Friday, October 31, 2014
13

Una metáfora para Obama

NEW HAVEN – Cuando el Presidente de los Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, comienza su segundo mandato, necesita una forma sencilla de expresar su concepción y sus políticas para la economía: una metáfora en torno a la cual se pueda cristalizar el apoyo a sus políticas y con ello impulsar la eficacia política de su gobierno. Entonces, ¿a qué se debe el éxito de una metáfora que funcione?

En la campaña de 2008, Obama utilizó el lema “Un cambio en el que podamos creer”, pero “cambio” no es una metáfora para un nuevo gobierno: no representa políticas determinadas. Como tampoco “esperanza” o “¡Sí, podemos!”

En la campaña de 2012, Obama utilizó el lema de una sola palabra: “¡Adelante!”. Una vez más, nada significa sobre políticas determinadas ni su concepción subyacente. Todo político, ya sea izquierdista o conservador, quiere avanzar, no retroceder.

Los lemas de Obama son ejemplos de “metáforas muertas”: no forman parte de una concepción general.

En cambio, en el decenio de 1930 el Presidente Franklin Roosevelt utilizó una metáfora que actualmente sigue viva en gran medida. La idea de un “nuevo trato” fue concebida durante su primera campaña electoral de 1932, si bien en aquel momento aún se mostró muy impreciso sobre lo que significaba ese término.

Al parecer, Roosevelt o los redactores de sus discursos la tomaron de A New Deal (“Un nuevo trato”), libro de Stuart Chase que se publicó en 1932 y se adaptó el mismo año en un tema de portada para la revista The New Republic. Chase describió su nuevo trato en términos generales como “una drástica revisión progresista de la estructura económica, evitando una ruptura total con el pasado”. Y, si bien las propuestas de políticas concretas del libro presentan poca semejanza con las medidas adoptadas posteriormente por Roosevelt, el título tenía un atractivo intrínseco que éste debió de reconocer.

El Nuevo Trato daba la idea de una transacción comercial, como la adquisición de una empresa o un plan de incentivos para ejecutivos, algo que las partes contratantes negocian y acuerdan. No es algo impuesto. Al llamarlo “trato”, Roosevelt dejó claro que no era un plan contra las empresas: parecía un ofrecimiento para trabajar, para participar, para aprovechar una oportunidad. Y, como los tratos pueden ser buenos o malos, justos o explotadores, la palabra “nuevo” aportó una profundidad metafórica, con la sugerencia de que el trato ofrecido por Roosevelt era mejor, más justo y más atractivo.

La metáfora, abrumadoramente respaldada por los votantes, significaba que el mandato de Roosevelt arreglaría la economía enferma con criterios innovadores, pero esencialmente capitalistas. Algunas de las iniciativas de su gobierno, como, por ejemplo, la creación de la Comisión del Mercado de Valores, parecieron entonces a algunos contrarias a las empresas, pero después se las aceptó como una bendición para la competencia y el dinamismo, al poner coto a las conductas injustas o manipuladoras.

Resulta que las metáforas no son simples palabras. La neurociencia moderna está revelando que las metáforas son inherentes a la creatividad, pues su utilización activa diversas regiones del cerebro relacionadas con sus múltiples significados. Las metáforas logradas son las que desencadenan las conexiones intuitivas apropiadas en nuestro cerebro. Por ejemplo, cuando los científicos imaginaron el sonido y la luz como las olas del mar, se avanzó mucho en su comprensión.

La de formular una metáfora lograda para el segundo mandato de Obama es, a su vez, una tarea para el pensamiento creativo intuitivo que entraña un replanteamiento de lo que propondrá en su segundo mandato. Una metáfora lograda podría encarnar la idea de una “economía no excluyente”. La expresión “no excluyente” resuena con fuerza: los americanos no quieren un mayor gobierno per se, sino que el gobierno consiga una mayor participación de los ciudadanos en la economía de mercado. Las encuestas de opinión muestran que, por encima de todo, lo que los americanos quieren son puestos de trabajo: el comienzo de la participación.

En la actualidad, el paralelismo con el libro de Chase lo representa Why Nations Fail (“Por qué fracasan las naciones”), uno de los más vendidos de 2012, del economista Daron Acemoglu y del especialista en ciencia política James Robinson. Acemoglu y Robinson sostienen que a lo largo de la Historia los órdenes políticos que han incluido a todos en el proceso económico han tenido más probabilidades de éxito a largo plazo.

