01/12/2012 09:30 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

A Country in Decline?

Ever since the economic crash of 2008, many Americans have had their lives changed forever. From layoffs to bankruptcy, foreclosures to inflation, the world's greatest superpower has gone from being the crème de la crème to having a 15 trillion dollar debt, one of the highest unemployment rates in its history, and a country full of citizens tired of a government which in almost all areas has failed to deliver what it has promised. All of this has brought to the forefront an unnerving question. Has America lived out its heyday? Is it time for America to step away from the spotlight and let others take the helm? And if so, is it our own fault?

In the days following Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in late 2008, the world went into a frenzy. The fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S. had gone under, something which would foreshadow what was to come. From the exposure of the Madoff ponzi scheme to the mortgage crisis, millions of Americans' pockets have been pinched. From corporations to the deli down the street, businesses and individuals alike have been forced to cut back. From decreased spending to layoffs, many people have been forced to make cuts. These cuts have had severe repercussions on the U.S economy as well as the rest of the world, with European countries taking some of the severest hits. From the drastically rise in the unemployment rate to the national debt rising to nearly once unfathomable levels, recent events have had all of us wondering just how mighty we are.

Following World War II, Europe was in shambles, as well as parts of Asia. The rest of Asia, along with parts of Latin America, had relatively little economic activity. For the rest of the 20th century, even through the Cold War with Russia, the United States was the alpha male, playing an important role throughout the world, especially in regards to the economy. America played a role in everything, with our businesses as well as our government investing heavily in countries throughout the world with money and resources. Through those investments, coupled with the passing of time, the world has changed exponentially. China has gone from a nation gripped with starvation to a bustling economy, and is also one of the primary holders of U.S. debt and former U.S. jobs. Brazil has gone from a country plagued with crime and poverty to a country that has the world's sixth-largest economy. These are two out of a dozen nations that have not only piloted the rough waters of today's economy, but have flourished in them. America was the main innovator throughout the 20th century, with the telephone and the Internet as just two of the many inventions and innovations that came out of the United States (seriously, there are too many inventions to list). But recent research suggests that countries like China have begun research and development on products that will further change the social and economic landscape we see today. Currently, Chinese solar panel companies are outperforming American ones. American panel-maker Solyndra is one example of American deterioration in manufacturing and development.

Understandably, people have begun to assume that since these nations have done so well while we have been at a relative standstill, we are falling down the ladder while these nations are going up. However, why does it have to be that way? People fail to see that America has simply succeeded in its goal. It has spread freedom and democracy throughout the world and subsequently has also spread the practice of capitalism. Even China, which for so long has kept to its socialistic practices, has begun to fuse certain aspects of capitalism into its economic system. What we are seeing now is just the result of America's actions over the past 70 years. Sure, our economy has suffered, but that's just part of the economic cycle. If you look at past economic downturns such as the one that took place during the 1970's, while the economy stayed stagnant for a while, it ultimately went on to recover and prosper. If anything, our economy is headed towards the levels it was at preceding the '08 crash. However, we need to keep moving. We need to invest more heavily in green energy. We need to create more incentives for American businesses to keep their manufacturing operations here at home in the U.S., not in Shandong Province. We also need to get rid of the gridlock in Congress. There should be no reason why a super committee should have to be established for Congress to carry out its prescribed duties. We can flourish and we can succeed.

People need to accept the fact the American capitalistic efforts have succeeded and this is the ultimate result. Nothing dictates that America must fail for others to succeed. However, should we sit back and do nothing, then yes, we will begin to fall behind -- that's just how any competition is. However, if we persevere, if we keep doing what we have always been doing -- investing, fixing and innovating -- America will ultimately get out of this rut and return to its rightful place at the head of the international round table. There are risks and costs to action, but they are far less than the costs of no action at all.