Why is America still suffering from major blackouts?

In some ways, America is much richer and stronger relative to the rest of the world than most people think. But in lots of aspects, to a degree that many Americans really have a hard time imagining, the U.S. has become a backward place. (Roads are bad; cell phone coverage is really bad; internet access is slow compared with Japan or Korea; health-care system is a PITA.) We love complaining about things that don’t work here and giving speeches about America falling behind. But that Europeans or Asians might think we’re backward … it’s hard really to take in. As another reader writes:

I’ve been in the southern Tirol with family on holiday. I was last here forty five years ago when it was a much poorer place than it is now. Whenever I travel to Europe I can’t help but see that the people I encounter seem better housed, better dressed and better fed than their counterparts in the U.S. The infrastructure seems in much better repair. Many of the roads where I live (think route 22 in New York State) look like they were recently strafed. When I left a few weeks ago the road through Queens to JFK looked a tad third worldish.