[2008.11.08] 经济危机:狼视眈眈

The economic crisis

Wolves at the door

Nov 6th 2008 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition

Financial mess and gathering recession dominate Barack Obama’s economic agenda
金融混乱和愈演愈烈的经济衰退是当下Barack Obama经济议程表的重中之重

HE HAD always planned for the economy to be his priority. Just not this economy.

As candidate, Barack Obama crafted a platform to address the concerns that preoccupied voters earlier this year: high energy and health-care costs, stagnant middle-class incomes and rising foreclosures. But such problems pale beside the eruptions since August. America’s housing crisis has become a global financial panic; the economy, which was muddling along as recently as July, may be in its deepest recession in decades. Consumer confidence, as our chart shows, is at its lowest in more than half a century (except for a brief sharp dip in 1980).

在今年早些时候,作为总统候选人,Barack Obama曾精心打造了一个平台,致力于解决选民广泛关注的问题:较高的燃料和医疗支出,停滞不前的中产阶级收入和日渐加剧的房主无力偿还,房屋被查封拍卖的现象。但是比起八月突然爆发的危机,这些问题不过是小巫见大巫而已。美国的房地产危机已经成为全球性的恐慌事件;最近到七月,深陷泥沼的整体经济可能处于近几十年来最严重的衰退中。消费者信任指数,如上图所示,是半个多世纪以来的新低(除了1980年短暂的巨幅反弹)。

Only twice since the 1920s has economic angst played such an important role in a presidential election—and both the previous occasions make imperfect templates (see table). When Franklin Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932, the Depression had been going on for three years, thousands of banks had failed and unemployment was 25%. When Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980, inflation had been high for years, hovering at 12% as voters headed to the polls. The current crisis has been under way for little more than a year, the first failure of a big financial institution was in March and the latest figure for unemployment (in September) was just over 6%. Inflation this year topped 5%, mostly because of soaring petrol prices, and is now heading down.

自二十年代以来,经济困难严重到足以左右总统选举决策的重要程度,类似的事仅仅发生过两次——但是这两次的参考价值都不高(见 下表)。当Franklin Roosevelt在1932年击败Herbert Hoover时,大萧条已经持续了三年,成千上万的银行倒闭,失业率甚至高达25%。当Ronald Reagan在1980年击败Jimmy Carter时,通货膨胀连年高据不下,选民投票的时候一直在12%的水平上。目前的危机在不到一年的时间内就愈演愈烈,第一家大型金融机构在3月份破产 而最近的失业率数字(九月)略高于6%。今年的通胀率超越了5%,很大程度上归罪于高涨的油价,不过最近急转直下。

What distinguishes today’s economic environment is that it is such a sharp break from a long period of low inflation and shallow recessions, an era lasting 26 years which some economists named “the great moderation”. Indeed, the median-age voter this year has known little else, notes Michael Barone, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute. There have been financial upsets, such as the 1987 stockmarket crash and the 2001 dotcom bust. But they lacked the destructive power of this year’s financial tempest which has capsized banks, money-market mutual funds, insurers, hedge funds, car manufacturers—and countries as disparate as Iceland and Ukraine.

与前两次截然不同,从一个长达26年的低通胀和温和衰退的时代——被一些经济学家称为“大稳健”(2)嘎然 而止,正是今时今日的经济环境。美国企业研究所(American Enterprise Institute)(3)的政治专家Michael Barone指出,中年选民(45岁左右)确实也对其他的问题知之甚少(4)。曾经有过金融震荡,比如1987年股市崩盘和2001年互联网泡沫破裂。但 是这些事件缺乏今年的金融风暴如此巨大的毁灭性力量,它席卷了银行,颠覆了货币市场的互惠基金,牵连保险业,对冲基金,汽车制造商——甚至使像冰岛和乌克 兰一样国家,陷入崩溃的边缘。

Against this background, Mr Obama confronts three distinct though related challenges: the financial crisis, mortgages and foreclosures, and recession. Of these, the financial mess has to be dealt with first. “Problems in the financial system”, explains Douglas Elmendorf, an economist at the Brookings Institution, “evolve in a matter of hours, days and weeks.”

