Now we buy much of what's manufactured from the Chinese and others, and borrow the money from them to make the purchases. As a result, our debt has grown enormously.
In other words, today we pay for much of what we consume by borrowing from the Chinese and send the repayment obligation on to future generations of Americans, including our kids and grandkids.
Yes, things have changed in a big way over the past 25 years as globalization, technology, the aging of our society, growth in government and debt, collectively and individually, continue to negatively impact our previous American way of life.
How America's Top Industries Have Changed, 1990-2013 tells the story in a few simple charts:
"The U.S.’s most dominant industries look a lot different than they did less than 25 years ago. From 1990 to 2013, the top industries by employment have changed from mostly manufacturing to mostly health-care and social-assistance jobs in the majority of states . . . . The states where retail jobs were most prevalent were located mostly in the West in 1990 and now reside predominantly in the Southeast.
We need more jobs, and we need to relearn the simple truism that government "leaders" won't and can't save us from ourselves. Things just don't work that way.
Neither continued growth in government nor legislative programs such as ObamaCare will solve our many problems either.
Nor will pretending that our society isn't aging and that global competition in the midst of a changing technological landscape aren't lasting realities.
The fact is that more baby boomers are now retiring each day than there are young people entering the work force. This serves as a clear and present warning about the long term viability of our current Social Security and Medicare pay-as-you-go unfunded retirement systems.
But setting aside all that, freedom still works and we're still very much a free society. In that regard, an informed democracy is the way to get things back on track and meet our formidable challenges.
For example, we have an abundance of untapped domestic energy which could tremendously help achieve U.S. energy independence, provide good high paying jobs and result in a reduced reliance on Middle Eastern, Russian and Venezuelan oil.
I sure hope we wake up soon. Don't you?
That's my take, and I hope it's yours as well.