A journalist's thoughtful diagnosis of what alls America and the socioeconomic remedies available to set things right. Characterizing himself as a ""frightened optimist,"" NBC-TV correspondent Chancellor offers a rundown on the factors threatening US primacy in the global village. In particular, he decries the indebtedness that now limits Washington's capacity to influence world affairs. Covered as well are an anemic savings rate (which restricts capital formation); a deteriorating educational system (the consequences of which include a dearth of scientific talent); the tendency of political leaders to avoid difficult decisions; the emergence of an underclass that saps the country's strength; illconsidered tax cuts; and the nation's surrender of its competitive edge in advanced technologies. However, while Chancellor views America's loss of momentum with some alarm, he does not believe its relative decline is irreversible. By getting down to business and instituting practicable reforms, he argues, the US can regain much of the lead it has squandered in trade rivalries. High on his renewal agenda are changes in the way the US nominates its presidential candidates and elects lawmakers. He also proposes a modified industrial policy for high-tech enterprises, pre-empting critics with the observation that government has long picked winners as well as losers via farm subsidies, research grants, tax breaks, and welfare programs. Other recommendations range from establishment of a no-exceptions national service corps and a reduction in middle-class entitlements through tax incentives that reward thrift rather than profligate reliance on credit. An eleventh-hour wake-up call that promises to inform and enliven the ongoing debate on national priorities.