在这样的背景下,Obama总统面临三个截然不同但又互相关联的挑战:金融危机,次贷和无力清偿抵押,以及经济衰退。在其中,对付金融市场的混乱首当其冲。“金融系统的问题”, 布鲁金斯学院(Brookings Institution)(5)经济学家Douglas Elmendorf解释到,“将在数小时,数天,数周内将迅速激化。”

If Mr Obama is lucky, he will take office on January 20th with financial affairs more or less under control thanks to steps taken by Henry Paulson, the treasury secretary, and the Federal Reserve. The government is buying equity in banks and guaranteeing their debt, and the Fed has dramatically expanded its lending to all manner of borrowers. There are signs of success. Stocks have risen from their lows of a week ago. Banks are growing a bit more willing to lend to each other, judging by the decline in rates on three-month interbank dollar loans (although that rate remains extremely high in relation to the Fed’s target rate).

如果Obama总统幸运的话,他明年1月20日上任的时候,金融方面的问题也许会多多少少受到一定的控制,那要感谢财政部长Henry Paulson和美联储的共同的努力。政府正在增持银行的股票同时担保他们的还债能力,美联储也已经大幅放宽贷款标准为各类借款人提供便利。这些都是成功的迹象。股市在一周前开始从低迷中复苏。通过3月期银行同业拆借贷款利率的下降可以看出,(虽然目前此利率相比美联储的目标依然过高)银行间拆借的信心在一点一滴的恢复。

But for the healing to continue more government intervention will almost certainly be needed. As a slumping economy turns more debts bad, more financial firms will founder—and Mr Obama must decide whether to rescue them. He will press for conditions, such as lending commitments, which Mr Paulson shied away from.


The Treasury is expected to ask for the second $350 billion tranche of the $700 billion in bail-out funds. It may even need more as the list of supplicants grows. GMAC, the finance affiliate of General Motors, which said on November 5th that its mortgage unit might fail, is seeking access to the Treasury’s bail-out funds. Insurers want to qualify too. Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a bank regulator, is pressing for more aggressive (and costly) measures to reduce foreclosures. Some non-financial companies, such as the carmakers, will also come close to bankruptcy. Their requests for help will get a sympathetic ear from Mr Obama.

财政部预计在近期会动用7000亿救市基金里的另外3500亿。但是随着申请名单不断增加,恐怕还是狼多肉 少。GMAC,通用汽车下属的金融机构,于11月5日承认其抵押贷款部门面临破产,正在努力争取财政部的救市基金。保险业也希望拿到资助。银行监管性质的 联邦储蓄保险公司(FDIC)主席Sheila Bair正迫切的寻求更强劲有效(成本也更大)的措施减少房屋抵押难以赎回的问题。一些非金融行业的公司,例如汽车制造商们,也将濒于破产。他们的求助会 得到Obama先生充满同情的聆听。

Because of the extreme fragility of market confidence, the way the presidential transition is handled is crucial. Mr Obama’s preparations have been extensive and George Bush himself has prepared the ground for a smooth handover. The president-elect may name the main members of his economic team within days to reassure investors that the replacement of Mr Paulson will be seamless. Both Lawrence Summers, who held the office under Bill Clinton, and Timothy Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, are on the shortlist of candidates to take over. Mr Bush has even been urged to take the unprecedented step of nominating some of his successor’s team. But Stephen Hess, at the Brookings Institution, gives warning that this could force Mr Obama to compromise with the outgoing administration on important decisions.

由于市场信心极端脆弱,总统权力过渡的处理方式至关重要。Obama先生的准备已经相当广泛而且 George Bush也为顺利交接做好了准备。新任总统会在数天之内任命他经济团队成员以确保投资人对财务部长Paulson先生的人事更迭无需担心。 Lawrence Summers,Bill Clinton时期的财务部长与纽约联邦储备银行行长Timothy Geithner将一道出现在接任候选人的名单上。Bush先生甚至被强烈要求提名一部分他继任者团队的人选——前无古人的行为。但是布鲁金斯学会的 Stephen Hess警告此举会迫使Obama先生在重要问题上对即将卸任的总统班子妥协。

Even if the worst of the financial crisis has passed (a dangerous assumption), the worst for the economy is almost certainly ahead. After their near-death experience, bankers have turned exceedingly cautious. A Fed survey released this week shows them tightening lending standards to consumers by a greater margin than at any time in the survey’s 40-year history, except for Mr Carter’s short-lived imposition of credit controls. General Motors says that last month’s car sales, relative to the population, have been the lowest since 1945.

