Tuesday, September 30, 2014
13

美国的新进步时代?

纽约—1981年,美国总统里根以一句名言入主白宫:“政府不是问题的解决方案。政府是问题。”三十二年、四任总统过去了,如今奥巴马的最新就职演说响亮地喊出了支持政府在抵御美国——以及世界——所面临的最紧迫挑战中扩大作用的口号,似乎将再一次拉开这一时代的序幕。

里根1981年的名言是不同寻常的。它表明这位美国新总统对用政府来解决社会问题不像他对减税(主要受益者是富人)那样热衷。更重要的是,他在任上开启了来自政治右翼的“革命”——不利于穷人、环境和科技的“革命”,这场“革命”持续了三十年,随后的各届总统——老布什、克林顿、小布什——或多或少都从某些角度支持里根的思想,奥巴马在第一个任期内也不例外。

 “里根革命”有四个主要组成部分:为富人减税;削减教育、基础设施、能源、气候变化和职业培训支出;大规模增加国防预算;以及经济去监管化,包括核心政府功能的私有化,比如经营军事基地和监狱。这场革命被称为“自由市场”革命,因为它致力于减少政府的作用,在实践中,它是富贵特殊利益打击中产阶级和穷人的开端。

这些特殊利益包括华尔街、大石油公司、大人寿保险商以及军火商。它们要求减税,得到了满足;它们要求不要纠结于环境保护,得到了满足;它们要求并获得了打击工会的权利;它们还要求诱人的政府合同甚至经营准军事活动,也得到了满足。

三十多年来,没有人真正挑战过将政治权力交给出价最高者的后果。与此同时,美国从中产阶级社会变得日益贫富分化。从前,CEO的薪水是普通员工的30倍,如今是230倍。从前,美国是对抗环境恶化的世界领袖,后来却成为最后一个承认气候变化现实的大国。金融去监管化肥了华尔街,但最终因为欺诈、过度冒险、不胜任和内幕交易造成了全球经济危机。

也许,仅仅是也许,奥巴马最新的就职演说不但标志着这一毁灭性过程的结束,也标志着新时代的开端。事实上,他的就职演说几乎全篇都在大谈政府在提供教育、对抗气候变化、重建基础设施、照顾穷人和残疾人以及一般化的未来投资方面的积极作用。这是自1981年里根让美国原理政府以来第一个这样说的总统就职演说。

如果奥巴马的演说真的成为美国新进步政治时代的开端,则这将契合伟大的美国历史学家小亚瑟·施莱辛格(Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.)所探索的路径:他指出,美国存在“私人利益”和“公共目标”的交替,每个时期大约30年。

十九世纪末,美国来到了镀金时代,这一时代的“强盗资本家”建立了大规模的新产业,社会也滋生了大量的不平等和腐败。随后的进步时代引来的是20世纪20年代富豪统治的暂时复辟。

接着发生了大萧条、罗斯福新政和新的30年进步政治——20世纪30—60年代。70年代是向里根时代的过渡期——权势公司利益把持的30年保守政治。

显然,是时候让公共目标和政府领导复苏,让美国对抗气候变化、帮助穷人、促进可持续技术并实现美国基础设施现代化了。如果美国通过有的放矢的公共政策实现这些重大步骤——这也是奥巴马的规划——那么由此产生的创新科学、新技术和强大的示范效应将会让全世界所有国家受益。

现在就宣布美国进入了新进步时代显然还为时过早。既得利益仍然十分强大,特别是在国会——甚至是在白宫中。这些权贵集团和个人在最近的竞选过程中向候选人提供了数十亿美元,并期待他们的付出能产生回报。此外,30年的减税也让美国政府失去了实施关键领域(如面向低碳能源的转型)的财源。

尽管如此,奥巴马仍然明智地下达了战书,发出了新政府积极主义时代的呼声。这样做是正确的,因为当今许多关键挑战——从我们的过度行为中拯救地球;确保技术进步让所有社会成员受益;以及建设国家和全球可持续未来所需要的新基础设施——要求集体坚决方案。

对良好的治理来说,公共政策实施与实施它们的愿景一样重要。因此下一个任务是设计明智、新颖、低成本的方案解决这些挑战。不幸的是,当需要采取大胆的创新方案满足关键人类需求时,美国总是行动的矮子。美国是时候脱胎换骨了,而奥巴马全力为进步主义愿景辩护的举动为美国指明了正确的方向。

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  1. CommentedRonald Abate

    "America was the last major economy to acknowledge the reality of climate change." What an absolutely absurd statement, especially from a professor at Columbia. Ever since the earth has had a climate it's has been changing. Did he really mean anthropogenic global warming("AGW")? But over the last approximately 13 or so years the global climate has not warmed even though CO2 has increased due to the increased use of fossil fuels by developing economies. Maybe he meant catastrophic anthropogenic global warming ("CAGW"). But that is a highly uncertain theory that has been produced by computer modelers with an alarmist agenda, working for universities with an alarmist agenda, receiving grants from a government with an alarmist agenda. The fact that Sacks used climate change, which is a meaningless term since the climate is always changing, reveals that he is aware of the uncertainty of the theory and the science, but is still committed to the ideology. For those with a more open mind, there are plenty of blogs that attempt to report the science in a more honest fashion. Anthony Watts, a meteorologist from Chico, CA moderates one of the most read science blogs on this subject with over 138 million views at www.wattsupwiththat.com. Dr. Judith Curry moderates a climate blog www.judithcurry.com that also provides a balanced approach. Both of these blogs will direct readers to many other blogs that are balanced in their coverage. For example www.CO2Science.com. Then you can Google Professor (MIT) Dr. Richard Lindzen or Professor (Princeton) Dr. William Happer, or Dr. David Evans AGO (Australia Greenhouse Office computer modeler) for additional information on the true state of the science.