Parece haber llegado el momento para esa idea, que cuadra con el triunfo del rechazo de la exclusión simbolizado por el propio Obama, pero es necesario otro paso en la creación de metáforas para sintetizar la idea de la inclusión económica.

Los mayores éxitos del primer mandato de Obama tuvieron que ver con la inclusión económica. La Ley de Atención de Salud Asequible (“Obamacare”) está brindando a más personas el acceso a la atención de salud –y aumentando el número de personas protegidas por seguros privados– que nunca en los Estados Unidos. Con las reformas financieras Dodd-Frank se creó la Oficina de Protección Financiera del Consumidor, para que los productos financieros privados prestaran mejor servicio al público, y se brindaron incentivos para que se hicieran transacciones sobre derivados en los mercados públicos. Y Obama firmó la Ley de Puestos de Trabajo, propuesta por sus oponentes republicanos y encaminada a crear sitios web de financiación colectiva que permiten a pequeños inversores participar en empresas incipientes.

No hemos alcanzado el pináculo de la inclusión económica. Hay centenares de otras posibilidades, incluida la mejora de la instrucción y la asesoría en materia financiera de los inversores, unas hipotecas más flexibles, tipos mejores de titulización, más seguros para una gama más amplia de riesgos vitales y mejor gestión de los riesgos profesionales. Harían falta muchos más avances hacia unos amplios mercados públicos de futuros y derivados, como también políticas que fomenten una mayor participación de los países en ascenso en la economía de los EE.UU. (De hecho, la metáfora de la inclusión es de carácter esencialmente mundial; si la hubiera utilizado Obama en el pasado, sus políticas económicas habrían sido menos proteccionistas.)

La metáfora apropiada aportaría alguna de estas ideas y otras parecidas a una concepción del futuro para los Estados Unidos que, como el Nuevo Trato, ganara en coherencia al hacerse realidad. El 29 de enero, Obama pronunciará el primer discurso sobre el Estado de la Unión de su nuevo mandato. Debería pensar en cómo expresar –vívida y convincentemente– los principios que han guiado sus opciones hasta ahora y que abren una senda para el futuro de los Estados Unidos.

Traducido del inglés por Carlos Manzano.

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  1. CommentedWaleed Addas

    How about, "Walking The Talk", for domestic affairs...

    Or "My Word is My Bond", for military affairs...

    "Upholding The Truth"--for foreign relations...

    as a metaphor?!

  2. CommentedStefan S

    Having a good metaphor would require having a real vision. Since 9/11, America has been suffering a failure of imagination. Since 2008, capitalism and democracy have been failing because of a lack of accountability. How about "Real Accountability"?

  3. CommentedCarol Maczinsky

    That is the propaganda layer, the US debt development is alarming, that is fundamental and leads to crisis.

  4. CommentedVenu Madhav

    Gosh this is a simple conundrum. I got two to choose from
    i. "Renewed Deal", or ii. " Rise like Phoenix" as the metaphor.

  5. CommentedJesse Durbin

    Forward is a good metaphor. Because "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." --Franklin D. Roosevelt
    FDR introduced his new deal metaphor here:
    "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people. " http://newdeal.feri.org/speeches/1932b.htm

    This is Obama's Forward metaphor ...his kickoff speech...his plan. edited:
    OBAMA: "We have come too far to abandon the change we fought for these past few years. We have to move forward, to the future we imagined in 2008, where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. That’s the choice in this election, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.

    "Governor Romney is a patriotic American who has raised a wonderful family, and he has much to be proud of. He’s run a large financial firm, and he’s run a state. But I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences. He sincerely believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money, the rest of us will automatically prosper as well."

    AUDIENCE: "Booo."

    OBAMA: "When a woman in Iowa shared the story of her financial struggles, he responded with economic theory. He told her, “our productivity equals our income.” Well, let me tell you something. The problem with our economy isn’t that the American people aren’t productive enough -- you’ve been working harder than ever. The challenge we face right now -- the challenge we faced for over a decade is that harder work hasn’t led to higher incomes. It’s that bigger profits haven’t led to better jobs.

    "Governor Romney doesn’t seem to get that. He doesn’t seem to understand that maximizing profits by whatever means necessary -- whether through layoffs or outsourcing or tax avoidance or union-busting -- might not always be good for the average American or for the American economy.

    "Why else would he want to spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Why else would he propose cutting his own taxes while raising them on 18 million working families? Why else would he want to slash the investments that have always helped the economy grow, but at the same time, stop regulating the reckless behavior on Wall Street that helped the economy crash?

