《经济学人》:权势大亨们和飞机制造企业
日期:2011-07-13 10:35

(单词翻译:单击)

Fat cats and corporate jets
权势大亨们和飞机制造企业

Why is it so unrewarding for politicians to bash the rich in America?
为什么美国政客都不愿意对富人进行打击呢?

Jul 7th 2011 | from the print edition

THE corporate jet gets a lousy press. In the James Bond classic, “Goldfinger”, the eponymous villain is sucked out of the window of just such an aircraft. In 2008 the bosses of Detroit’s moribund car companies did themselves no favours when they flew in their gleaming jets to Washington, DC, to beg Congress for bail-outs (they drove the next time). And in his present face-off with the Republicans over the federal debt ceiling, Barack Obama is bashing the jets again, because to the man in the street the corporate jet is a perfect proxy for a fat cat. “I’ve said to Republican leaders, you go talk to your constituents and ask them, ‘Are you willing to compromise your kids’ safety so some corporate-jet owner can get a tax break?’.”

私人飞机面临着大量的压力。在詹姆士•邦德经典电影《金手指》中,臭名昭著的恶棍就是从这样的飞机窗户中被吸出去的。2008年,底特律濒临倒闭的汽车企业的老板们飞往华盛顿请求国会给予应急措施时,他们乘坐的豪华飞机并没有给他们带来一丁点帮助(第二次是开车来的)。在他出席的与共和党关于政府债务限额问题的面对面会议中,巴拉克•奥巴马再一次猛烈抨击私人飞机,因为对于大街上的普通民众来说,私人飞机就是有钱肥猫的最佳代言人。“我已经对共和党领导人说过,你去问问你的选民们这样一个问题:‘你们愿意用孩子的安全作为代价来换取某些私人飞机的主人减税吗?’”

Needless to say, Mr Obama is now accused by the aircraft manufacturers of scapegoating a successful industry that employs more than a million Americans and by the Republicans of launching a populist “class war”. But this raises a question. If an authentic populist movement exists in the United States today, it is not composed of impoverished class warriors braying to squeeze the rich until their pips squeak. It is the tea-party movement, whose crusade to slash taxes and pare government to the bone far outweighs whatever distaste it might feel towards those magnificent fat cats in their flying machines.

不用说,私人飞机现在肯定指责奥巴马将一个提供超过一百万岗位的成功产业作为替罪羊,而且共和党会指责他发起了一个平民主义的“阶级斗争”。但这提出了一个问题,如果当今美国存在一个真正的平民运动,那么这将不包括那些尖叫着要将富人榨干的贫民阶级勇士们。这是茶党运动,其改革运动旨在减少税收和彻底精简政府,任何不喜欢茶党运动的都有可能倾向于飞机里的那些重要的大亨们。

Why is bashing the rich such an unpopular form of populism in America? The normal answer falls back on culture. Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution notes that Americans are repelled by the notion of inequality in worth or status. That men are created equal is, after all, “self-evident”. They are, however, far less perturbed by unequal wealth, a form of inequality that is the inevitable product of the free-market system in which most still profess an abiding faith. According to Tom Smith, director of the Centre for the Study of Politics and Society at the University of Chicago, surveys still show Americans to be more sympathetic than Europeans to the idea that unequal pay encourages people to work hard, for example, and less sympathetic to the idea that governments should try to smooth such inequalities out.

为何在美国抨击富人是非常不受欢迎的一种平民主义形式?常规的答案归根于文化,布鲁金斯学会的比尔•盖尔斯顿指出,美国人对财产和社会地位不平等的说法感到厌恶。毕竟人人生而平等是“不言而喻”的,但却被不平等的财富完全打乱。财富不均作为不公平的一种形式,是自由市场体系不可避免的产物,但多数人声称仍然对自由市场体系持有不变的信念。根据芝加哥大学政治与社会研究中心主任汤姆•史密斯的调查,发现美国人比欧洲人更加赞同这样的想法,即不平等的待遇激励人们更加努力的工作,但是,不赞成政府应当尝试消除不平等的想法。

That said, you might think that the normal answer would no longer do in such abnormal times—after a great recession and with 18m people still looking for work. And, sure enough, every week brings a flood of complaints in the media about the rich getting richer while the incomes of the middle class stagnate or fall. A survey for the New York Times has just reported that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was little shy of $11m a year—a mouth-watering 23% rise since 2009. Joseph Stiglitz, the holder of a Nobel prize in economics, claimed in Vanity Fair that the top 1% of Americans were taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income and controlled 40% of its wealth, though others dispute his numbers.

据说,也许你认为常规的答案已经不再适在这个反常的时代——大萧条以及1800万人口失业。而且,不出所料的是,媒体上每周都有大量的牢骚,抱怨有钱人越来越有钱而中产阶级的收入没有增加或者减少。纽约时报的一份调查显示,去年,200家大公司的首席执行官的年薪平均为将近1100万美元——自2009年以来,达到令人羡慕的23%的年增长率。诺贝尔经济学奖得主约瑟夫•斯蒂格利茨在《名利场》一书中声称:美国最富有的1%的人口持有将近全美国四分之一的收入并且控制着美国40%的资产,但很多人对他的数据存在争议。

As to whether such disparities should matter, that question has puzzled philosophers at least since the Enlightenment. This column proposes no definitive answer this week. The point here is only that Americans do not seem to mind about the widening inequality of income and wealth as much as you might expect them to in current circumstances. By and large, they have preferred opportunity to levelling; equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome. The trouble with this is that America is a long way from providing equal opportunity. Children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution are nearly five times as likely to end their lives there as those from families in the top fifth. Indeed, social scientists are no longer sure whether it is still easier to climb the ladder in the “classless” United States than it is in the supposedly class-hobbled lands of Western Europe.