即使金融危机最糟糕的部分已经过去(很危险的假设),但对于整体经济而言,最坏的几乎肯定在前方等候。在几 乎被死神召唤以后,银行已经转变的十分小心翼翼。一份本周出炉的美联储调查显示:除了Carter总统时期短命的强制信贷控制以外,在调查公布的40年历 史中,没有任何一个时期比当前银行对客户的信贷资格要求更为苛刻。通用公司说上月的汽车销量,与人口量比较之后,是自1945年以来的最低点。

How long, and deep, a recession?

The depth of the recession largely hinges on how long it takes for banks and private lenders to recover their appetite for risk. This, in turn depends on the course of home prices, loan losses and the ability of financial firms to raise capital. Some officials at the Fed think that the recession could be as mild as it was in 1990-91. If so, it would probably be over around mid-2009 and unemployment will peak somewhere near 7%. In a more pessimistic scenario, the recession would rival that of 1981-82, lasting into late 2009 with unemployment reaching 8-9%.

衰退的严重性很大取决于银行和私人贷款要恢复他们嗜险如命本性的时间。这个问题依次取决于房产价格的发展,借款的死坏账以及金融机构筹集资金的能力。美联 储的一些官员认为本次的衰退可能会像1990-91那次一样轻微。如果当真如此,它大概将于2009年中左右结束同时失业率最高在7%附近。更悲观一点, 本次的衰退能与1981-82那次“媲美”,延续到2009年末,失业率到达8%-9%。

The Fed has brought previous recessions to an end by pushing interest rates low enough for long enough. Its job this time is harder. Though its interest-rate target has dropped to 1%, the benefits have been blunted by bankers’ and investors’ lack of capital and by their suspicion of customers’ creditworthiness. This has kept rates to corporate and household borrowers high. Corporate-bond yields are much higher now than 15 months ago when the Fed’s target stood at 5.25%.

在上一次与经济衰退的对抗中,美联储通过长时间的降息而笑到最后。它这次面临的困难是难上加难。虽然利率目标已经降到1%,却因为银行和投资人资本不足以 及质疑顾客的还债能力,使效果大打折扣。这使企业和私人贷款者负担的利息仍然居高不下。企业债券收益率甚至比15个月以前美联储目标定在5.25%的时候 还高许多。

Historically, presidents have had little influence over short-term economic growth, and certainly less than the Fed’s chairmen. But with monetary policy muffled, Mr Obama will bear more of the responsibility for fighting recession by way of fiscal policy. Congressional Democrats are already pressing for up to $150 billion in stimulus measures, such as aid to states and infrastructure spending. Mr Obama incorporated those goals in a two-year $175 billion proposal and may join forces with Congress to pass such a package in a “lame duck” session before inauguration day. Some advisers and outsiders want him to do even more. Economists at Goldman Sachs think that up to $500 billion in stimulus (3.5% of GDP) is necessary to offset the drop in private spending induced by tighter credit.

回顾历史,总统对短期经济增长几乎没有影响,而且一定不如美联储主席的影响力。但是当货币政策失效时,Obama总统将承担更多的责任,利用财政政策应对 经济衰退。国会的民主党议员正在力争一项价值1500亿的经济刺激方案,例如资助各州和资助基础设施建设。Obama总统把这些目标整合到一项为期两年总 额1750亿的计划中,预计与国会共同在就职日前Bush总统行将离职的期间通过这个计划(6)。一些顾问和局外人甚至希望他做更多。高盛的经济师认为需 要高达5000亿(占GDP 3%)的经济刺激才足以抵消信贷紧缩带来的私人部门消费支出下跌带来的负面影响。

With stimulus of this magnitude, the costs of the bail-out and the recession’s withering effect on tax revenue, the budget outlook is dreadful; next year’s deficit could top $1 trillion. Given the alternative—an even worse recession—even deficit hawks will hush their protests.


