Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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美国的政治衰退

伯克利—目前,美国在明年陷入衰退的可能性大约在36%。原因完全是政治上的:党派两极分化达到了前所未有的程度,眼看就把美国经济逼下“财政悬崖”——2013年开始自动增税减支,除非民主党和共和党达成其他一致方案。

一百年前,在第一次镀金时代期间,美国政坛也出现了迅速两极分化。1896年,日后成为美国总统的西奥多·罗斯福是一位共和党打手。他抨击民主党总统候选人布莱恩(William Jennings Bryan)只不过是伊利诺伊州黑老大奥特戈尔德(John Peter Altgeld)的傀儡。

罗斯福说,布莱恩“就像是制陶家手上的粘土,被野心勃勃、肆无忌惮的伊利诺伊州共产主义者玩弄在股掌之间。”“自由铸币制”将“是迈向完全社会主义的一个步骤,社会主义就是他的基本政治理念。”他和奥特戈尔德“想颠覆……自建国以来便控制着政府的基本政策。”

这番话与如今我们所听到的那些一样极端,而说这番话的是即将成为副总统(并在麦金利遇刺后成为总统)之人。我们听到得克萨斯州州长佩里(Rick Perry)拐弯抹角地表示,要是其共和党同僚、美联储主席伯南克胆敢到得州来的话,就会处死他。我们也听到堪萨斯州州务卿科巴赫(Kris Kobach)寻求在堪萨斯州选票上抹掉总统奥巴马的名字,因为他认为奥巴马并非“生而美国公民”。

但不论是佩里还是科巴赫,都不可能成为美国总统,而西奥多·罗斯福已经超越了党派色彩。他乐于与民主党做交易——让自己不仅成为共和党的党首,也当上跨党派的进步联盟的首脑,他通过促使两党齐头并进和周旋于两党之间左右逢源达到立法和政策目标。

奥巴马全面仿照了里根(第二任期)的安全政策、老布什的支出政策、克林顿的税收政策、跨党派斯夸姆湖集团(Squam Lake Group)的金融监管政策、佩里的移民政策、麦凯恩(John McCain)的气候变化政策以及罗姆尼(至少在其担任马萨诸塞州州长期间)的医疗政策。但他并不向共和党靠拢,支持共和党的政策。

事实上,像前任克林顿一样,奥巴马无法说服柯林斯(Susan Collins)等共和党参议员支持其本人的竞选金融政策,麦凯恩支持其本人的气候变化政策,以及——最可笑的——罗姆尼支持其本人的医疗计划。类似地,他也无法让共和党副总统候选人莱恩支持其本人的联邦医保计划成本控制方案。

之所以如此,有诸多显而易见的原因。共和党党基——包括很多该党的最大赞助人——中有很大一部分认为,只要是民主党总统,便是美国的非法敌人,因此,只要是民主党内阁提出的方案,便一定是错误的,应该抵制。共和党干部还认为奥巴马比克林顿更符合这一观点。

这一观点显然影响了共和党领导人,他们担心党派之争扼住了其竞选阵营的电话银行和钱袋子。此外,自从克林顿1992年当选以来,共和党领导人就认定,不论民主党谁当总统,都要在白宫制造僵局,以证明政府的无法作为,这是竞选成功的最佳之道。

这就是2011—2012年期间共和党的算盘。11月的大选并未改变美国政府权力平衡:奥巴马仍然是总统,共和党仍然控制着众议院,民主党仍然控制着参议院。

如今,共和党立法者可能已经背叛了其领导人,认为他们在其位应谋其政,而不是以共和党在下一次选举中夺取权力为目的制造政府瘫痪。博纳尔(John Boehner)众议员、康托(Eric Cantor)众议员、麦考奈尔(Mitch McConnell)参议员等共和党领导人可能会认为他们的阻挠政策已经失败了。他们也许会注意到,尽管经济仍麻烦重重,金融危机一波未了(正是他们为金融危机制造了温床),但迄今为止,奥巴马的政策是诸发达国家中最成功的,他们也许会认为相对来说,奥巴马是一位好总统,值得支持。

但别当真了。目前,所有美国高级政客都在媒体面前向支持者表示,自己对在12月底之前就“财政悬崖”问题达成一致有信心。但他们之所以向支持者如此表示,是因为当前的悲观气氛会导致人们把随后的僵局的责任推到他们头上。

对我来说,有60%的可能,真正的谈判在明年1月1日税率提高之前是不会发生的。对我来说,如果政治僵局持续到2013年,美国有60%的可能因此重陷衰退。但愿是我目光短浅。

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  1. CommentedPaulo Sérgio

    There will be costs for the kind of divisive politics the United States has been entertaining for a decade now. But, it's the same leadership on display across the Atlantic.

    I think, this displays some myopia with regards the period for which slow and zero growth economies will remain influential. But for leading export-led emerging giants, this is a sort of "it's our fiscal cliff, but your problem."

