If a spaceship with extra-terrestrial explorers landed tomorrow, what would they make of present day America?
I'm guessing the first thing they would notice is the large number of For Sale signs in many neighborhoods. Scanning the communications airwaves and what remains of the printed media they would soon discover that in America, owning your own home is a much-prized mark of social and economic achievement. According to the flood of popular wisdom being reported on the subject, they learn that these desperate home sellers were encouraged to borrow money they didn't have, to buy houses they couldn't afford, and take loans they couldn't repay. And those that gave them the money knew this but for some strange reason loaned it anyway.
The aliens would be naturally curious as to what form of government would allow this calamitous condition to arise. They soon discover that the people running the country are themselves borrowing huge amounts of money by selling debt securities to other countries, none of whom share America's economic or political philosophy. The government it seems has arrogated unto itself two large advantages that private citizens don't have. Whenever its obligations came due, they simply borrow more money to repay those loans--sort of like a legalized Ponzi scheme. Should the lenders, who by all accounts also have doubts about the US's ability to repay, stop buying these notes, the government simply uses printing presses to create more money. These advantages have the secondary effect of making the government's deeds respectable, while the behavior by their citizenry is called irresponsible.
The spacemen can't help but also notice that Americans are obsessed with a device called Television--watching these instruments on average nearly five hours a day. The aliens then study these gadgets to discern what it is that so preoccupies them. After all, they are spending nearly 60% of their free time staring at those boxes.
It wouldn't be long before they would notice that earthlings don't pay much attention to their government's machinations. And they soon conclude that in financial matters American citizens, probably without realizing it, were merely imitating their government's example--living beyond their means and letting tomorrow take care of itself.
After sufficient study, they also notice that two things seem preoccupy Americans: whiter teeth and softer bathroom tissue--concerns at opposite ends of the spectrum so to speak.
After scratching their antennae the explorers send reports back to home base noting that intelligent life on planet Earth has fallen short of their expectations. They then streak off to look for more advanced civilizations in other reaches of the universe. They take with them numerous samples of toothpaste and toilet paper, the only things they found worthy of continued study.