This is a very good question and one that for myself was key very early on, from the seventies, because of my own experience of never really having been a part of American society, save its dark side aspects.
As an unemployed student of Greek who spent forty years looking for a job/place in the American system, the question in the title was direct and confronted me over and over again: the US is the most overrated mess run by hopeless idiots in a farce that started well with a set of high hopes. I felt the slide from a relative prosperity to a darker system at each point from the mid-seventies into the sudden acceleration under Reagan, and the subsequent list of bad presidents, and etc, etc… I was always puzzled that despite having many talents, the mechanical system of jobs could never place me. Whatever the case the result was a set of variants of the question in the title. In my experience no one could possibly see a bright side to the wreckage of their own legacy such as Americans so-called have created for themselves.
Although the problem is broader than capitalism as such, the latter is the key to the misfortune suffered by Americans. Here the legacy of the left in Europe versus America is the obvious token. What can I say, the early socialists, taken up by the Marx monopoly, sounded the warnings early on, and the record in Europe was better here, up to a point.
The downfall has many aspects, but the era of the CIA tokens the start of the cancer that is now providing fatal. Why is that, and poor old Truman seems to be the fall guy, a true apotheosis of mediocrity and bad judgments, including the suitcase of cash that started the Israel horror,.
Now we have learned some horrifying facts: the coming of Truman, the CIA, and the rest of it was the watershed into American oblivion. There is more there, no doubt, but the rampant activities of the covert agencies brought the system to great evils.
The record of imperialism, the neoliberal etc, the festering race issues, the false illusion of prosperity…the whole game in the last generation has sealed the judgment.
This is not the decline and fall of Rome, but the tragedy of democratic peoples who lose the gifts of time and end up as hopeless fuckups barely even tragic heroes…The Athenian case is instructive.
If only the left, itself a total screwup, could really move to regenerate the American system. It seems too much to hope for and the dark reality is that the current system has so many obstacles to revolution/reform that the frozen nightmare may be beyond repair and end without a socialist phase in premature Putinism. The conspiracy to destroy America is all too real in addition to its inner failings. The current system if rife with drug mafia hidden control and the war in Afghanistan added to the riches of many hidden criminals in the democratic masquerade.
It is a puzzle: the US should have lasted longer than this. But as with Athens the democratic era was brief. Prove me wrong. But we are not condemned to repetition or cyclical history. A new blend of socialism and democracy is possible. A republic if you can keep it: the founding fathers seemed to have sensed that their revolution would ask for another.
Why Don’t Americans Understand How Poor Their Lives Are?