But the president-elect has precious little breathing room. He faces momentous and unpleasant choices. One deadline is the expiration of Mr Bush’s tax cuts at the end of 2010. Mr Obama had originally promised to extend them for all but the wealthiest 5% of households, whose higher taxes (along with a withdrawal of troops from Iraq) would finance tax credits and health-care subsidies to working-class families. The Tax Policy Centre, a research group, puts the cost of his health-care plan alone at $1.6 trillion over ten years. His more liberal supporters will expect him to keep those promises. But with a deficit threatening to exceed the post-war record of 6% of GDP (set in 1983), such largesse risks revolt by the financial markets, a point that Mr Obama’s more conservative advisers will doubtless make.

但是新总统几乎没有什么喘息的空间。他面对着极其重大和不容乐观的选择。一个期限是将于2010年底到期的Bush总统减税案。Obama总统原本承诺除 了5%的最富裕家庭以外,延长全体国民的减税期限,富人的税金(加上从伊拉克撤军)将会支付减税点和工人家庭的医保补贴。一家研究机构,税务政策中心 (Tax Policy Centre),计算出单单他的医保计划本身在十年内将达到1万6千亿。更自由大胆的支持者们期待他能兑现承诺。但是赤字时刻逼近超越战后——1983年 占据GDP6%的记录,这样不计成本的慷慨冒险行为会受到金融市场抵触。Obama总统比较保守的顾问们无疑会得出上述结论。

In 1993 Mr Clinton, facing similar tension, ultimately sided with the deficit hardliners. If anything, the pressures on Mr Obama are even more acute. With baby-boomers about to retire in growing numbers, the cost of America’s public-health and retirement programmes, if left unchanged, will rise from 8% of GDP now to 19% by 2050. Some economists dream that the time is ripe for a grand bargain that reforms the tax code, entitlements, and health care simultaneously, boosting productivity, raising revenue, expanding health-care coverage and putting the budget on the path to long-term balance.

1993年Clinton总统面对类似紧迫局势时,最终选择站在赤字强硬派一边(7)。Obama总统肩上的担子更加沉重。婴儿潮出生的一代即将退休,这 个数字与日俱增,美国公共医保和退休保障的开支,假定维持不变,会从目前GDP的8%涨到2050年19%的高位。一些经济学家非常乐观的认为同时进行大 规模的税制,津贴制度和医疗保险制度改革的时机已经成熟。其目标是促进生产力,增加收入,拓展医疗保险覆盖范围同时使预算在长期保持平衡。

Towards sterner regulation

Mr Obama also faces big decisions on reconfiguring America’s system of financial regulation. The ad hoc takeovers, bail-outs and guarantees of recent months have vastly expanded the federal safety-net and increased potential taxpayer liability by trillions of dollars. The Fed and Treasury plan to wind down most of these programmes over the next two years, but it is tough to wean investors and banks from federal guarantees once granted. With six firms controlling three-quarters of America’s $14 trillion in banking assets, “We have developed…a very serious too-big-to-fail problem,” Ben Bernanke, the Fed’s chairman, acknowledged last month.

Obama总统还面对一些重大的决定:重新设置金融规范。临时的接管,救市和近几个月以来的承诺极大的考验了联邦的安全承受能力更为纳税人增加了达上万亿 美元的潜在税负。美联储和财政部计划在未来两年逐渐使临时的措施失效,然而泼出去的水,很难再收回去,收回曾经的保证,这很难让投资人和银行买账。六个大 机构掌控着全美14万亿银行资产的四分之三,“我们自己制造了一个……非常严重而且不容有失的问题,”美联储主席Ben Bernanke在上月承认。

