Employee productivity was down, along with employment. Both inflation and deflation threatened. Some rabblerousers pointed to Bushian taxing policies that, in effect, shifted critical wealth from middle to upper class households. Other malcontents criticized arbitragers who dismantled viable enterprises to make profits at the expense of employees and stockholders.
Luckily, persons of deep insight and loud voice, realizing that corporate America could never be held responsible for the state of the economy, exposed to public view the real cause of America's decline to an n-th rate power. The public schools were at fault!
Administrators didn't know how to administrate; teachers didn't know how to teach; and, students didn't know how to study. Besides, there was an achievement gap between students of different ethnic groups which was the major blockage to continued economic development.
And it all came down to leadership, educational leadership, in the schools, in the lunchrooms, in the locker rooms, in the showers, in the broom closets, …
To examine these issues further, see Educational Leadership: The Interesting Profession