The Economy Is Worse Than You Think

(美國)經濟比你想像的還嚴重

 

Expect more bad news until someone enacts a plan to bring deficits under control without raising taxes.

將期待著更多的壞消息,直到有人頒布了一項不靠加稅把赤字控制住的計畫

 

By MARTIN FELDSTEIN

The policies of the Obama administration have led to the weak condition of the American economy. Growth during the coming year will be subpar at best, leaving high or rising levels of unemployment and underemployment.

歐巴馬政府的政策讓美國經濟情勢更加疲弱,未來一年內的成長將會低於過去平均,留下來的會是很高或不斷增加的失業和就業不足。

The drop in GDP growth to just 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011, from 3.1% in the final quarter of last year, understates the extent of the decline. Two-thirds of that 1.8% went into business inventories rather than sales to consumers or other final buyers. This means that final sales growth was at an annual rate of just 0.6% and the actual quarterly increase was just 0.15%—dangerously close to no rise at all. A sustained expansion cannot be built on inventory investment. It takes final sales to induce businesses to hire and to invest.

GDP成長率的下跌似乎從2010Q43.1%跌至2011Q11.8%,這樣的下跌還算是低估。那三分之二的1.8%是進入了『商業庫存』,而不是銷售給消費者或是其他最終買家。這意味著最終銷售增長率以年增率計算僅為0.6%2011Q1GDP成長率實際約只有0.15%,危險地接近毫無成長。一個持續成長擴張的經濟是不能建立在庫存上,這需要最終銷售,促使企業雇用員工和增進投資。

 

The picture is even gloomier if we look in more detail. Estimates of monthly GDP indicate that the only growth in the first quarter of 2011 was from February to March. After a temporary rise in March, the economy began sliding again in April, with declines in real wages, in durable-goods orders and manufacturing production, in existing home sales, and in real per-capita disposable incomes. It is not surprising that the index of leading indicators fell in April, only the second decline since it began to rise in the spring of 2009.

更悲觀的景象,如果我們觀察更多的細節。估算以月為單位的2011Q1GDP會發現僅在二月份到三月份成長。經過三月份短暫的上升,經濟又開始在四月份下滑,隨著在成屋銷售、耐久財訂單、製造業生產與實質人均可支配受入不佳而導致實質薪資下降。這些看似不足為奇在四月份下降的領先指標,已經是自2009年春天以來不斷成長到現在第二次下降。

 

The data for May are beginning to arrive and are even worse than April's. They are marked by a collapse in payroll-employment gains; a higher unemployment rate; manufacturers' reports of slower orders and production; weak chain-store sales; and a sharp drop in consumer confidence.

五月份的數據將會陸續公布,甚至不如四月。重點將會是崩潰的薪資成長與更高的失業率;工業生產與訂單顯示趨緩的報告、疲弱的銷售、以及消費者信心指數的大幅下降。

 

How has the Obama administration contributed to this failure to achieve a robust and sustainable recovery?

歐巴馬政府是如何讓『實現了強勁與持續的復甦政策』故障,失去效果?

 

The administration's most obvious failure was its misguided fiscal policies: the cash-for-clunkers subsidy for car buyers, the tax credit for first-time home buyers, and the $830 billion "stimulus" package. Cash-for-clunkers gave a temporary boost to motor-vehicle production but had no lasting impact on the economy. The home-buyer credit stimulated the demand for homes only temporarily.

政府失敗最明顯在於錯誤的財政政策:舊車換現金的購車補貼,首次購屋的稅收優惠與8300億美金的『刺激』方案。購車補貼退動了臨時的汽車產量,但沒有對經濟產生持續的影響。房屋信貸方案也只是暫時刺激了房屋需求。

 

As for the "stimulus" package, both its size and structure were inadequate to offset the enormous decline in aggregate demand. The fall in household wealth by the end of 2008 reduced the annual level of consumer spending by more than $500 billion. The drop in home building subtracted another $200 billion from GDP. The total GDP shortfall was therefore more than $700 billion. The Obama stimulus package that started at less than $300 billion in 2009 and reached a maximum of $400 billion in 2010 wouldn't have been big enough to fill the $700 billion annual GDP gap even if every dollar of the stimulus raised GDP by a dollar.

