point of a gun now. Both major parties use tired policies and idiotic, dishonest, and pointless rhetoric to attack each other because it's easier than actually solving anything. Both are bought by special corporate interests and have given up on the American people, except when they need their votes. Then, they lie. It's not that one party or the other is more pessimistic - the entire system is pessimistic.
The money is there to have what we need. It has been siphoned to the top 1% and the corporate war and banking machine (they are tightly linked) through a series of tax distortions and monopolizations of both natural and monetary resources - not to mention the ears of every elected representative.
Nature-pays Capitalism is dead. Our electeds and the too-stupid-to-understand reactionary electorate just don't have anything to replace it with but empty and insincere slogans to get Government Off Our Backs (unless that means taking away our Social Security and Medicare, two of the three biggest Federal expenditures; the other being support of a defense industry that now supplies 70% of the world's weapons).
A. Monetary reform. It is both unconstitutional and an immoral violation of Sovereign rights to have the so-called Federal Reserve print our money and charge us interest. We should immediately reestablish the Lincoln Greenback (U.S. Notes) for 25% of the money supply, as promoted by the American Monetary institute, then dedicate that money specifically to repair our crumbling infrastructure and provide universal healthcare (which would make us MORE competitive, not less). This would be non-inflationary because inflation is caused by too much money chasing too few goods. Does anyone really thing we have too much infrastructure and the jobs that go with them, and too much healthcare?
B. Replace all income and corporate capital taxes with Land Value taxes on everything nature has created, not man. This would fall disproportionately on the wealthy and the corporate Land monopolists, who make most of their money freeloading off the Land (all the Natural Resources of the Earth, which, rightfully, belong to all of us), while incentivizing the truly productive part of the population to work without having their wages confiscated. Restore significant taxes on speculative activities where Land Value Taxes alone do not discourage them. Reward production, not speculation that just shifts money from one high pile to another.
C. To end both wars of aggression in the Middle East as soon as possible, not as soon as the corporate-war interests would prefer. Do YOU feel safer now than you did on 9/11 with wars in two or three countries and civil-rights-denying policies here at home? Does the world respect or admire America more or less than it did before 9/11? If not, what, exactly, are we fighting for? We would be better off merely buying Afghanistan's poppy crop (as we did with Turkey in the 1970s) and facilitating microloans for ground-up democracy. Democracy in Afghanistan or Iraq, like in America, must grow from the bottom; it cannot be imposed from the top down. We don't need to spend all our money on eliminating every possible terrorist threat - you and I, and everyone else, will eventually die - there's no way out of that - but the cause of that will more likely be 100 other things besides a terrorist attack. Some perspective, please.
D. Eliminate the cap on Social Security entirely and enact a simultaneous 5% cut in payroll taxes across the board. This would give a tax break to 96% of all workers (who earn under, or near, the $106,000 cap), while making the top 4% finally pay their fair share, and guaranteeing Social Security solvency for the next two generations (the growth from A, B and C would take care of the rest).
It is a myth that we have spent beyond our means. Nature and our ability to labor provides us with everything we need to have a reasonably prosperous life IF we get to keep what we earn and IF others aren't allowed to steal it from us through Land monopolization and tax distortions that reward the already-wealthy and punish the productive. Don't accept that it is all our fault, that America's best days must be in the past, that the world must be our enemy. It's not true. None of it. It's what the corporate elite want you to believe so you will continue to run up debt and blame yourself when you can't keep up with distorted Land price increases (this includes oil too). We CAN have it all.