《经济学人》:美国经济面临二次探底?
日期:2011-08-17 10:13

(单词翻译:单击)

America's economy
美国经济

Time for a double dip?
美国经济面临二次探底?

A lousy debt deal, rising fears of a recession, the danger of longer-term stagnation: America’s outlook is grim
面临着糟糕的负债协议,膨胀的经济恐慌,更长时间经济低迷的风险,美国经济前景黯淡

THIS ought to have been a good week for the American economy. The country’s leaders at last ended a ludicrously irresponsible bout of fiscal brinkmanship, removing the threat of global financial Armageddon by agreeing to raise the federal debt ceiling. Yet far from heaving a sigh of relief, investors are nervous. Stockmarkets around the world have tumbled (see article). On August 2nd, the day the debt deal was signed, the S&P 500 index saw its biggest one-day fall in over a year, and yields on ten-year Treasury bonds dropped to 2.6%, their lowest level in nine months, as investors sought safety.

这周这本应是美国经济不错的一周。国家领导们终于结束了财政边缘政策上的荒唐而不负责任的争斗,同意提高联邦债务上限,免除了发生金融世界大战的风险。但是投资者远没有得到宽慰,反而感到紧张。世界股市也发生震荡。8月2日,负债协议签署的那天,由于投资者寻求安全,标准普尔指数迎来一年多以来的最大单日跌幅,十年期国债收益下跌2.6%,达到9个月以来的最低水平。

It is not all to do with America: the euro zone is a mess (see article) and manufacturing everywhere seems to be slowing. But America’s prospects have suddenly darkened. Statistical revisions and some grim new figures have revealed a weaker-than-assumed recovery that has all but ground to a halt. Once stalled, an economy can easily tip back into recession, particularly if it is hit by a new shock—as America’s is about to be, thanks to a hefty dose of fiscal tightening made worse by the debt deal. The odds of a double dip over the coming year are uncomfortably high, perhaps as high as 50%.

不仅是美国,欧元区也是一片狼藉,各地制造业低迷。但是美国经济的前景突然黯淡下来。最新修改过的数据显示,经济复苏低于预期,几近停滞。经济一旦停滞,就很有可能重返衰退,受到新的冲击时尤为如此。由于美国负债协议使原本紧缩的财政更加收紧,这种冲击马上就会到来。明年美国经济二次探底的可能性高得令人不安,可能达到50%。

America’s recovery from a balance-sheet recession was always bound to be sluggish and fragile. And its woes need not fell the world economy, thanks to the strength of emerging markets (see Economics focus). But the thoughtlessness of the debt deal—notably its failure to tackle any of the real sources of America’s fiscal problems, such as entitlement spending—raises a bigger worry. Can the country’s politicians, so starkly polarised and so willing to gamble with the economy, be trusted not to turn what was always an inevitable period of hardship into longer-term stagnation?

美国从资产负债表衰退中的复苏,向来缓慢而脆弱。多亏了新兴市场,美国的衰退才不会拖垮世界经济。但是,草率的负债协议没有解决美国财政的任何实际问题,如应得权益花费等,这引起了更多的忧虑。如果一个国家的政客如此极端,愿意拿国家经济赌博,说他们能避免这一注定艰难的时期变成更长期的经济停滞,你信吗?

The fin rising to the surface
初现端倪

Begin with the state of the recovery. On July 29th America’s government statisticians published revisions to the past few years of GDP statistics. They showed that the 2008 recession was deeper than first thought, and the subsequent recovery flatter. Output has not yet regained its pre-recession peak. And the feeble recovery is petering out. Over the past year output has grown by a mere 1.6%, well below what most economists consider to be the economy’s underlying growth rate, and a pace that has in the past almost always been followed by recession. Over the past six months the United States has eked out annualised growth of merely 0.8%. Even observers who, like us, had expected America to bounce along near the bottom for a while had not expected growth to be this low.

先从复苏情况说起。7月29日美国政府公布了对过去几年GDP数据的修改版本。这些最新数据表明,2008年的衰退比预想严重,复苏也更加乏力。产出并未达到衰退前的峰值,就连这点乏力的复苏也在渐渐消失。去年产出只增长了1.6%,远低于多数经济学家认为的内在增长率,这个速度在过去几乎总是衰退的前兆。过去6个月,美国的年增率仅为0.8%。即便是对于我们这些预料到美国经济会在底部边缘徘徊一段时间的观察者来说,这个数字都低得令人惊讶。

Temporary factors have played some role in this. Soaring oil prices crimped consumer spending. The Japanese earthquake disturbed supply chains. In some industries, notably car production, a rebound is plainly under way. But the overall economy is now so weak that it would take a lot to get growth up to a reasonable rate. And there are some signs that the temporary shocks may have left a more lasting dent on the psyche of firms and shoppers. That is why the newest figures are so disconcerting. Consumer spending fell in June; consumer confidence slumped in July, as did manufacturers’ orders. Of course, these are early, incomplete, snapshots, but the chances of a double dip over the coming year, which seemed relatively small only a month ago, have risen alarmingly.

