The Bretton Woods Agreement was a landmark piece of financial legislation passed in the fallout of WWII. Then a new world order was created around the strength of the USD and the short-term gains of a debt-based economy. Although doomed to failure, it did allow American interests to take center stage in a new, globalized financial system.
In 1971, President Nixon permanently dislodged the USD from the gold standard, ending nearly forty years of global monetary policy in which the USD was equal to a fixed price for gold. In its place, Nixon decided to introduce a floating currency exchange system called Fiat which remains in place today.
There is a lot of hypocrisy in American political history. The Civil War had as much to do with business interests as a desire to end slavery, for example. Or take the Federal Reserve. An entity created to stabilize the consumer economy has created a nation built on debt that only serves the interests of the financial sector.
The issue at the root of the American economy is cheap lending practices. When Nixon ended the gold standard in 1971, it marked the end of limitations on borrowing. Since then, corporations have been able to borrow from banks without any quantitative limitation.