Saturday, April 19, 2014
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¿La nueva era progresista estadounidense?

Nueva York – En 1981 el presidente estadounidense Ronald Reagan llegó al cargo con una declaración famosa: «El gobierno no es la solución a nuestro problema. El gobierno es el problema». Parece que treinta y dos años y cuatro presidentes más tarde, el reciente discurso inaugural de Barack Obama, con su grandilocuente apoyo a una mayor intervención estatal en los desafíos estadounidenses –y mundiales– más urgentes puede bajar el telón de esa era.

La afirmación de Reagan en 1981 fue extraordinaria. Fue una señal de que el nuevo presidente estadounidense estaba menos interesado en usar al gobierno para solucionar los problemas de la sociedad que en recortar los impuestos, principalmente en beneficio de los ricos. Más importante aún, su presidencia inició una «revolución» de la derecha política –contra los pobres, el medio ambiente y la ciencia y la tecnología –que duró tres décadas y cuyos principios fueron mantenidos, más o menos, por todos quienes lo siguieron: George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush y, en algunos aspectos, por Obama en su primera presidencia.

La «revolución de Reagan» tuvo cuatro componentes principales: recortes impositivos para los ricos; recortes del gasto en educación, infraestructura, energía, cambio climático y capacitación laboral; un masivo crecimiento del presupuesto para la defensa; y desregulación económica, incluida la privatización de funciones gubernamentales básicas, como la gestión de bases militares y prisiones. Designada como una revolución «de libre mercado», porque prometió reducir el rol del gobierno, en la práctica fue el principio de un asalto a la clase media y a los pobres por los intereses especiales de los ricos.

Estos intereses especiales incluyeron a Wall Street, las grandes petroleras, las grandes aseguradoras de salud, y los fabricantes de armas. Exigieron recortes impositivos y los obtuvieron; exigieron una reducción de la protección ambiental, y la obtuvieron; exigieron y recibieron el derecho a atacar a los sindicatos; y exigieron lucrativos contratos gubernamentales, incluso para operaciones paramilitares, y también los obtuvieron.

Durante más de tres décadas nadie verdaderamente desafió las consecuencias de entregar el poder político al mayor postor. Mientras tanto, Estados Unidos pasó de una sociedad de clase media a una cada vez más dividida entre ricos y pobres. Los directores ejecutivos que alguna vez recibieron aproximadamente 30 veces lo que sus trabajadores promedio, ahora ganan aproximadamente 230 veces esa cantidad. Estados Unidos, alguna vez líder mundial en la lucha contra la degradación ambiental, fue la última gran economía en reconocer la realidad del cambio climático. La desregulación financiera enriqueció a Wall Street, pero terminó generando una crisis económica global mediante el fraude, la excesiva toma de riesgos, la incompetencia y el uso de información privilegiada.

Tal vez y solo tal vez, el reciente discurso de Obama no solo marca el final de esta agenda destructiva, sino el comienzo de una nueva era. De hecho, Obama dedicó casi toda su disertación al rol positivo del gobierno para proporcionar educación, luchar contra el cambio climático reconstruir la infraestructura, cuidar a los pobres y los discapacitados y, en términos generales, invertir en el futuro. Fue el primer discurso inaugural de su tipo desde que Reagan alejó a EE. UU. del gobierno en 1981.

Si el discurso de Obama resulta el inicio de una nueva era de políticas progresistas en Estados Unidos, encajaría en un patrón explorado por uno de los grandes historiadores estadounidenses, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., quien documentó intervalos de aproximadamente 30 años entre períodos de lo que llamó «interés privado» y «propósitos públicos».

A fines del siglo XIX, Estados Unidos tuvo su edad dorada, con la creación de grandes nuevas industrias por los «magnates ladrones» de la época, acompañada por una impresionante desigualdad y corrupción. La subsiguiente era progresista fue seguida por un retorno temporal a la plutocracia en la década de 1920.

Luego llegó la gran depresión, el New Deal de Franklin Roosevelt, y otros 30 años de políticas progresistas, entre las décadas de 1930 y 1960. La década de 1970 fue un período de transición a la era de Reagan: 30 años de políticas conservadoras dirigidas por poderosos intereses corporativos.

Ciertamente es hora de un renacimiento de los propósitos públicos y del liderazgo gubernamental en EE. UU. para combatir el cambio climático, ayudar a los pobres, promover tecnologías sostenibles, y modernizar la infraestructura estadounidense. Si EE. UU. implementa estos pasos con políticas públicas decididas según el esquema presentado por Obama, la ciencia innovadora, las nuevas tecnologías, y los poderosos efectos de demostración resultantes beneficiarán a los países en todo el mundo.

Ciertamente es demasiado pronto para declarar una nueva era progresista en EE. UU. Los intereses creados continúan siendo poderosos, ciertamente en el Congreso –e incluso en la Casa Blanca. Estos grupos e individuos acaudalados entregaron miles de millones de dólares a los candidatos en la reciente campaña electoral y esperan que sus contribuciones rindan beneficios. Además, 30 años de recortes impositivos han dejado al gobierno sin los recursos financieros necesarios para implementar programas eficaces en áreas clave, como la transición a energías poco contaminantes.

De todas formas, Obama ha arrojado sabiamente el guante, en un llamado a una nueva era de activismo gubernamental. Está en lo correcto, porque muchos de los desafíos cruciales actuales –salvar al planeta de nuestros propios excesos; garantizar que los avances tecnológicos beneficien a todos los miembros de la sociedad; y construir la nueva infraestructura que necesitamos en el país y el mundo para un futuro sostenible– exigen soluciones colectivas.

La implementación de la política pública es tan importante para el buen gobierno como la visión subyacente. Por eso, la próxima tarea es diseñar programas sensatos, innovadores y económicos para estos desafíos. Desafortunadamente, en términos de programas audaces e innovadores para satisfacer necesidades humanas críticas, EE. UU. carece de práctica. Es tiempo de comenzar de nuevo, y la encendida defensa de Obama de una visión progresista dirige a EE. UU. hacia la dirección correcta.

Traducción al español por Leopoldo Gurman.

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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.

    1. 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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