临时性因素起了一定作用。猛增的油价扭曲了消费性开支,日本的地震扰乱了供应链。某些行业,特别是汽车制造业,复苏的迹象很明显,但是整体上经济非常疲软,恢复到合理的增长速度任重而道远。而且有现象表明,短期的冲击给企业和消费者的心理造成了更为长期的影响。这就是为什么最新数据令人如此不安。6月份消费性支出下滑;7月份,随着制造商订单大幅下降,消费者信心也随之跌落。当然,这些都是早期的、不完整的现象,但是,明年经济二次探底的可能性—虽然一个月前看还比较小—已经增长到引发警觉的程度了。

If that happens, then America’s politicians will bear much of the blame (see article). Their prescription for a weak economy is a large slug of austerity. Thanks to the expiry of a payroll-tax credit and extended jobless benefits in December, the United States is on course for a fiscal contraction of some 2% of GDP next year, the biggest of any large economy—and enough to drag a weak economy into recession.

如果发生二次探底,美国政客要负主要责任。他们应对经济低迷的方法是大幅收缩财政。由于工资税减免政策和延长的失业补贴将于12月份终止,明年美国的财政收缩将达到GDP的约2%,高于任何大型经济体,且足以将低迷的经济拖入衰退的深渊。

The debt deal, which implies only modest new spending cuts in the short term, is not directly responsible for this. But Congress could, and should, have stopped this potentially ruinous trajectory. There was a deal to be had: keep up spending in the short term, with a stress on much-needed infrastructure investment, as well as extending the temporary tax cuts, in exchange for a big medium-term reduction in the deficit, centred on entitlements and tax reform. Congress did precisely the opposite, failing to support the economy now and failing to find enough cuts over the next decade to stabilise America’s debt. Any hard decisions have been given to a commission—a cop-out that condemns workers and firms to more crippling uncertainty about how the country’s fiscal mess will be tackled. Would you build a factory today if you knew that taxes had to rise eventually, but had no idea which ones?

这次债务协议仅暗示出短期内适度的支出削减,并非探底的直接原因。但是国会本能够,也应该制止这一潜在破坏性的苗头。本来的协议是这样的:短期内保持高水平支出,重点是十分必要的基础设施投资,并延长短期的减税政策,这样就能使赤字在中期内大幅下降,中心是应得权益和税收改革。国会的做法恰恰相反,既没能够支持起目前的经济,也没能为稳定债务而制定出未来十年的支出削减计划。所有艰难的决定都交给一个委员会去做,这种做法让工人和企业一片茫然,不知道国家财政问题会怎样得到解决。这种不确定性有害无益—试想,如果你知道税收最终会增长,但不知道具体是哪种税,你现在会建立工厂吗?

Worse, the poisonous politics of the past few weeks have created new sorts of uncertainty. Now that the tea-partiers have used default successfully as a political weapon, it will surely be used again. The refusal to compromise, rapidly becoming a point of honour for both parties, is wreaking damage elsewhere, partially shutting down the Federal Aviation Administration (see article) and postponing trade bills. At best, the politicians will have slowed a sputtering expansion; at worst they will have killed off the recovery and inflicted lasting harm on the world’s most impressive prosperity machine.

更糟的是,过去几周的政治毒瘤引发了新的不确定性。既然茶党能成功地把债务违约当成政治武器,那么当然还会有其他人使用它。拒绝妥协迅速成为两党的自豪,这在其他方面也在造成破坏,例如,联邦航空管理局的关闭和贸易法案的推迟。乐观地看,政客们会减缓乏力的增长;悲观地看,他们将扼杀经济复苏,使这个世界上最繁荣的国家遭受持久的伤害。

In the land of the blind the one-eyed Fed is king
在这个盲人的国度,独眼的美联储成了国王

Does it have to be this way? Not necessarily. Barack Obama or one of his Republican challengers may yet discover the courage to tell the truth about the American economy in next year’s presidential election. But given the politicians’ current uselessness, the only institution with the power to avert danger is the Federal Reserve. With interest rates so low, that means more quantitative easing. Printing more money is justifiable in the circumstances, but still a tool offering diminishing returns. Fiscal help would have been much better.

情况一定会如此吗?也不一定。奥巴马或者共和党的总统候选人可能会在下次大选中找到勇气,说出美国经济的真相。但是考虑到目前政客们的无用,唯一有能力避免二次探底危险的机构就是美联储。利率如此之低,这就意味着进一步量化宽松。印钞票在这种情况下也无可厚非,但是采用这种办法的回报在减少。如果之前能采取财政政策,情况就会好很多了。

If America does manage to avoid recession and slowly begins to pull out of this mire, it will be testimony to its underlying strengths. It still has huge advantages over other rich countries: a younger, less-taxed population, a more innovative economy and, for now at least, the dollar as the global reserve currency. If only it had the political leaders to match, its chance of avoiding recession would be far better than one in two.

如果美国能够避免衰退,慢慢爬出泥沼,这将是它内在力量的证明。毕竟比起其他富国,美国还是有优势的:年轻、低税、富有创造力,美元又是全球储备货币。如果政客们也同样给力就好了,那样避免经济衰退的可能性就会远高于50%。

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重点单词
  • feebleadj. 虚弱的,无力的
  • creditn. 信用,荣誉,贷款,学分,赞扬,赊欠,贷方 (复)c
  • prospectsn. 预期;前景;潜在顾客;远景展望
  • eventuallyadv. 终于,最后
  • reasonableadj. 合理的,适度的,通情达理的
  • boutn. 回合,一场
  • prosperityn. 繁荣,兴旺
  • gamblev. 赌博,投机,孤注一掷 n. 赌博,冒险
  • currentn. (水、气、电)流,趋势 adj. 流通的,现在的,
  • inevitableadj. 不可避免的,必然(发生)的