So many comments here.
Danish people are poor. Average income doesn't mean squat. What counts is income/cost of goods. Denmark minimum wage is $25/hr. But taxes are enormous, and an Applebee's level dinner for two costs > $70. Homes are tiny. Food is expensive. Cars and gas are expensive. That money isn't worth much unless you can spend it out-country.
You are discounting what those taxes get them. Let's say that half of that $25/hr goes to taxes, so take home is $12.50/hr. Look what they get for their 50% in taxes. They get better educations as a whole than we do. They all have access to college. And to healthcare. Danish people aren't poor. Some Danes are, some aren't. As for things being 'expensive', from whose perspective? Cars are less necessary there than here, and they drive less miles. If homes are small (relative to what?), that would seem to indicate a strong real estate market, as builders try to maximize space because they can sell all those homes (assuming they aren't homes built hundreds of years ago).
Inflation in currency is heavily flawed. When Ron Paul says we have devalued the dollar 98% in 100 years, he fails to account for the vastly higher quality of goods those dollars now buy. In 1965, $2,400 bought you a Mustang that had a 60,000 mile life expectancy at best. The equivalent today buys you a modern Mustang that has A/C, air bags, intermittent wipers, antilock brakes, far better interior, far better sound system, electronic locks and windows, dozens of other improvements, and a life expectancy of > 150,000 miles. Is the currency devalued? Yes, but not nearly as much as a straight analysis would suggest.
Are you saying $2400 now would get you a better mustang than $2400 then, or that the currently new $25K mustang now is a better car than the new back then mustang?
The political debate over the disappearing middle class is sophomoric. Much of the supposed imbalance between rich and poor comes from loss of jobs that pay 50-90K. These jobs largely disappeared because of globalization, not tax policy or some major failure of the U.S.
Supposed imbalance? Are you saying there isn't one? I'm not sure I agree that most of the imbalance is due to the loss of 50-90K jobs, although in comparing 2010 to 2003, there is a decline in those earnings and an increase in those earning less than 45K. And I agree that it did not occur due to tax policy. Failure though is the wrong word I think. Those job losses occurred in part due to becoming a credit economy and in part due to globalization. These are things the US has done that have had consequences. Consequences which have weakened the foundation of the economy, because eventually (we see it now), people aren't going to spend into the economy. So failure isn't the right word. One consequence of capitalism is that it will look for cheap labor, regardless of in which boundary that labor is located.
What separates the U.S. economically? On the most basic level, strong property rights. Consider why most countries in Central and South America have continued to lag so badly. If someone builds something highly successful, it is nationalized/ stolen. China is having significant problems with this. There is much less incentive for mid- and high-level entrepreneurs. On another level, it is the relatively low burden of bureaucracy. As a doctor, it is hard not to puke writing that. But consider India. Why does the Indian economy suck? It's the culture of bribes and bureaucracy. Even if you know people, it takes many months or more and large amounts of bribe money to get a company started, and even then that company has no assurances that ever-greater bribes and permits won't be required. As a lesser example, consider Germany, the cornerstone of Europe. In Germany, to start a business, you have to have 50K or so in "ground capital," which I believe is used to prepay taxes and so forth. In the U.S., to start a business, you print business cards. THAT is why we're so far ahead.
While I agree that currently we are ahead of S.A. and India, that gap is closing fast. India's economy does not suck, it's in fact burgeoning. Nor is it hard to start a business there (my uncles in India have started many). And this is despite the crippling corruption and bureaucracy to which you refer. I concede it is harder for a foreign company to start up over there. And those are huge problems in India that have prevented it from running us down.
Arguments about loss of manufacting remind me of military planning. Still making WW2 assumptions. The U.S. produces much of the world's tech advances and software. These are real goods, not some ephemeral service industry. We are major exporters of tech. Yes we build that iPhone in China, but China cannot design it.
The US produces the innovation, not the product. And even then, much of that innovation is coming from bright minds imported from abroad - who can and do go back to their home countries. This is another area where our lead is disappearing. Just because we still have a lead doesn't mean we're maintaining the distance. Being innovators (such as we are now) and not also producers shrinks our economy. If 40% of the iphone is profit, 60% of the money spent on it leaves the country.
Fractional reserve banking allowed the industrial revolution to happen. Without easy credit, businesses cannot grow quickly. I do believe there should be substantial limits on derivatives and current allowed leveraging. Alan Greenspan fucked us all by allowing the much higher leveraging that underlay much of 2008-9. I also believe in full auditing of the Fed, since the Fed is using 2006 as their benchmark for "normal." in 2006, we were grossly over-revving the economy with government deficit spending and super-easy mortgage borrowing > easy student loan and credit card borrowing. This created false success. The Fed and government will continue to chase this as it is always easier to do so than to radically cut spending, which is the only way I see right now to avoid currency meltdown. The dollar will be the last currency standing, but it's going down, and the younger you are, the worse the price you will pay for this. It's too complicated for the median voter to understand, so like the politicians, most of us just ignore the inevitable. You cannot continue running these deficits without dire consequences, and you cannot balance the budget by taxing the rich alone.
Fractional reserve banking isn't going anywhere. It's the only way we create wealth in this country. As for the last sentence, there have been more cuts in spending in the last 3 years than there have been tax increases on the rich. You cannot balance the budget without both cutting spending and increasing revenues. The fact that no one wants their taxes is go up blinds them. I don't think the median voter cannot understand, I think the median voter does not want to understand because it means something unpalatable will happen in order to get the mess fixed. Much easier to blame the president, whether this one or the last one. Nobody wants to step up and assume a little extra burden, when in reality everyone has to.
Too late for more, but there is a lot more. We ARE screwed, but it's the government doing it, not the economy or some inherent decay in America. And we're still 23% of the world's economy.
The government is the strap on around the waist of big business. For me, the screwer is the one wearing it, not the device itself.