Sadly, the U.S. is beset with soooo many economic problems today that it's tough to choose just one. Joblessness and the terrible housing market are certainly two major concerns that need to be fixed, though it appears that they are only going to become worse before they get better.
Like others have said, this is a matter of opinion. Personally, I think the biggest problem is spending too much and when that runs out, extending a larger line of credit with China, etc. The idiots in Washington DC are more interested in keeping their own jobs than keeping our country strong and successful in world trade. They do not have our best interests in mind, so therefore there are no new jobs, but they are creating new taxes which fall right on the shoulders of the working class.
The most important economic problem the U.S. currently faces is the decreasing material quality of life for a substantial portion of the citizenry. There are record numbers of people struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. It's becoming increasingly difficult for folks to put aside time and money for non-material pursuits like recreation, creative outlets and education. I agree with accessteacher: in our economic discussions, we need to pay more attention to economic indicators that correlate to actual quality of life.
The largest problem the U.S. has today is the tremendous deficit the government faces. The spending which created the deficit was probably necessary; however it now has the government paying interest on a debt that is fast becoming unsustainable. It was debt such as this that brought down the monarchy of Louis XVI and has also led to problems in Greece, Iceland, and Ireland. The situation has perhaps been exacerbated by the recent debate over the debt ceiling; but even sovereign nations can get themselves in unsustainable debt. I think we are fast approaching that point.
Our most important economic problem is the real estate and credit market collapse. Housing values dropped due to foreclosures on risky loans. So many people were underwater on their houses that the foreclosures snowballed. This resulted in a credit crunch and more bankruptcies. Now, people are losing their jobs and their homes.
What about the environment and the impact that this is going to increasingly have on the US economy? Whilst it is mostly being ignored by so many Americans, issues such as access to clean and drinkable water and gas prices indicate the pressing nature of this massive topic, which can only become exacerbated as Americans happily use up limited natural resources without counting the future cost.
At least somewhat related to the first post, another large economic problem has to do with illegal immigration. Regardless of our opinions on whether illegal immigrants are allowed to become citizens of this country via some sort of immigration reform, the question remains as to how to integrate this large block of people into our economy. Many of them send the money they make here directly back to their country of origin instead of spending it here. All of them, at some point, will need medical care as well as goods/services provided through our tax system. How can these immigrants serve to boost our economy instead of hinder it? Is the answer making them citizens so they can be counted and pay taxes? Is the answer the incorporation of a guest worker program? Is the answer shipping all of them back to where they came from in order to give those jobs to Americans who are unwilling to do them? (Totally impractical.) Worse, because this issue touches on the politically correct vs. the politically incorrect our lawmakers are often afraid to touch the issue. I'm afraid this will remain a real economic problem until someone is brave enough to take it on.
This is, of course, a matter of opinion.
My own opinion is that our greatest economic problem is figuring out how to create jobs for everyone in our economy. Today, the US is experiencing economic growth. However, this growth comes largely without a corresponding increase in jobs. This is because our economy is expanding through such things as improvements in productivity and through an increase in jobs that require a great deal of education.
At the same time, the people in our society who are not able to fill these high-education jobs seem to be getting left behind. It is vital that we, as a nation, figure out how to either make jobs for them or make them more fit for the jobs that are available. I think that this need to connect people with appropriate jobs is our biggest economic challenge.
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The United States is facing economic disaster
We no longer produce what we need to sustain ourselves, we import much more than we export, and we are selling off our assets and taking on massive debts to sustain a standard of living we can no longer afford.
The game plan of our international competitors is to render us completely dependent on foreign production, innovation and financing. In losing domestic self-sufficiency, national security and leverage - our foreign affairs will suffer greatly.
In order to understand what is now happening in the world economy, we need to go a little back in past and understand what was happening in the housing sector of America for past many years. In US, a boom in the housing sector was driving the economy to a new level. A combination of low interest rates and large inflows of foreign funds helped to create easy credit conditions where it became quite easy for people to take home loans. As more and more people took home loans, the demands for property increased and fueled the home prices further. As there was enough money to lend to potential borrowers, the loan agencies started to widen their loan disbursement reach and relaxed the loan conditions.
Since the demands for homes were at an all time high, many homeowners used the increased property value to refinance their homes with lower interest rates and take out second mortgages against the added value (of home) to use the funds for consumer spending.
There are so many problems facing America today. I actually saw a painting the other day called One Nation Under God by Jon McNaughton that made me think about how our country came to be.
America was heavily influenced by religion and I feel strongly that if we take out religion completely we are doing our country a disservice. I am not saying to put religion back into schools and make everyone read the bible, what I am saying is that people should recognize the values within religion and come back to the roots of what America is.
At the core of all America's debt problems is the Federal Reserve.