  2. CommentedVan Poppel charles

    after reading this comment I arrived at the conclusion that even the most sophisticated american economics professors at the most sophisticated US universities do not know anymore to formulate an efficient policy strategy to overcome the actual " big recession" in the biggest economy of the world; that's dreadful for economic science as also Nobel price economists.

    1. Portrait of J. Bradford DeLong

      CommentedJ. Bradford DeLong

      Interesting. Why did you conclude that? From where I sit, we know very well how to overcome the big recession--but there are a lot of bad and underbriefed actors sending fake messages and confusing people, and assembling the political coalition is very hard.

  3. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    What Washington does has consequences out in the country. But the country does not seem to believe it. So I suspect the country has to "feel it" and then push back on Washington.

    Tens of millions of people are going to need more than just Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. I suspect the Republicans know this and simply don't want to pay for it. So they work to lock in ceilings now.

    So the Republicans have two goals: lock in low tax rates for the wealthy and spending ceilings on the lower half of the income distribution. These positions will only be overcome by brute political power, not by sweet reason.

    The Republican goal is actually recession, which is a form of austerity. Let's see if their big business allies really want to go down this road!

  4. CommentedCarol Maczinsky

    You mix two crisis: First an inevitable economic downturn and the political turmoil that would emerge from it, second a republican policy crisis which promotes extremism. You have a government which supports terrorism, torture and assinations abroad and an insane opposition which makes it look the lesser evil. Where is "conservative" conservatism in the US?

  5. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Betwixt a market that already believes that the fiscal derangement has been avoided and the rising tide of reports that show that compromise is mired by a dithering polity that flourishes on the hopes of an economic revival that is not based on equity and responsibility, but in a recurring rent seeking at the back of far less modest monetary policy that pushes products and services in the expectation of a demand, which falters time and again to actually happen.

    Why call it recessive politics, this is the process that gets the majority to select the best amongst the worst, while the divide is orchestrated over gigabytes of media space and funded by a transparence? Continuation of the divide whether for better or worse is a part of democracy through discussion, as long as it is under the aegis of a public scrutiny.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  6. CommentedCher Calusa

    "let us hope that it will be short and shallow"... I heartily disagree to this notion of "hoping". This is what got everybody into this financial mess. We have consistently closed our eyes tightly and have hoped that all the imbalance in our economic system would somehow go away. Now let's consider that we don't have an economic system separate from any other on this planet. All countries sink or swim together in today's interconnected climate. The problems has always been exploitation and excess. This activity has spread across the entire globe and now we are at the natural end to this system. The more third world economies grow, the less they will tolerate exploitation and this is actually progress. We're ready for something totally new, a world in which balance and cooperation is more important than profits and exploitation. It is destined to happen either by our global creative effort or after a natural collapse. In the wake of this economic configuration we humans have also created imbalance socially and environmentally. May we open our eyes bravely and face the facts!

  7. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The way things work is that usually there is an objective, absolute state, and than there is the perception of it.
    For example somebody can be very sick, even terminally sick which is obvious to others, but the person himself still thinks he is healthy or maybe a little sick but everything is going to be better by itself as time goes by.
    It is the same with the US and humanity in general.
    We have been talking about climate change, how it will change the weather, our life, and suddenly now we realize it is not going to happen in some faraway future, we are already living through it, hammered by it in a very unpredictable manner.
    We are talking about peak oil, depleted natural resources sometime in the future, the truth is those changes are already upon us, and very significant lack of resources, including water and food resource shortages will hit us very soon, very much within the lifetime of this generation.
    We are talking about financial and economical crisis, political recession happening soon, the truth is we are already in it, simply more and more layers of makeup, cosmetic surgery is holding the rotten body together, but in many very real countries the life of the public is affected by it very severely day to day, and this is spreading fast all over the globe.
    The great American soap opera, highlighted by the more than year long election campaign is finished, the reality starts biting, and very soon a much worse reality will dawn on this country, and to China, and to the whole of Europe than people would like to imagine.
    We have been cheating the global, natural, interconnected and interdependent system for too long and there is no more place or resource to cheat any longer.
    We cannot ignore that the whole socio-economic system we are stubbornly pushing is false, and is built on a fantasy.
    We will wake up very soon, either by conscious examination of ourselves and the system around us, or by a very rude awakening through unpredictable and volatile events hitting us from all sides.

  8. CommentedMark Pitts

    Is this supposed to be political analysis? It reads more like partisan advocacy.
    In any case, we should add to the author's list of extreme political speech the repeated accusation that any one who voted against Obama is a racist.

    1. Portrait of J. Bradford DeLong

      CommentedJ. Bradford DeLong

      Why? Do you object to the observation that: "Obama broadly follows Ronald Reagan’s (second-term) security policy, George H.W. Bush’s spending policy, Bill Clinton’s tax policy, the bipartisan Squam Lake Group’s financial-regulatory policy, Perry’s immigration policy, John McCain’s climate-change policy, and Mitt Romney’s health-care policy (at least when Romney was governor of Massachusetts). And yet he has gotten next to no Republicans to support their own policies"? If you object to it, what is wrong with it? Simply stating what has happened is analysis, after all...

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