Sunday, October 26, 2014
7

面对美国的增长挑战

伯克利—美国一直处在大萧条以来最深经济衰退之后的复苏中,但复苏的速度仍然低得令人沮丧。有理由表明2013年会出现一些好转,尽管与往常一样,下行风险依然存在。

欧洲衰退延续或爆发金融危机以及新兴市场增长放缓是主要的外部忧虑来源。在国内,政治斗争体现了两个最大的风险:无法达成提高债务上限的协议以及妨碍经济增长的新一轮财政紧缩。

自2010年以来,平均年GDP增长率只有2.1%,这意味着就业岗位创造不振。在此次和前两次复苏中,就业增长的反弹都比GDP弱,而且滞后于GDP。但最新衰退中的就业岗位减少量比前两次多两倍,因此缓慢的复苏意味着在长得多的时间里存在高得多的失业率。

总需求疲软被指为GDP和就业增长不振的罪魁。2008年衰退由金融危机引发,而金融危机由信用催生的资产泡沫破裂摧毁了房地产市场引发。在这类危机后,私人部门需求会急剧下降,复苏会极为缓慢。私人部门财务收支的波动情况是:2006年存在相当于GDP的3.7%的赤字(繁荣期最高值),2010出现了相当于GDP的6.8%左右的盈余,目前盈余约为GDP的5%。这意味着这是二战结束以来私人部门需求最剧烈的衰退和最疲软的复苏。

私人需求的两大组成部分——占美国经济总支出额75%以上的住宅投资和消费增长特别缓慢。两大需求源都有望在2013年有所增强。

用占GDP比重衡量,住房投资仍处在历史低点,这是2003—2008年房地产泡沫期的过度建房以及随后按揭止赎风暴带来的后果。但房地产市场的阻力正在消散。去年,住房销量、价格和建筑量均有所上升,而按揭止赎有所下降。住房投资应能成为今年产出和就业增长的一大源泉。

家庭财富的巨大损失、在不可持续的债务水平上的去杠杆化过程、疲软的工资增长以及劳动收入占国民收入比重降至历史低点,这些因素形成的合力约束了消费增长。真实中位家庭收入仍比2007年的峰值低7%,真实中位家庭净财富在2005—2010年间下跌了35%(目前仍显著低于危机前峰值),复苏期间90%的收入增长流入了最顶层1%人的腰包。

实事求是地说,消费的资产负债表阻力已有所减缓。家庭债务已得到了削减——往往是通过痛苦的按揭止赎和破产实现——家庭债务/收入比率已降至2005年的水平,显著低于2008年的峰值。受低利率推动,债务偿付占家庭收入比重已降至20世纪80年代初的水平。但消费将因工资税减免计划到期而受到影响,今年的家庭收入将因此减少1 250亿美元。

妨碍复苏的另一大因素是州和地方政府商品和服务支出增长疲软,最近,联邦政府也加入了这一行列。事实上,自衰退发生以来,州和地方政府裁掉了600 000个工作岗位和20%的基础设施项目支出。

2013年的财政趋势仍不明朗,但总的来说是消极的。州和地方政府的减支和裁员过程正在随复苏提振税收收入而结束,联邦层面的财政后腿则日趋严重。美国纳税人援助法(American Taxpayer Relief Act)——1月初为避免“财政悬崖”而达成的税收协议——裁掉了未来十年的7 500亿美元赤字,这将拖累2013年增长率1个百分点。此外,尽管大幅削减联邦支出的方案支持者要少一些,但该方案已经步入了实施阶段,未来可能还会加码。

2011年写入法律的支出削减和收入增加预计将在未来十年减少2.4万亿美元的赤字,其中四分之三来自减支,几乎全是非国防自由裁量项目。根据当前的经济假设,美国需要约4万亿美元储蓄才能在未来十年中保持债务/GDP比率稳定。其中五分之三已有了着落。

