环球外汇讯息频道

预算战场

2013-04-17 16:03

在世界发达经济体之中,美国是迄今为止规模最大,系统上来讲最重要的。当前,世界发达经济体面对一系列艰难的政治和社会的选择。美国总统奥巴马提议的美国预算指出并阐述了后危机时期的选择和折中办法。

奥巴马的提议是一个重要、诚实、政治上勇敢的文件。之后的辩论将在很大程度上决定美国是否能转向一个强大、包容且可持续的经济增长和就业的模式,以及在像这样的道路转移的过程中,不同年龄、教育水平、收入和财富的美国人将要面临的负担。

我们知道,强大的技术和全球市场力量显著的减少了日常工作和蓝领工作的数量,使中产阶级的就业选择转向非贸易经济,引导国民收入的增长向资本和高端就业转变,而其他部门的收入停滞。就业机会的创造仍然疲弱,就业继续偏离增长。

这些趋势不能完全归咎于不佳的政策选择或短视的政府。他们的产生主要是由于日益一体化的全球经济改变了技术布局;但他们因公共部门投资不足这一系统模式而加剧。

从很多发达国家和发展中国家身上得出的教训是基础建设、人力资本、制度以及经济的知识和技术基础投资不足削弱长期增长。以公共和私人债务取代投资可维持短期和中期增长——以未来的收入和消费借贷。但这种方法建立了一个自我限制模式,因为资产负债表受损,需求萎缩,预期下行。

奥巴马的预算选择由此得来。首先,问题在于如何快速减少政府赤字和公共债务的累积。突然的财政紧缩对国内总需求的削弱超过了经济去杠杆化和结构变化带来的需求,从而将扼杀增长和招聘,对预算赤字产生不良影响。但拖延债务清算时间太长会破坏对美国政府的财政纪律能力的信心。

赤字必须在5 - 10年的时间跨度内下降。另一个选择要么是主权债务危机,造成破坏性的借贷成本飙升,要么是后世纳税人的税负增加。

在一个理想的世界里,妥协是不必要的,美国的财政政策将维持社会福利体系中的承诺,即使人口和其他因素抬高成本(特别是医疗保险成本)。它还将维持目前的消费水平,避免增税,同时,纠正公共投资的不足,以促进经济增长,扩大就业。最后,未来几代人将不会被要求承担再平衡的全部负担。

显然,不可调和所有这些目标。公平地说,一些改革——包括税收、监管和医疗措施——将有助于恢复平衡,而不将大量的成本强加于公共部门。但这些并不足以推动经济再平衡,恢复其增长势头。简单地说,一个人不能维持当前水平的消费和福利,而不挤出公共部门投资,除非他认为,国家的借款能力是无限的,而代际负担转变是不重要的。

所以必须要做出选择。僵局也意味着一个选择——确保现状会成为结果。那会是个什么样子呢?

这里需要一些猜测。福利计划可能会减少,但不足以抵消大量代际负担的转移。高收入人群的税收可能会稍有上升,所得收益将用于福利和再分配。避免大幅增税(和维持消费水平)的愿望,几乎肯定,将反映在公共部门投资持续短缺上,反过来破坏长期增长。

奥巴马提出的预算意识到所有的目标和期望得不到满足,而增长现在是个分配问题,长期看来,将成为代际(和潜在的包容性和社会稳定) 问题。这是再让美国国会和美国公众承认这些选择和权衡。这些都需要建立一个可持续的经济增长模式,以确保在此之前负担的公平分配。

更极端的选择将出现在失衡更严重、市场遭受更多的政策引导,以致阻碍私营部门的灵活性、移动性和活力的国家。在意大利和西班牙,经济增长是负的,青年失业率分别为35%和55%。可以肯定的是,这是一个道德问题,但它也是一个政治和社会稳定问题。

每个国家都有自己版本的社会契约,定义了公民的权利和义务,国家所扮演的角色和包容的理念。最成功的公共政策和财政选择是那些不仅受社会契约所包含的持久的价值观引导,也能适应不断变化的人口、技术和全球环境的选择。

这有时意味着美国和其他许多发达国家面临的选择将变得困难。如果我们选择得不好,增长将受苦和未来的分配选择将更加痛苦。

Battleground Budget

2013-04-17 16:03

The world’s developed economies, of which the United States is by far the largest and systemically most important, face a range of difficult political and social choices. President Barack Obama’s proposed US budget acknowledges and addresses those choices and tradeoffs directly and fully for the first time in the post-crisis period.