至於『刺激』方案,其規模和結構都不足以抵銷巨大的需求下降。2008年末秋季的家庭財富損失減少了年消費支出,超過5000億美元。房地產的下跌減少了2000億美金的GDPGDP的總量短缺因此超過7000億美金。歐巴馬的刺激方案,從2009年低於3000億美金達到2010年超過4000億美金。即使如果也不夠填補7000億美金的全年GDP差距──即使方案的每一美金都刺激起一美金的GDP

 

In fact, each dollar of extra deficit added much less than a dollar to GDP. Experience shows that the most cost-effective form of temporary fiscal stimulus is direct government spending. The most obvious way to achieve that in 2009 was to repair and replace the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan that would otherwise have to be done in the future. But the Obama stimulus had nothing for the Defense Department. Instead, President Obama allowed the Democratic leadership in Congress to design a hodgepodge package of transfers to state and local governments, increased transfers to individuals, temporary tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, etc. So we got a bigger deficit without economic growth.

事實上,每一美金的赤字對於GDP的增加卻少於一美金。經驗表明,最符合成本效應的財政刺激是直接的政府開支,最明顯的方式如2009年在阿富汗與伊拉克的軍事開銷,這是我們未來必須去做的事。

但歐巴馬的刺激方案跟國防部無關。相反,歐巴馬政府讓民主黨領導的國會,設計一個大雜燴方案轉移到洲和地方政府,增加轉移到個人,為低收入的納稅人臨時減稅等等。於是我們得到了一個更大的赤字,卻沒有經濟成長。

 

A second cause of the continued economic weakness is the president's emphasis on increasing tax rates. Although Mr. Obama grudgingly agreed to continue the Bush tax cuts for 2011 and 2012, his budget this year repeated his call for higher tax rates on upper-income individuals and multinational corporations. With that higher-tax cloud hanging over them, it is not surprising that individuals and businesses do not make the entrepreneurial investments and business expansions that would cause a solid recovery.

而造成經濟持續疲弱的第二個原因在於總統強調提高稅率。雖然歐巴馬勉強同意布希政府的2011 ~ 2012年的減稅政策,但他今年的預算卻不斷地重申對高收入的個人及跨國企業要求較高的稅率。隨著高稅率的陰霾壟罩著他們,不令人意外,將使個人與企業不願意再投入會讓景氣復甦結實地復甦的投資與業務擴張

 

A third problem stems from the administration's lack of an explicit plan to deal with future budget deficits and with the exploding national debt. This creates uncertainty about future tax increases and interest rates that impedes spending by households and investment by businesses. The national debt has jumped to 69% of GDP this year, from 40% in 2008. It is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to reach more than 85% by the end of the decade, and to keep rising after that. The reality is even worse since ObamaCare alone will cost more than $1 trillion in its first 10 years. The president's boast that his health legislation would not "add a dime" to the national debt was possible only by combining that increased spending with proposed new taxes and with projected cuts in Medicare spending that will never occur.

第三個問題是源自於政府缺乏一個明確計畫,以應付未來國家的預算赤字與債務的爆炸。這將使未來有加稅與提升利率的不確定性,影響家庭支出與企業投資。美國國債占GDP比率從2008年的40%到今年的69%,國會預算辦公室預測,將會在10年內超過85%,並持續上升。

 

Finally, there is the administration's incoherent position on the international value of the dollar. The Treasury repeats the slogan that "a strong dollar is good for America" while watching the real value of the dollar fall by 7% over the past year, and while urging the Chinese to allow the dollar to fall more quickly relative to the yuan. The lack of a consistent dollar policy adds to the uncertainty that limits business investment and hiring.

最後,還有一個跟政府與政府狀況不連貫的美元價值。財政部不斷呼籲的口號:「強勢美元對美國是好的!」而看到美元實際匯率從過去一年以來跌了7%,以及要求人民幣兌美元加速升值。在沒有一致性的美元政策下造成了不確定性增加,限制了企業的投資和就業

 

The economy will continue to suffer until there is a coherent and favorable economic policy. That means bringing long-term deficits under control without raising marginal tax rates—by cutting government outlays and by limiting the tax expenditures that substitute for direct government spending. It means lower tax rates on businesses and individuals to spur entrepreneurship and investment. And it means reforming Social Security and Medicare to protect the living standards of future retirees while limiting the cost to future taxpayers.

在連貫和有利的經濟政策出來前,經濟會持續受到上述問題的影響。這意味著要在不提高邊際稅率下控制長期的赤字──用削減政府開支和稅收支出的限制取代政府支出。這代表對企業與個人課更低的稅率以促進創業與投資意願。這也意味著改革社會保障和醫療保險,以保障未來退休人員的生活標準,同時限制未來的納稅人的成本。

 

All of these things are doable. But the Obama administration has not done them and shows no inclination to do them in the future.

所有這些都是可行的。但奧巴馬政府沒有這樣做,並顯示他們未來也沒有興趣去做。


Mr. Feldstein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan, is a professor at Harvard and a member of The Wall Street Journal's board of contributors.

Mr. Feldstein曾任雷根總統時期經濟顧問委員會主席,現為哈佛大學教授以及華爾街日報董事會成員。

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