Personally, it makes me look at our spending priorities versus theirs, and the obvious difference is defense spending. Not only do we foot a much bigger proportion of defense needs for both ourselves and all of the NATO leeches, but we do more of the research into new tech as well. European military capabilities are a joke nowadays without the US doing all of the behind the scenes work for them. Maybe Europe should foot their share of the bill for NATO military requirements so that there can at least be one or two European military powers worthy of respect for the first time in decades, scale our defense industry back accordingly once they can protect themselves on their own again (hopefully scaring reactionary conservatives less who think the US is actually in danger from any external forces), and then raise taxes if necessary at some point... if there is ever an actual strong economy. Then again, I don't know if European economies could handle the needs of sovereign states nowadays when it comes to both providing for and protecting their citizens.
I more or less agree with this. I wrote a paper for one of my PoliSci classes, and part of it I dedicated to the idea of how our spending on military and how every one of those countries knows we'll rain hell down anyone who attacks them, leads to them being able to ignore defense spending and concentrate on the welfare of their citizens.
Power politics comes into play, and being top dog in the world gains us a lot of advantages...but like you said, it's about time some of these other countries be responsible for their own defense, let alone their contributions to organizations like NATO.
I don't mind our research into new tech as much, because a lot of that research does trickle down into goods and services that actually aid everyday living...but I think we could make just as much, if not more, technological advances if we shifted that funding into NASA and space and scientific research.