Obama’s proposal is an important, honest, and politically courageous document. The debate that follows will largely determine whether the US shifts toward a strong, inclusive, and sustainable pattern of growth and employment, and how the burden of moving to such a path will be shared by Americans of various ages, educational levels, incomes, and wealth.

We know that powerful technological and global market forces have reduced dramatically the number of routine professional and blue-collar jobs, shifted employment options for the middle class toward the non-tradable side of the economy, and channeled growth in national income toward capital and high-end employment, with stagnating income elsewhere. Job creation remains weak, and employment continues to diverge from growth.

These trends cannot be blamed entirely on poor policy choices or shortsighted government. They arise mainly from an increasingly integrated global economy’s shifting technological landscape; but they have been exacerbated by a systematic pattern of public-sector underinvestment.

The lesson from many developed and developing countries is that underinvestment in infrastructure, human capital, institutions, and the economy’s knowledge and technology base reduces long-term growth. Short- and medium-term growth can be sustained for a while by substituting public and private debt for investment – that is, borrowing against future income and consumption. But this approach establishes a self-limiting pattern, because balance sheets are damaged, demand falters, and expectations have to be adjusted downward.

This brings us to the choices that Obama’s budget embodies. First there is the issue of how fast to reduce government deficits and the accumulation of public debt. Sudden fiscal contraction would reduce domestic aggregate demand faster than the economy’s deleveraging and structural shifts could replace it, thereby killing off growth and hiring, with adverse feedback effects on budget deficits. But delaying the debt reckoning for too long would undermine confidence in the US government’s capacity for fiscal discipline.

Deficits have to fall within a time horizon of 5-10 years. The alternative is either a sovereign-debt crisis, followed by a destructive spike in borrowing costs, or a growing burden for subsequent generations of taxpayers.

In an ideal world, where compromise is unnecessary, US fiscal policy would maintain the commitments embedded in the social-welfare system, even as demographic and other forces drive up costs (especially for health care). It would also maintain current consumptions levels and avoid tax increases, while redressing public-investment shortfalls in order to boost growth and expand employment options for today’s middle class and future generations. Finally, future generations would not be asked to bear the entire burden of rebalancing.

Obviously, it is impossible to reconcile all of these objectives. To be fair, some reforms – including tax, regulatory, and health-care measures – will help to restore balance without imposing large additional costs on the public sector. But these are not sufficient to rebalance the economy and restore its growth momentum. Simply put, one cannot sustain current levels of consumption and entitlements without crowding out public-sector investment, unless one believes that the state’s borrowing power is unlimited, and that the intergenerational burden shift is unimportant.

So choices have to be made. Gridlock, too, implies a choice – one that ensures that some version of the status quo will be the outcome. What would that look like?

Here some guess work is required. Entitlement programs would likely be reduced, but not enough to offset a substantial intergenerational burden transfer. Taxes might rise somewhat in the high-income ranges, with the proceeds going to fund entitlements and redistribution. The desire to avoid substantial tax increases (and to sustain consumption levels) will almost surely be reflected in a continuing shortfall of public-sector investment, in turn undermining long-term growth.

Obama’s proposed budget recognizes that all objectives and expectations cannot be met, and that growth is partly a distributional issue now and an intergenerational issue (and potentially one of inclusiveness and social stability) in the longer term. It is an invitation to the US Congress and the American public to acknowledge and address the choices and tradeoffs that are needed to establish a sustainable pattern of economic growth – and to ensure a fair distribution of the burden of getting there.

The choices are more extreme in countries where the imbalances are more severe and markets suffer more policy-induced impediments to the private-sector flexibility, mobility, and dynamism that continue to benefit the US. In Italy and Spain, growth is negative, and youth unemployment is 35% and 55%, respectively. To be sure, this is a moral issue, but it is also an issue of political and social stability.

Every country has its own version of a social contract that defines the rights and responsibilities of citizens, the role of the state, and the idea of inclusiveness. The most successful public policies and fiscal choices are those that are not only guided by the enduring values embedded in the social contract, but that are also adapted to changing demographic, technological, and global circumstances.

That sometime means making hard choices of the type that the US and many other developed countries are facing now. If we make these choices poorly, growth will suffer and future distributional choices will be far more painful.

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