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查理斯•克劳萨默∶这辈子最重要的大选

查理斯•克劳萨默(《华盛顿邮报》专栏作家)

奥巴马2008年曾说∶“里根改变了美国的走向,这是尼克松没办到,也是克林顿没达到的。”他说得对,里根是美国意识形态的转折点,终结了自由派五十年的优势,开启了保守派未来三十年的兴盛。

政党上台执政时,通常会实践自己的意识形态,然而一种意识形态兴起之时,政党轮替后新的政府往往必须承接前朝的意识形态。

因此,尽管共和党咒骂新政骂了二十年,等共和党人在1953年重掌白宫时,他们还是萧规曹随。

当尼克松承接约翰逊的“大社会”架构时,他没有推翻这个自由派的第二波进展,甚至还进一步推广,包括成立环境保护署,授予就业平权委员会实质权力,把多平权优惠待遇制度化。

直到里根上任,他就职十分钟内就宣示∶“政府不是问题的解药,政府本身就是问题。”从根本上否定新政与大社会政策的基本前提,猛攻自由派的根基,他实施大规模减税,解除管制,挑战工会,并试图箝制政府坐大。

里根主义的胜利是在另一人入主白宫时获得证实。1996年克林顿发表国情咨文,宣称“大政府的时代已经结束了”,随后便废除了福利社会这个自由派的政策核心。

奥巴马则是一心想要扭转里根潮流,重新启动自由派的兴起。他并不隐瞒,在2009年对国会发表演说时提到,他要“改造”美国,并在健保、教育与能源政策上付诸实行。

奥巴马追求自由派的理想,把健保国有化。他的八千三百亿美元经济刺激方案是美国有史以来最大一笔政府开支,使政府大肆渗透到市场各层面,慷慨撒钱给政府偏爱的公司与产业,赤裸裸地进行产业控制。

当奥巴马的政策过不了国会这关,他就以行政命令执行。他的碳交易法案过不了关,就动用环保署扼杀煤炭产业,不准再兴建燃煤的火力发电厂。自由派在2006年无法删除“要领社会福利必须工作”的法条,奥巴马透过衞生人力部一纸命令就办到了。如果他获得连任,我们所知的社福改革都将荡然无存。天然气也将走上煤炭的命运,环保署会让水力压裂开采方式过不了环保规定。

政府规模与职权扩大,个人萎缩变得依赖,直到依赖政府变成新的常态。奥巴马连任将使美国更像欧洲式的社会民主主义。强调个人主义、充满活力、大胆创新,勇于冒险犯难的美式民主,将会继续萎缩,变成福利社会国听命行事的作风。

如果奥巴马选输了,他就只是一段历史插曲,是被80%非自由派美国人拒绝的超自由派冒险者。

如果罗姆尼与瑞安能善用长才,他们可以带领美国变成更俭朴的政府,更节制的社福,更公平更有效率的税制。单单这些成就,就能让美国重新走回三十年前里根启动的道路。

每隔四年我们总会听到“这是你这辈子最重要的总统大选”,这次可能是真的。这场选举攸关公民与政府的关系,以及美国最核心的社会契约。

作者克劳萨默(Charles Krauthammer)为资深《华盛顿邮报》专栏作家。英文原载《华盛顿邮报》2012年11月1日,原题∶The choice。译文刊于香港《苹果日报》

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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