环球外汇讯息频道

美国错位的赤字自满情绪

2013-05-31 13:58

美国依然面临着危险的财政赤字,但人们不会从华盛顿自满的预算讨论中觉察到这一点。直到最近,联邦赤字才被视为一个紧急的问题,现在它又被美国政治家搁置。

这种想法上的转变是由近期国会预算办公室(CBO)——负责给国会提出预算建议的独立技术机构——发布的修正数据导致的。

根据国会预算办公室的报告,美国财政赤字将从2012年的占国内生产总值(GDP)的7%降至2013年的4%。赤字的减少反映了3月生效的“自动减支”带来的政府国防和非国防开支的削减,以及2012年底收入和工资税上升带来的税收收入的增加。

更惊人的是,国会预算办公室预计,赤字将继续快速下降,到2015年将降至仅占GDP的2.1%,随后逐步上升至2023年GDP的3.5%。这意味着在未来10年间,政府债务/GDP比率将保持在当前的75%。

不幸的是,这些重要数据不太可能成为现实;事实上,即使国会预算办公室也不相信这会发生。相反,这些官方预测代表了国会预算办公室必须公布的“基线”场景。国会预算办公室“基线预算”假设,现行法律中所有的减赤规定将延续。这包括,例如,立法要求未来几年,支付给政府医疗保险计划中的医生的薪资大幅减少。国会每年都投票“推迟”这一决定。

为了提供更好的指导,国会预算办公室提出了一个“替代财政方案”,在该方案中,非常不可行的法规将从预期中剔除。替代预测表明,十年后,赤字将达到GDP的4.7%,债务/ GDP比率为83%,并持续上升。这些预期基于经济将恢复到充分就业、低通胀和适度利率等乐观假设。

官员和那些支持通过增加政府支出刺激经济增长的人忽视国会预算办公室更为现实的替代情境。他们利用长期政府债务利率较低——10年期债券收益率约为2%,且通货膨胀保值债券(TIPS)享有负利率——来支持其赤字并非迫在眉睫这一观点。但是这种低利率不能反映普通的市场情绪,它们是由美联储购买更多的长期证券,而非政府发行证券为预算赤字融资。

进一步展望未来,国会预算办公室警告称,人口快速老龄化及医疗费用的增加将导致赤字迅速上升,这主要是由于中等收入退休人员的养老保险和医疗保险成本将上升。据国会预算办公室,如果没有法律上的变化,2037年,财政赤字将占到GDP的17%,而国家债务将增加到超过GDP的195%。

大而不断上升的国家债务对经济的健康发展而言是一个严重的危险。更高的偿还成本要求更高的税率,这将削弱刺激力度,降低经济增长。10年后,美国将不得不把数额超过个人所得税税收三分之一的收入用于支付国家债务产生的利息。

外国投资者现在持有半数以上的债务。向他们支付利息需要向世界其他地区销售更多的商品和服务。这需要弱势美元来增加美国产品的吸引力,同时使外国商品对于美国消费者而言更昂贵。美元疲软降低了美国的生活标准。 

大规模的国家债务也限制了政府应对突发事件的能力,包括军事威胁和经济衰退。而且它使美国容易受到金融市场情绪变化的影响,正如欧洲经验表明的那样。

减少未来赤字,扭转国家债务的上升趋势需要提高税收,减缓政府养老金和医疗保险项目的增加。通过限制当前税法中的税收补贴,无需上调边际税率就可增加税收。这些补贴是政府开支的隐秘方式。

减缓中产阶级退休人员养老金和医疗保险的增加不能一蹴而就。必须首先通知那些10年后将退休的人——这就是为什么现在推出这样的改革很重要。

不幸的是,对未来赤字的自满情绪使制定所需立法,削减美国长期财政赤字变得很困难。决策者和公众都应理解真正的财政前景和高赤字带来的损害,这一点很重要。搁置赤字问题不能阻止它沸腾。

America’s Misplaced Deficit Complacency

2013-05-31 13:58

The United States still faces a dangerous fiscal deficit, but one might not know it from the complacency that dominates budget discussions in Washington. Regarded as an urgent problem until recently, the federal deficit is now being placed on the back burner of American politics.

