Strong language and strong medicine about the decline of the American economy, but marred by overwrought prose and Monday- morning quarterbacking. Rowen, a columnist for the Washington Post, attributes America's economic decline not to unfair trading practices by Japan or other external factors. It is, he says, a case of ``self- strangulation.'' Rowen examines the men and women who have made economic policy since the Johnson administration. Without attributing any venality (other than perhaps the playing of partisan politics) and admitting that people did the best they could, he nonetheless does assign blame for the low economic state to which the nation has sunk. Emerging from WW II as the only country with an industrial base untouched by war, the US was the most powerful nation on earth. Then, from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, it went from the world's largest creditor to its largest debtor. Rowen ignores JFK, whom he knew personally and who arguably set in motion events leading to the problems Rowen cites. The current crisis, he argues, was initiated by Johnson's Vietnam adventure, which crippled the Great Society and set up a virulent inflationary cycle in its attempt to have both guns and butter. The blunders of LBJ gave way to Nixon's disastrous wage- and price- control attempts, and the abandonment of the gold standard. Ford and Carter were hamstrung by OPEC and were, according to the author, nothing short of inept. By far his harshest criticism is leveled at Reagan's ``voodoo economics,'' with its vain hope that wealth would trickle down from the top. Rowen also attacks Congress, describing it as spineless. For the future, he says, Americans will have to adjust to the economic rise of Asia, focus on high-tech industries, and become less greedy. Rowen's case is compelling, if not totally convincing. He also gives readers a poignant mini-memoir about the life of a newspaperman covering the powerful.