Since none of these firms, or any financial company of systemic importance, can be allowed to fail, more intrusive supervision that limits risk-taking and thus profitability is inevitable. To replace the system of ad hoc rescues, Mr Obama’s advisers may press for rapid action on a formal “resolution regime” enabling the federal government to take over and wind down firms. The bail-out law requires him to decide by May how to regulate derivatives and hedge funds. Eventually, he must also decide whether to merge or reassign the responsibilities of America’s multiple federal and state regulators. The Fed has taken on extensive new powers in the past year—which may not be healthy either for the financial system or for the Fed, whose principal duties are to maintain stable prices and jobs. Mr Obama’s views on such questions will influence who he appoints to fill the three vacancies on the Fed’s seven-member board, and whether to reappoint Mr Bernanke whose term expires in 2010.

由于上述六家中公司,或者任何类似重要性的金融机构的破产都不能被承受,更加严格的限制冒险投机行为的监督会导致权力寻租现象不可避免。为了取代临时援助 系统,Obama总统的顾问们可能寻求一个速战速决的动作,一个正式的“终极解决制度”允许联邦政府接管和关闭公司。救市法要求他在五月前决定如何规范管理金 融衍生品和对冲基金。最后,他也必须做一个决断,是否合并或者重新指定美国众联邦和各州的监管职能。在过去一年中,美联储获得了超越自身职责的权力——这 对金融系统不好,也对核心职能是负责稳定价格和就业的美联储本身没有好处。Obama总统对于这些问题的立场将会影响他任命美联储7人联席理事会的3席空 缺人选,也会左右是否留任2010年任职期满的财长Bernake的决定。

Economic problems abroad will also jostle for Mr Obama’s attention. The financial crisis has destabilised many emerging economies whose companies had participated in the credit boom. The International Monetary Fund’s $253 billion in resources could soon be critically stretched if other countries join Iceland, Hungary and Ukraine in seeking financial support.


The challenges facing Mr Obama are momentous; so is his potential. His solid mandate and strengthened majorities in Congress equip him with huge political capital. There is no shortage of problems demanding that he spends this capital.


(1)本文标题Wolves at the door 出自Radio Head (电台司令)乐队的一首歌 a wolf at the door,词写的非常绝妙而且跟本文很应景。同时 wolf at the door 有creditor 债主的意思。

(2)“大稳健” 在1980-2007年间,几乎在每个国家,通货膨胀都得到了控制。信息技术可以让经营者更有效地管理企业,各国的央行也都吸取了过去的教训。这期间,全 球经济的火车头美国只经历了16个月的温和衰退。2004年,时任美联储理事的伯南克借用一篇哈佛大学论文的说法将这样的经济发展历程称之为“大缓和 ”(The Great Moderation),原文见:http://www.federalreserve.gov/BOARDDOCS/SPEECHES/2004/20040220/default.htm也有译为大缓和,大平稳的。

(3)美国企业研究所全称为美国企业公共政策研究所(American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research,AEI),是美国最大和最重要的思想库之一,也是美国保守派的重要政策研究机构。在2o世纪,它与布鲁金斯学会并称为美国华盛顿的“两 大思想库”,有“保守的布鲁金斯”之称。该所的保守立场使之与共和党渊源较深,曾被称为共和党的“流亡政府”和“影子内阁”。

(4)本句指的一篇关于campaign的文章叫做“the 16-year Itch 十六年之痒”,笔者从另辟蹊径的角度分析每隔16年美国大选中, 总会出现选民倾向于政治经验欠缺的候选人的有趣巧合。其中提到2008年的“median-age”大多出生在1963年,成长与美国经济黄金的时期,即 上文所谓“the great moderation”时期,对其他政治文化方面的事情不甚关心,由于反差的问题,对经济变动尤为敏感。本文值得一看。原文:http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110011077

(5)美国布鲁金斯学会(The Brookings institution)布鲁金斯学会多年来一直是美国国内事务方面首屈一指的政策规划机构。它曾在国内政策设计方面占有支配地位。布鲁金斯学会与民主党 关系密切,许多重要成员系民主党人,为民主党政府出谋划策,提供人才,并且历届民主党政府都起用该学会的人员充任要职,故有”民主党思想库”和”民主党的 影子内阁”等美称。