The shift in thinking was triggered by the revised deficit forecasts recently published by the Congressional Budget Office, the independent technical agency responsible for advising Congress on budget issues.

According to the CBO’s report, the US fiscal deficit will decline from 7% of GDP in 2012 to 4% in 2013. This reduction reflects the cuts in government spending on defense and non-defense programs mandated by the budget “sequester” that took effect in March, as well as the rise in revenue caused by higher rates for income and payroll taxes since the end of 2012.

More striking is the CBO’s projection that the deficit will continue to decline rapidly, reaching just 2.1% of GDP in 2015, before rising gradually to just 3.5% of GDP in 2023, the end of the CBO’s official forecast period. That path of deficits implies that the government debt/GDP ratio will remain at about the current level of 75% for the next ten years.

Unfortunately, these headline-grabbing numbers are not likely to be borne out in reality; indeed, even the CBO does not believe that they represent what will occur. Instead, these official forecasts represent a “baseline” scenario that the CBO is required to present. The CBO’s “baseline budget” assumes that all of the deficit-reducing features in current law will remain unchanged. These include, for example, an old legislative requirement that payments to physicians in the government’s Medicare program be reduced sharply in future years, a requirement that Congress has voted each year to “postpone.”

In order to provide better guidance, the CBO presents an “alternative fiscal scenario,” in which such very unlikely features are removed from the forecast. The alternative forecast implies that the annual budget deficit at the end of ten years will be back up to 4.7% of GDP, with the debt/GDP ratio at 83% and rising. And those estimates are based on the optimistic assumption that the economy will have returned gradually to full employment with low inflation and moderate interest rates.

Officials and others who favor stimulating growth through increased government spending ignore the CBO’s more realistic alternative scenario. They buttress their argument that the deficit is not an immediate problem by pointing to very low interest rates on long-term government debt, with a 2% yield on the ten-year Treasury bond and a negative real interest rate on Treasury inflation-protected bonds (TIPS). But such low rates do not reflect ordinary market sentiment; rather, they stem from the fact that the Federal Reserve is now buying more long-term securities than the government is issuing to finance the budget deficit.

Looking further ahead, the CBO warns that the combination of a rapidly aging population and the increase in medical costs will cause the deficit to rise rapidly, driven by the higher costs of pension and health-care benefits for middle-income retirees. According to the CBO, without legislative changes, the fiscal deficit in 2037 will be 17% of GDP, while the national debt will increase to more than 195% of GDP.

A large and rising national debt is a serious danger to an economy’s health. Higher debt-service costs require higher tax rates, which in turn weaken incentives and reduce economic growth. By the end of the decade, the US will have to pay an amount equivalent to more than one-third of the revenue from personal-income taxes just to pay the interest on the national debt.

Foreign investors now hold more than half of that debt. Paying interest to them requires sending more goods and services to the rest of the world than the US receives from the rest of the world. That requires a weaker dollar to make US goods more attractive to foreign buyers and to make foreign goods more expensive to American consumers. The weaker dollar reduces the US standard of living.

A large national debt also limits the government’s ability to respond to emergencies, including both military threats and economic downturns. And it makes the US vulnerable to changes in financial-market sentiment, as the European experience has shown.

Reducing future deficits and reversing the rise in the national debt require raising tax revenue and slowing the growth of government pension and health-care programs. Tax revenue can be raised without increasing marginal tax rates by limiting the tax subsidies that are built into the current tax code. Those subsidies are a hidden form of government spending .

Slowing the growth of the pension and health-care programs for middle-class retirees cannot be done abruptly. It must begin by giving notice to those who are now a decade away from retirement – which is why it is important to launch such reforms now.

Unfortunately, the new complacency about future deficits makes it difficult, if not impossible, to enact the legislation needed to begin the process of trimming America’s long-term fiscal deficit. It is important for policymakers and the public alike to understand the real fiscal outlook and the damage that high deficits will cause if prompt action is not taken. Merely moving the problem to the back burner will not prevent it from boiling over.

环球外汇资讯频道-所有资讯-联系我们-站点地图-关于我们

版权所有:上海鲸高投资管理有限公司