For us Baby Boomers the idea that the United States could ever be the Hertz among nations was simply inconceivable. But this has happened. Market Watch reports it this way:

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.

It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.

The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.

As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.

To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.

This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade.

What does this mean? Market Watch summarizes:

Make no mistake. This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale.

Several years ago, Theodore Dalrymple, the former prison doctor in the U.K. who writes about cultural decline, spoke in Washington at an evening sponsored by IWF and the Center for Ethics and Public Policy. I was delighted to be able to have dinner with Dalrymple, one of my favorite commentators. "Are things as bad in the United States as in England?" I asked. He answered in the negative. The U.S. is the world’s pre-eminent nation, he said, and that this makes a difference.

We are no longer the world’s premier economy.

We are failing abroad.

None of this just happened. Choices and policies have brought us to this pass.

Sputnik, which revealed that Russia was beating us in space, inspired us to get off our duffs and win the space race. Let the news about China be our new Sputnik moment. It will take a different kind of president and that's just for starters.