(6)lame duck:跛脚鸭 鸭子走起路来一摇三摆,想快也快不了。再加上跛脚,那更是举步维艰,一筹莫展。在美国政界,常用lame duck来形容任期将届满的政治人物的窘境,尤其是第二任期快结束的总统。美国总统任期是四年,可竞选连任一次。自华盛顿创下两任八年的惯例以来,极少有 人打破连任两次以上的记录。小罗斯福总统于1933年以压倒性票数上任,其后不但连任第二届,甚而在1941年担任第三届。这是因为当时处于二次大战中, 情况非比寻常。终于在1945年,小罗斯福鞠躬尽瘁,死于任内。副总统杜鲁门继任后,立即推动修宪,明订总统只能连任一次。所以小罗斯福连干12年总统的 记录可说是空前绝后。如果一位总统干到第七八年,那么他摆明了是快要离开白宫了。这时底下的事务官就开始不再那么买他的帐了。更明显的是,外国也不大愿意 和他打交道了。甚而他本人,也不再干劲十足地想推动什么计划了,好象只能数馒头等退伍一样。这时他就是不折不扣的 lame duck president。 至于只干一任而不能赢得连任者,称为one-term president,如前总统老布什。这一类的总统干了四年,到竞选连任时于11月大选中失利,可是新总统要到次年元月才宣誓就职。这一段时间这位旧总统 等于在帮别人看房子,这也是典型的跛脚鸭。

(7)1993年初克林顿政府上台时,美国经济存在许多严峻问题。经过近一个任期的以削减财政赤字为基础的 政策运作努力,美国经济有了一定的改观。克林顿的财政政策虽然其目标是减少预算赤字,但并不是以前各任总统所采取的简单减少支出的办法,而是采用有增有减 的结构性财政政策。主要措施有:通过增加投资,经济转型和增长战略来增加财政收入;削减国防经费;取消非生产性开支,鼓励私人投资;削减联邦经费;取消非 生产性开支,鼓励私人投资;削减联邦行政开支。

译者:simurgh  http://www.ecocn.org/bbs/viewthread.php?tid=15329&extra=page%3D1

“[2008.11.08] 经济危机:狼视眈眈”的15个回复

  1. 关于dip:
    cause sth to) go down and then up again (使某物)向下再向上; (使某物)下降後再上升: The branches dipped in the wind. 树枝在风中上下颤动着.

    为什么翻成“除了1980年短暂的巨幅反弹”,因为那是事实,如果去看那个底下的us consumer confidence那个表就明白了,80年几乎探到50年来的谷底了,然后反弹,到了82年就弹回到100的高位了。反弹的原因很简单,因为81年 Ronald Reagan总统上台了。“dip”不是偏重下降词义的词,dip倾向取它的原意“蘸”,作者在此处用非常形象“下探一下,迅速反弹”

  2. 上面说的“‘dip’不是偏重下降词义的词,dip倾向取它的原意‘蘸‘”这点我很赞同(在某些语境中),但是恕我冒昧(我这人比较喜欢刨根问底),此处的dip, 依鄙人愚见,最好将其置于上下文中。众所周知,一个词的词义有很多种,而linguistic context meaning 语境意就是比较常见的一种。
    Consumer confidence, as our chart shows, is at its lowest in more than half a century (except for a brief sharp dip in 1980).
    意在通过与过去相比较强调Consumer confidence很低。我们都知道只有过去的数据比现在的高,才能显出现在的低。但是不巧的是,从图中我们可以看出1980年的消费者信任指数已经很低了,因此作者才补充道except for a brief sharp dip in 1980。

  3. 在此我得声明一点,我把这个网站当做学英语的一个平台,作者的遣词造句别具匠心自然不用多说,译者的文笔及英文功底也让我佩服得五体投地。但在望洋兴叹的同时,作为一个英语爱好者,我喜欢提出自己的看法,也喜欢与其他人探讨问题。提出疑问纯粹是为了学习,并无冒犯之意。若有不妥之处,请多多包涵!


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