对于这样的不公平是否应当引起重视,这个问题自启蒙运动以来就一直困扰着哲学家们。本专栏在本周不打算给出明确的答案,我们的重点是:当前情况下,似乎只有美国人不关心收入和财富差距越来越大,也许没有你期待的那么强烈。总体上来说,他们更喜欢机遇而不是公平,更喜欢机遇平等而不是结果平等。这种想法带来的问题是美国人一直以来提供公平的机遇。收入分配最低的5%的人中,其孩子出生后几乎有5倍的可能享受与收入最高5%人中的孩子一样的生活。的确,社会科学家已经不再确定在美国“无阶级”社会中攀登幸福生活的阶梯是否要比据称有等级阻碍的西欧国家更加容易。

What are vote-seeking politicians to make of this? That the American people appear to have kept faith in the hardest of times with the idea of leaving it mainly to markets rather than governments to allocate life’s material rewards strikes many Republicans as a marvellous thing—the glorious opposite of what happened in the 1930s, when the economically stricken turned to government for succour. In the case of the recent collapse, runs the Republican argument, misplaced government intervention—such as the egalitarian nonsense of extending credit for home-ownership to those who could not really afford it—was at least as much to blame as the excesses of the private sector. That, to judge by the eruption of the tea-party movement, is the verdict of many non-aligned Americans too. So the Grand Old Party is betting on this anti-government wave restoring it to power in 2012.

寻求选票的政客们怎么看待这个问题呢?美国人民似乎在最艰难的年代也信心十足,因为他们坚持让市场而不是政府去分配生活物资奖励,打击了很多共和党人的不可思议事情发生了——当20世纪30年代经济大衰退向政府寻求救援时,所发生的一切的光辉对立面。最近金融危机的事例中,共和党中争论不断,政府干涉错位——诸如将房产拥有者的信贷扩大到那些甚至无力偿还的人的荒谬平等主义——至少怪罪于私有部门的失误操作。从茶党运动的爆发来判断,也是很多持中立态度的美国人的最终答案。因此,美国共和党断言这股反政府浪潮能促使他们在2012年重建他们的政权。

Not so exceptional, after all?
毕竟,不会太出人意料?

There are those on the Democratic side who urge Mr Obama to place precisely the opposite bet. His great mistake, they say, is failing to see that, beyond the din the tea-partiers make, most Americans deeply resent the bailing-out of the bankers and the rest of the undeserving rich who led the economy to the abyss, and would rally to the president if he only found the courage to mete out the punishment these villains deserve. Only thus can he summon up a populist wave for himself and ride it to re-election.

在民主党派中也有人力促奥巴马总统采取恰恰相反的措施。他们说,他最大的错误就是没有看到在茶党人士的喧嚣以外,大多数美国人深深地怨恨对银行家和其他那些不配获得援助的富人实施应急措施,是这些富人们将经济带向危机的深渊,而且他们愿意支持总统如果他有勇气给予这些小人应有的惩罚。只有这样,他才能唤起一股支持他的平民主义浪潮并且一直到再次竞选。

And yet Mr Obama, as is his wishy-washy wont, is not biting. He still plans to end the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000. But for all his occasional digs at the fat cats and their jets, this president is not and will probably never be the avenging egalitarian the left of his party dreams of. His own bet seems to be that in the matter of inequality the American people are less exceptional than they like to think they are. They might be unusually tolerant of big gaps between the rich and poor, but they expect the rich to pay their way and the state to offer a helping hand to those who cannot rise without one. This middling bet might not be the most exciting reading of America’s mood. But it may be the shrewdest path to re-election.

而且奥巴马总统并不尖锐,就像他一贯空泛的作风一样。他仍然打算结束布什时代的税收减免政策,该政策针对年薪超过25万美元的群体。但是至于他对大亨们和他们飞机的偶然的嘲讽,作为总统的他不会,也许将永远不会成为他的党派所梦想的复仇平等主义者。他们也许不同寻常地忍受着贫富间的巨大差距,但是他们期待富人能自食其力,而且国家能为那些无法通过自己努力富裕起来的人们提供帮助。这个折中的做法也许不是最能激起美国人民热情的方式,但是这也许是获得连任的最有效的途径。

注释:

tea-party movement:茶党运动,茶党运动是美国公众发起的一场反对奥巴马政府的经济刺激计划和医疗改革方案,主张政府要减小规模、缩减开支、降低税收、弱化监管的自下而上形成的社会运动。之所以命名为茶党,可以追溯到1773年为了反对英国政府对北美殖民地实行的不公平税收政策而引发的波士顿倾茶事件,期间示威者打出的口号是“税收已经太多了”(Taxed Enough Al-ready),而它的首字母组合在一起正是单词“TEA”(茶)。由此茶党也就寓意着对苛捐杂税的抗争乃至对现实的不满。

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重点单词
  • authenticadj. 可信(靠)的,真实的,真正的
  • interventionn. 插入,介入,调停
  • needlessadj. 不需要的,无用的
  • statusn. 地位,身份,情形,状况
  • aircraftn. 飞机
  • democraticadj. 民主的,大众的,平等的
  • laddern. 梯子,阶梯,梯状物 n. (袜子)抽丝 v.
  • creditn. 信用,荣誉,贷款,学分,赞扬,赊欠,贷方 (复)c
  • exceptionaladj. 例外的,异常的,特别的,杰出的
  • directorn. 董事,经理,主管,指导者,导演