I have read a lot comments hear that lament the plight of the engineer with regards to what companies are willing to pay, work conditions, etc. I have experienced many of the same issues in my career and have come to the conclusion that the best way for me to deal with it is to start my own company. Before the flaming begins, I am not advocating that everyone try it; it isn't the best choice for everyone. However, if you have come to a point in your career that you feel that trapped and not being paid what you are worth, it might be viable. There are a lot of potential clients that view engineering of all stripes as magic, they don't understand it and they don't want to. They just want it design/improved/fixed, etc. Granted for certain types of engineering, a start up can be difficult (e.g. mechanical, bio-medical, electrical), but if you can find one niche you are really good at, you can make a huge amount of money. In software engineering currently, if you have some experience with healthcare (clinical and business) there is a lot of opportunity.
Also, if you are an American citizen, you will have one huge advantage - citizenship. H1Bs and others on different types of visas have restrictions on what they e allowed to do - starting companies is usually one of them if they have been sponsored. You might even take advantage of the current climate by doing what your company is doing, hire them at a much cheaper rate than other Americans. Or you can be purist and insist that you want to employ American citizens only. Even with the financial meltdown, there is still a lot of money on the table institutions are willing to lend for start ups, especially if you are a minority or female.
Again, this is NOT a good choice for everyone, but for some it might be worth looking into.
As Americans, it is unfortunate we are living in these times because we are in a huge transition that leaves a lot of uncertainty. I don't necessarily agree with the tenant that America is in decline, but rather the world is changing and other countries are rapidly catching up with the prosperity the US once was known for. And these countries will rapidly hit the same problems we have now. Eventually equilibrium will probably be reached; whether that occurs in our lifetime or not is anyone's guess. If you are an engineer of any type or considering engineering as a career, don't discount it yet. I think this is a rough patch, but it will pass. We might all have to be willing to work in places we wouldn't expect on projects that we wouldn't have chosen of our own free will. If you are really an engineer to the core though, it won't matter because you have to build things, its in your nature.