    "Somehow, he and his friends in Congress think that the same bad ideas will lead to a different result. Or they’re just hoping you won’t remember what happened the last time we tried it their way.

    "Well, Ohio, I’m here to say that we were there, we remember, and we are not going back. We are moving this country forward.

    "Look, we want businesses to succeed. We want entrepreneurs and investors rewarded when they take risks, when they create jobs and grow our economy. But the true measure of our prosperity is more than just a running tally of every balance sheet and quarterly profit report. I don’t care how many ways you try to explain it: Corporations aren’t people. People are people.

    "We measure prosperity not just by our total GDP; not just by how many billionaires we produce, but how well the typical family is doing -- whether they can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them.

    "And we understand that in this country, people succeed when they have a chance to get a decent education and learn new skills -- and, by the way, so do the businesses that hire them or the companies that they start.

    "We know that our economy grows when we support research into medical breakthroughs and new technologies that lead to the next Internet app or life-saving drug.

    "We know that our country is stronger when we can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security. When we protect our kids from toxic dumping and mercury pollution. When there are rules to make sure we aren’t taken advantage of by credit card companies and mortgage lenders and financial institutions. And we know these rules aren’t just good for seniors, or kids, or consumers -- they're good for business, too. They're part of what makes the market work.

    "Look, we don’t expect government to solve all our problems, and it shouldn’t try. I learned from my mom that no education policy can take the place of a parent’s love and affection. As a young man, I worked with a group of Catholic churches who taught me that no poverty program can make as much of a difference as the kindness and commitment of a caring soul. Not every regulation is smart. Not every tax dollar is spent wisely. Not every person can be helped who refuses to help themselves.

    "But that’s not an excuse to tell the vast majority of responsible, hardworking Americans, 'You’re on your own.' That unless you’re lucky enough to have parents who can lend you money, you may not be able to go to college. That even if you pay your premiums every month, you’re out of luck if an insurance company decides to drop your coverage when you need it most.

    "That’s not how we built America. That’s not who we are. We built this country together. We built this country together.

    "We built railroads and highways; the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge -- together. We sent my grandfather’s generation to college on the GI Bill -- together. We instituted a minimum wage and worker safety laws -- together. Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination. We did these things together -- not because they benefited any particular individual or group, but because they made us all richer. Because they gave us all opportunity. Because they moved us forward together -- as one people, as one nation.

    "That’s the true lesson of our past, Ohio. That’s the right vision for our future. And that’s why I’m running for President.

    "I’m running to make sure that by the end of the decade, more of our citizens hold a college degree than any other nation on Earth. I want to help our schools hire and reward the best teachers, especially in math and science. I want to give two million more Americans the chance to go to community colleges and learn the skills that local businesses are looking for right now. In the 21st century, higher education can’t be a luxury -- it is an economic imperative that every American should be able to afford. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for President.

    "I’m running to make sure the next generation of high-tech manufacturing takes root in places like Columbus and Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Richmond. I want to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs and profits overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America. That’s the choice in this election.

    "I’m running so that we can keep moving towards a future where we control our own energy. Our dependence on foreign oil is at its lowest point in 16 years. By the middle of the next decade, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon. Thousands of Americans have jobs, right now, because the production of renewal energy in this country has nearly doubled in just three years.

    "So now is not the time to cut these investments to pay for another $4 billion giveaway to the oil companies. Now is the time to end the subsidies for an industry that’s rarely been more profitable. Let’s double down on a clean energy future that’s never been more promising -- for our economy, and for our security, and for the safety of our planet. That’s why I’m running for President. That’s the choice in this election, Ohio."
    http://articles.latimes.com/print/2012/may/05/news/la-pn-transcript-obama-campaign-kickoff-20120505

  6. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    It is pleasantly surprising to see that the search for metaphors have taken us to India, where"inclusive growth" was made popular by the India Development Policy Review 2006 titled "Inclusive Growth and Service Delivery: Building on India's Success". This report focuses on two major challenges facing India: improving the delivery of core public services, and maintaining rapid growth while spreading the benefits of this growth more widely. Before 2006, 'inclusive growth' as a chosen metaphor never existed.

    If one goes for the success of this metaphor in India, jury is still out.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  7. CommentedAllan Hauer

    True wisdom can be expressed in simple but powerful ways. We’re really talking about the power of the American dream-truly inclusive democracy. Such a picture has to be built on the strong foundation of an educated, healthy society. This is where the spark of free enterprise ignites and blends the individual and community, the singular genius with collective inspiration.

