Photo Gallery America Loses Its Edge

The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair. On this election eve, many Americans are losing faith in their country's future.
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The Statue of Liberty in New York: After a brilliant century and a terrible decade, the United States, in this important election year, has reached a point in its history when the obvious can no longer be denied: The reality of life in America so greatly contradicts the claim -- albeit one that has always been exaggerated -- to be the "greatest nation on earth," that even the most ardent patriots must be overcome with doubt.

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That realization became only too apparent during and after Hurricane Sandy, the monster storm that ravaged America's East Coast last week, its effects made all the more devastating by the fact that its winds were whipping across an already weakened country. Here, a flooded street can be seen in Lower Manhattan.

Foto: Allison Joyce/ Getty Images
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During his presidency, Democratic President Barack Obama has repeatedly invoked the helping hand of government, while his Republican challenger has demonized it.

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Republican challenger Mitt Romney: The obstructionism in America today is largely attributable to the group within the GOP known as the Tea Party. Screenwriter Aaron Sorken has called them an "American Taliban".

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A homeless man on the streets of Los Angeles: States like California now spend more money on prisons than universities.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (left) during a visit with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (right) in China: Today, fewer countries are looking to the United States as a model and more are looking to Beijing, which has experienced an unprecedented rise in fortunes.

Foto: Minoru Iwasaki/ dpa
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An exhausted US soldier in Afghanistan: "Americans are tired after the war in Iraq and also after Afghanistan," says former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This exhaustion, when combined with the traumatic terrorist attacks of 2001, has weakened the social glue that held America together in the 20th century. This is only too apparent in the absurd squabbles between Republicans and Democrats during the Obama years.

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Many of the immigrants who come to America to study aren't even staying in the country -- after graduating they return to India or China, secretly hoping for better opportunities back home. The most talented American students will not be filling the resulting gap, because they'd rather work on Wall Street than in banking and engineering fields. About one-third of the students in every graduating class at Harvard University accept jobs in investment banking and consulting or with hedge funds -- that is, industries that produce one thing above all: fast money. Pictured here is the New York headquarters of Goldman Sachs in Lower Manhattan.

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Pictured here is the I-35W, a bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed in 2007. It's just one example of disastrous infrastructure in the United States. The Federal Highway Administration claims that one in four of the more than 600,000 bridges in the world's richest country are either "inadequate" or outdated.

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As part of his stimulus program, President Barack Obama sought to bring further high-speed rail to the US, like this Acela Express train, which is the only such line in the country and runs between Boston, New York and Washington, DC. Governments of some states with Republican governors refused to accept high-speed rail development funding from the federal government. Once again, their refusal reflected the desire to thwart a plan by "Socialist" Obama, and the determination not to be accused by their supporters of having accepted money from the agents of "big government".

Foto: Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ AP
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