  2. CommentedKevin Remillard

    Leszek Balcerowicz is a Polish economist, the former chairman of the National Bank of Poland and Deputy Prime Minister in Tadeusz. "Generally in the West, intellectuals like to blame the markets," he says. "There is a widespread belief that crises occur in capitalism mostly. The word crisis is associated with the word capitalism. While if you look in a comparative way, you see that the largest economic and also human catastrophes happen in non-market systems, when there's a heavy concentration of political power—Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge, many other cases."

    Going back to the 19th century, industrializing economies recovered best after a crisis with no or limited intervention. Yet Keynesians continue to insist that only the state can compensate for the flaws of the market, he says.

    "This idea that markets tend to fall into self-perpetuating crises and only wise government can extract the country out of this crisis implicitly assumes that you have two kinds of people, normal people who are operating in the markets and better people who work for the state. They deny human nature."

  3. CommentedMeenakshi Srinivasan

    Being a debater's mom, I have to sit in on teen debates and some of the points made there are far better than this naive article by Mr. Sachs. It is sweet to see that he loves his current president's idea of bigger government. But I, for one, would like to see spending cuts to cut down deficit and increase taxes where appropriate. For too long we have lunched out on our children's futures. Let us draw the line at our grandchildren's.

      CommentedShane Beck

      I think you are the one that is being naive- cut too hard and too fast like the austerity being imposed upon Greece and to a lesser extent Spain and Italy and you go into a death spiral. You may have balanced budgets and be cutting the deficit but you also have problems with 50% youth unemployment in Greece and Spain. Do you wish to see your children and grandchildren unemployed for long periods of time?

  4. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    There has been an apparent conspiracy of silence on many issues. I doubt that an actual conspiracy has been in place. Nevertheless, there is a lack of debate on how states and taxes operate.

    The public revulsion at a self serving bureaucracy paying itself with taxes that cannot be challenged. This is skillfully used by anti social elements to launch a war on the great majority in the interests of the wealthy.

    The majority are not served by either the bureaucrats or the plutocrats.

  5. CommentedCher Calusa

    We live in an integrated, intertwined global social and economic system. Such a silly notion.. that a speech, directed to one countries' needs, could inspire the healing of a worldwide addiction. An addiction to greed, which by the way the United States and friends, delivered to the rest of the globe. We have "developing" nations now, that just want continue this model in order to gain a piece of this American Pie. We can't blame them for wanting to become powerful and rich nations. We unleashed the proverbial Pandora's Box. Help the poor? Let's step back and examine our popular form of world dominance and creative shortages spawned by our outdated notions of progress. We created "the poor" in our own coutry and across the world by engaging in overproduction and fostering a society based on self interest. The hypocrisy will not be respected and the United States is not existing in a vacuum. We live or die by he cooperation of all countries. I doubt that we can craft a truly progressive society under the same circumstances and using the same model that created our societal and economic chaos. We ned a better foundation. Transparency would be a good start, however, I see no leaders who are ready for this.

  6. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    At least the speech signals an awareness that there is a problem that needs addressing.
    But even if we change one software to another it cannot help unless we change the operating system software.
    We are incapable of solving any problem, inside of the US or around the world from within the present framework, with our present understanding.
    We have to fundamentally change the whole outlook and structure based on two basic points:
    1. There cannot exist any nation, culture or even individual any more with local, self centered calculations in a global, interconnected and interdependent network. Even the seemingly most irrelevant, most local action or decision influences the whole system, thus without taking the whole system into consideration for any planning or action leads to crisis.
    2. The "American Dream" inspired over production, over consumption economic system is artificial, unnatural and thus it is unsustainable and outright destructive in the closed, finite, natural system we exist in.
    Without accepting these two principles as cornerstone, there is no hope for any improvements.

  7. Commentedpieter jongejan

    The biggest mistake was the deregulation of the financial sector. The fast growth of the financial sector was followed by articial low interest rates and artificial low economic growth rates. The first task should be te reduce the present seize of the financial sector from 30%+ to a more sustainable 20-25%. (booming South Korea has 20%) The best way to do this by raising the real long interest rate from the present 0% to the normal 2,5% of the past 200 years. (South Korea has 2%). The problem is that higher interest rate will result in higher deficits in the short run. Therefore politicians from the left and the right dislike higher interest rates too. Without higher real interest rates the saving rate will remain low and the investment rate even lower.

  8. CommentedThomas Haynie

    One of the great thinkers and proponents of the movement has the luxury of several of his ideological flubs being preserved on Youtube. M. Friedman’s comments on crime in Central park being a product of the fact that the park was not in privet hands stands out as my favorite. Never mind that Juliani’s efforts are attributed to large portions of the crime reduction in ALL of NYC. The Freakonomics authors might also attribute that to the legalization of abortion. I grow impatient of the attitude that actions by govt. are flawed and inefficient by definition. This is ideology. Why not work on improvements?

  9. CommentedThomas Haynie

    And a good think in my opinion. “… govt. is the problem” is just liberatopian ideology that has been taken WAY too far, however shaky it’s logic or actuality. Decisions based on ideology generally don’t do anybody any good.

  10. Commentedjim bridgeman

    The tax cuts were for all. By the time Bush was done almost half of the population had all income taxes eliminated, and many of them were getting earned income rebates, negative taxes, in effect. It's not necessary to lie about what your opponents did in order to debate them.

  11. Commentedjim bridgeman

    Reagan was interested in cutting taxes for the benefit of all. And every job created in the subsequent 20 years is witness to the correctness of his vision.

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