  8. CommentedG. A. Pakela

    The President has no vision other than the reverse of "starving the beast." In the reverse case, the runnup in debt and interest on the debt makes it impossible to finance defense spending.

    Inclusive society will eventually mean more of us will be included in the invevitable tax increases that must take place to fund existing and new entitlements.

      CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

      Hi G.A. Pakela,

      Even at the recently lowered U.S. defense spending levels, the U.S.A. military budget is larger than the next 12 nations combined military spending.

      Not only that, it is the best equipped (already) best trained (already) and most experienced military on the planet, by significant margins.

      And, nobody wants to fight America.

      First, they would lose!
      Second, other nations would prevent it, as they have too much to lose by any harm coming to the U.S. economy.
      Third, any nation daring to attack the U.S. would, by its own actions, incur grievous economic and military harm.

      The idea that any country would attack the U.S. is preposterous, now that the Cold War is over.

      So, why would the U.S. need a $1.5 trillion (or whatever) defense budget?

      Best regards, JBS

  9. CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

    Hi Robert,

    President Obama did bring about change in his first term. The President laid out his positions on energy, energy security and sustainable energy some time ago.

    In fact, he wrote me a letter back in March 2012 outlining these very topics. It is a profound document and it is available to read on my website at: http://johnbrianshannon.com

    At the time, these seemed like grand, but somewhat unreachable goals. But not now, less than a year later. For an overview of this, visit: http://arabiangazette.com/biggest-energy-story-2012/

    Check out what the IEA is saying about President Obama's startlingly successful energy, energy security and sustainable energy policies here:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/12/us-iea-oil-report-idUSBRE8AB0IQ20121112

    "(Reuters) - The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's top oil producer by 2017, the West's energy agency said on Monday, predicting Washington will come very close to achieving a previously unthinkable energy self-sufficiency." (article continues)

    President Obama promised change in America's energy future -- and he delivered unprecedented change!

    Which gives me hope.

    Hope that this President can overcome the economic malaise that has embraced the West and the U.S.A., with a bit of cooperation from U.S. politicians and allies of America.

    Your article Robert, if I may say so, asks the most important question of all, what should that change be and what should it be named?

    Many Americans and America's well-wishers around the globe are unhappy with the inequality in the U.S.

    Initially the U.S. became great on account of the opportunities to citizens (first) and immigrants (second) and its trading partners around the world. This is what built America. The hopes and aspirations of several generations who saw the opportunities America offered to those who worked smart and hard and invested well.

    For those who can be honest about it, those opportunities have dissipated to an alarming degree in the U.S.A. in recent decades.

    Rarely can one finish their education, begin a career at one level and years later, finish their career as a CEO or owner of a large and prosperous business. People have little upward mobility and for those born into poverty situations, the vast majority of them live in poverty until they pass out of this world -- no matter how great their work ethic!

    This has been well-documented elsewhere, so I won't go on about it at length here.

    But if anything is going to help restore citizens faith in the American dream, and restore the faith of America's well-wishers around the world, it is a better-educated society.

    One of the best ways to improve peoples economic standing, (according the the UN and other organizations expert in governance and human development) are by society-wide improvements to health and education.

    It needn't cost a trillion dollars -- but it does need direction.

    The same sort of direction that President Obama used to take America from a nation addicted to foreign oil, and turn it into an energy net exporter, and almost energy self-sufficient nation and a nation on the forefront of sustainable energy worldwide. All accomplished during a time of unprecedented worldwide economic upheaval. Well done, Mr. President!

    So, where are we now?

    An energy-secure America. Done. Check.
    A uniformly healthy America. In progress.
    A uniformly college-educated America? Let's hope.

    If this President's first term accomplishments are remembered as making America energy secure and a well-begun universal health-care plan -- then let us hope that his second term will be remembered by a "Done. Check." on a uniformly healthy American society and a well-begun college education plan for American citizens, so that they too, can become part of America's economic solution and success.

    Best regards, JBS
    http://jbsnews.com





      CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

      NOTE:

      I re-wrote my original comment, added to it, and posted it at my blog.

      You can read it at: http://jbsnews.com/2013/01/10/president-obama-restoring-the-dream/

      Cheers, JBS

  10. Commentedjim bridgeman

    This assumes that there has in fact been a driving spirit beyond winning elections. There is no evidence of that. In fact the predominance of dead metaphor (aka sloganeering) is evidence that the entire motivation has been attaining and maintaining power rather than what would be done with the power. Indeed, Affordable Care is best read as the single legislative achievement most likely to cement the left element to the electoral coalition.

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