When the world's only supposed superpower starts coughing up blood and seems to not even have the political will to provide 1/6th of its citizens with healthcare, it's hard to not compare it to another federal union whose multitudes of small problems led to a spectacular demise. It may seem counter-intuitive to say that USA has Soviet Union's ailments (due to supposed enormous differences in the degree of state capitalism) but comparisons become eerie once they start being made.
1) Structurally and logistically determined inability to satisfy consumer demand for better and more accessible healthcare, education, and healthy food. Economic priority is on building, maintaining, and expanding vast conventional and thermonuclear weaponry rather than on improving quality of life for all Americans. Political leadership tolerates increasing suffering of the citizenry and deterioration of infrastructure to maintain military power projection capabilities abroad.
2) Rigid ideological indoctrination of most of the population and public officials that prevents pragmatic discussion on the highest levels concerning modernization efforts. All serious talk of modernization is instinctively seen as treasonous by military and major party leadership who have vested personal interests in perpetuating the status quo. Not only is state orthodoxy not questioned by major media but there is full support of efforts to violently spread American style socioeconomic organization abroad.
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4) Severe military overexpansion overseas. The state is going broke supporting numerous satellite regimes in South America, Asia, Central Europe, and Middle East through maintenance of hundreds of bases and conventional deployments.
5) Lack of frank discussion on national problems since they are not allowed by a handful of state subsidized media conglomerates that provide most of the information to the citizenry (they have vested interests in the status quo just like political and military leadership does). Severe self censorship by news outlets that do not deviate from the party line in any meaningful way.
6) Inability to project soft power due to serious erosion of economic strength. Utilization of the only tools left that elites can use to project global power, namely military force and threats of force.
7) Ideological stagnation, exhaustion, and moral bankruptcy. The average educated citizen does not believe in the party line about the American dream anymore or that United States is the wealthiest and freest society and a force for good in the world. The ideological exhaustion and disbelief is increasingly present among public officials who just mouth the party lines. Spread of fatalism and apathy among the general population. Some of the educated now become rabid reactionaries and try to go back to the days when the ideological fervor was more present (libertarians, imperial reformers who want to go back to the days of state capitalism in the 1950s, elderly who remember when economic base was expanding rather than shrinking, etc). Efforts to "improve" or "fine tune" American state capitalism increasing as well as efforts to scrap it altogether.
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9) The politically active young people do not believe what they see in mainstream media anymore. They increasingly turn to alternative or foreign sources for information about their own country rather than continue to listen to the blatant lies and propaganda on major news networks. Major news increasingly focusing on problems of other countries, trivial entertainment, and support of military establishment than introspection on declining national strength and health.
10) Increased reliance on middlemen (Wall Mart) that connect the American consumer with goods made in other countries (Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc) since quality of domestic industry and workforce is declining. Domestic industry can't satisfy the consumer demands of society even if the state officials found political will.
11) Deterioration in the quality of the American worker that cannot be reversed due to political structure's inability to provide modern education for most citizens. Education system itself is tainted by state propaganda.
12) Most of the population is isolated from the outside world and has no idea what it's like to live in an advanced society. The elderly are particularly affected. Only 1/3 of population have passports and have been abroad (mostly state officials/businessmen/educated/urban/suburban upper classes and their families). Increasing psychological restlessness among the young and escape from cities in the rotting industrial heartland. Increase in mindless hedonism and drinking as a form of escape.
13) Western Europe is now seen as a model civilization to emulate and aspire to rather than just a different system of development. Psychological and moral surrender in trying to conceptualize and evolve American state capitalism towards greater heights. Western Europeans increasingly looked at as more fun and developed in terms of knowing how to live and what values to have.
suffering from gerontocracy rule. Elderly and mentally infirm now predominate in the legislative like they did in the 80s in China and Soviet Union. They are unable to effectively conceptualize modernization efforts and thus defer to reactionary defensive mindset while suppressing more youthful reformers. The two political wings were always nearly identical at the center but are now practically merging as a result. Younger knee jerk reactionary militarists, regional politicians, and EU leaning reformers increasingly find themselves completely without an outlet for expression.
15) Increasing physiological and psychological suffering in the land of plentiful natural resources. Insufficient provision of livable shelter due to structural inefficiencies of the economic and political system. Collapsing infrastructure that is decades behind the most developed countries on the planet (and often even behind developing nations) and that is not designed to meet the demand placed on it.
16) Serious and irreversible budgetary gaps between collected money to fund the functioning of the country and the money needed. Irreversibly large debt from military commitments and ideologically based management of society.
17) Restlessness in the satellite countries, desire of military allies to choose their own developmental path, and Washington DC's decreasing international credibility.
18) Inability of the top leadership to integrate the diverse ethnic groups of the Federal Union. As Emmanuel Todd (who predicted collapse of the Soviet union accurately) has pointed out, the child mortality of blacks has actually risen while the white child mortality declined. Demonstrative lack of national ethnic consolidation and thus lack of emergence of a unitary American nationality. Ethnic and regional groups still looking out for themselves rather than the whole of society.
19) Slow trickle of educated elites out of United States to countries where they can get better opportunities to materially expand.
20) Militarization of police to keep social order. Blatant suppression of genuine reformist political candidates from having any airtime. Increase in power of the intelligence organs.
21) History of violent belligerence abroad as well as continuing abuses and occupations (Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia). Militarized, warlike, and often xenophobic mindset of the population that is more concerned about imperial glory than peace, development, and human rights. After WW2, United States actually killed a lot more foreign peoples directly and indirectly than Soviet Union (which was under siege for decades by NATO armor).
The list can seriously be expanded to have 40 items. The reader is free to think of other key things that caused the slow rot and inefficiencies in Soviet Union and find an American equivalent. In the end, the summary of the cause of decline can be that the contradictions in the social fabric of United States (ideological emphasis on equality even though there is horrid ever increasing inequality) combined with the decades of state propaganda to create a serious inability to adapt and cope with national problems.
All the problems that Obama is now facing Gorbachev has also faced. He is seen as not moving fast enough when it comes to reform or is seen as moving too fast. In the meantime, he is constrained by status quo entrenched political interests and elites in almost every major organizational hierarchy. Historically, this is a very dangerous political situation since major social discontent begins when things start to improve but aren't seen as improving fast enough (or there is a bit of a reversal). We've seen this in late 19th century China, in late 18th century France, and of course Soviet Union itself. It seems United States has only postponed serious economic difficulty due to the collapse of its rival and by flooding Eurasia with dollars in the 1990s.