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查理斯•克勞薩默:這輩子最重要的大選

查理斯•克勞薩默(《華盛頓郵報》專欄作家)

奧巴馬2008年曾說:“里根改變了美國的走向,這是尼克松沒辦到,也是克林頓沒達到的。”他說得對,里根是美國意識形態的轉折點,終結了自由派五十年的優勢,開啟了保守派未來三十年的興盛。

政黨上台執政時,通常會實踐自己的意識形態,然而一種意識形態興起之時,政黨輪替后新的政府往往必須承接前朝的意識形態。

因此,儘管共和黨咒罵新政罵了二十年,等共和黨人在1953年重掌白宮時,他們還是蕭規曹隨。

當尼克松承接約翰遜的“大社會”架構時,他沒有推翻這個自由派的第二波進展,甚至還進一步推廣,包括成立環境保護署,授予就業平權委員會實質權力,把多平權優惠待遇制度化。

直到里根上任,他就職十分鐘內就宣示:“政府不是問題的解藥,政府本身就是問題。”從根本上否定新政與大社會政策的基本前提,猛攻自由派的根基,他實施大規模減稅,解除管制,挑戰工會,並試圖箝制政府坐大。

里根主義的勝利是在另一人入主白宮時獲得證實。1996年克林頓發表國情咨文,宣稱“大政府的時代已經結束了”,隨后便廢除了福利社會這個自由派的政策核心。

奧巴馬則是一心想要扭轉里根潮流,重新啟動自由派的興起。他並不隱瞞,在2009年對國會發表演說時提到,他要“改造”美國,並在健保、教育與能源政策上付諸實行。

奧巴馬追求自由派的理想,把健保國有化。他的八千三百億美元經濟刺激方案是美國有史以來最大一筆政府開支,使政府大肆滲透到市場各層面,慷慨撒錢給政府偏愛的公司與產業,赤裸裸地進行產業控制。

當奧巴馬的政策過不了國會這關,他就以行政命令執行。他的碳交易法案過不了關,就動用環保署扼殺煤炭產業,不准再興建燃煤的火力發電廠。自由派在2006年無法刪除“要領社會福利必須工作”的法條,奧巴馬透過衞生人力部一紙命令就辦到了。如果他獲得連任,我們所知的社福改革都將蕩然無存。天然氣也將走上煤炭的命運,環保署會讓水力壓裂開採方式過不了環保規定。

政府規模與職權擴大,個人萎縮變得依賴,直到依賴政府變成新的常態。奧巴馬連任將使美國更像歐洲式的社會民主主義。強調個人主義、充滿活力、大膽創新,勇于冒險犯難的美式民主,將會繼續萎縮,變成福利社會國聽命行事的作風。

如果奧巴馬選輸了,他就只是一段歷史插曲,是被80%非自由派美國人拒絕的超自由派冒險者。

如果羅姆尼與瑞安能善用長才,他們可以帶領美國變成更儉樸的政府,更節制的社福,更公平更有效率的稅制。單單這些成就,就能讓美國重新走回三十年前里根啟動的道路。

每隔四年我們總會聽到“這是你這輩子最重要的總統大選”,這次可能是真的。這場選舉攸關公民與政府的關係,以及美國最核心的社會契約。

作者克勞薩默(Charles Krauthammer)為資深《華盛頓郵報》專欄作家。英文原載《華盛頓郵報》2012年11月1日,原題:The choice。譯文刊于香港《蘋果日報》

下面是原英文:

The choice

By Charles Krauthammer,

The Washington Post, November 1,2012

“Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.” That was Barack Obama in 2008. And he was right. Reagan was an ideological inflection point, ending a 50-year liberal ascendancy and beginning a 30-year conservative ascendancy.

It is common for one party to take control and enact its ideological agenda. Ascendancy, however, occurs only when the opposition inevitably regains power and then proceeds to accept the basic premises of the preceding revolution.

Thus, Republicans railed for 20 years against the New Deal. Yet when they regained the White House in 1953, they kept the New Deal intact.

And when Nixon followed LBJ’s Great Society — liberalism’s second wave — he didn’t repeal it. He actually expanded it. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), gave teeth to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and institutionalized affirmative action — major adornments of contemporary liberalism.
Until Reagan. Ten minutes into his presidency, Reagan declares that “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Having thus rhetorically rejected the very premise of the New Deal/Great Society, he sets about attacking its foundations — with radical tax reduction, major deregulation, a frontal challenge to unionism (breaking the air traffic controllers for striking illegally) and an (only partially successful) attempt at restraining government growth.

Reaganism’s ascendancy was confirmed when the other guys came to power and their leader, Bill Clinton, declared (in his 1996 State of the Union address) that “the era of big government is over” — and then abolished welfare, the centerpiece “relief” program of modern liberalism.

In Britain, the same phenomenon: Tony Blair did to Thatcherism what Clinton did to Reaganism. He made it the norm.

Obama’s intention has always been to re-normalize, to reverse ideological course, to be the anti-Reagan — the author of a new liberal ascendancy. Nor did he hide his ambition. In his February 2009 address to Congress he declared his intention to transform America. This was no abstraction. He would do it in three areas: health care, education and energy.

Think about that. Health care is one-sixth of the economy. Education is the future. And energy is the lifeblood of any advanced country — control pricing and production, and you’ve controlled the industrial economy.

And it wasn’t just rhetoric. He enacted liberalism’s holy grail: the nationalization of health care. His $830 billion stimulus, by far the largest spending bill in U.S. history, massively injected government into the free market — lavishing immense amounts of tax dollars on favored companies and industries in a naked display of industrial policy.

And what Obama failed to pass through Congress, he enacted unilaterally by executive action. He could not pass cap-and-trade, but his EPA is killing coal. (No new coal-fired power plant would ever be built.) In 2006, liberals failed legislatively to gut welfare’s work requirement. Obama’s new Health and Human Services rule does that by fiat. Continued in a second term, it would abolish welfare reform as we know it — just as in a second term, natural gas will follow coal, as Obama’s EPA regulates fracking into noncompetitiveness.

Government grows in size and power as the individual shrinks into dependency. Until the tipping point where dependency becomes the new norm — as it is in Europe, where even minor retrenchment of the entitlement state has led to despair and, for the more energetic, rioting.

An Obama second term means that the movement toward European-style social democracy continues, in part by legislation, in part by executive decree. The American experiment — the more individualistic, energetic, innovative, risk-taking model of democratic governance — continues to recede, yielding to the supervised life of the entitlement state.

If Obama loses, however, his presidency becomes a historical parenthesis, a passing interlude of overreaching hyper-liberalism, rejected by a center-right country that is 80 percent nonliberal.

Should they summon the skill and dexterity, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan could guide the country to the restoration of a more austere and modest government with more restrained entitlements and a more equitable and efficient tax code. Those achievements alone would mark a new trajectory — a return to what Reagan started three decades ago.

Every four years we are told that the coming election is the most important of one’s life. This time it might actually be true. At stake is the relation between citizen and state, the very nature of the American social contract.

2012-11-06

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