所谓的扣押(将于3月开始的全面减支)将在今年减少1 000亿美元、未来十年减少1.2万亿美元赤字。尽管这可以稳定债务/GDP比率,但扣押将是一个错误:它无法区分支出优先级,会破坏重要项目,并会导致今年增长的严重削弱。

此外,尽管赤字悲观派频发警告,但美国仍没有迫在眉睫的债务危机。最近,公共部门持有的联邦债务略高于GDP的70%,这是20世纪50年代初以来不曾有过的情况。尽管如此,平均而言政府债务会在严重金融危机后增加86%,因此2008—2012年联邦债务增加70%并不令人奇怪。

这也没什么值得担忧的。美国经济二战后债务/GDP比率要高得多,但经济增长也快得多,如今的比率低于任何其他主要工业化国家(大约只有希腊的一半,用它来作类比是荒谬的,极易引人入歧途)。

过去两年来,华盛顿沉溺于削减赤字、将债务/GDP比率保持在“可持续”路径上,尽管全球投资者纷纷涌向美国国债,把利率推向了历史低点。未来十年赤字削减取得重大进步被忽视了。同样被忽视的还有低增长、投资不振以及失业高企所带来的即期挑战。

是时候转变专注点了。美国需要提振增长速度的计划,而不是更多的赤字削减。杰出的增长经济学家多马尔(Evsey Domar,我在MIT的教授之一)建议,缓解债务负担的问题本质上是取得国民收入增长的问题。我们应该遵循他的智慧。

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  1. Portrait of Pingfan Hong

    CommentedPingfan Hong

    "The US needs a plan for faster growth, not more deficit reduction" : this statement is misleading, as it misinterprets what is actually under the debate. Most analysts involved in the debate do not place the need for growth and the need for debt reduction as two competing goals on the two ends. Those who urge for debt reduction believe debt reduction is the precondition for higher growth. They are for higher growth.

  2. CommentedMargaret Bowker

    The US has entered the difficult stage of its recovery plan, paying back. But there are some helpful indicators. The November and December job creation figures were revised up and the January figure was steady. And the growth figure for the last quarter of 2012 was only a contraction of 0.025% which disappoints in comparison with the previous quarter. However, it is only slightly mirroring what is happening in the 0.3% contraction seen in the UK and Germany, also after satisfactory third quarters. The decks are cleared in the US for Budget issues to be carefully considered, now that the Debt Ceiling bill has gone through the Senate. Hopefully the Debt Ceiling will not be a problem in mid May, or in future. Hardly anyone else has this mechanism, with its far-reaching political ramifications. Laura Tyson makes a good case for protecting growth and mindful of the mini-contraction, others may also acknowledge its importance. This is the difficult stage of a fiscal/monetary plan, deciding where to cut, when it comes in, and how to ameleriorate its effects, by tapering perhaps. Europe is starting to consider growth issues to balance reduction in its long term budget and the UK is debating how to accelerate those measures already introduced. The focus is shifting in a responsible way.

  3. Commentedcaptainjohann Samuhanand

    USA is not recovering at all.Normal economics is not going to work here.It is basically politics. USA has wasted lot of money in Iraq/Afghanistan wars.Printing of dollars is not going to work with China slowly shifting to commodity trading.USA has to rethink on its Global role becuase it is the Greatest democracy world has ever known.The people of USA must learn to live within their means.

  4. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Just when we thought we were moving towards early signs of growth, we stumbled on the last quarter data where growth has stalled in U.S.; the role of monetary policy seems to be overstated and more so when liquidity is never a problem now while that is what we are flooding the market with. It reminds one of the golden rule of money, one that was said by no other than John Stuart Mill, “"There cannot . .. ," he wrote, "be intrinsically a more insignificant thing, in the economy of society, than money; except in the character of a contrivance for sparing time and labor. It is a machine for doing quickly and commodiously, what would be done, though less quickly and commodiously, without it: and like many other kinds of machinery, it only exerts a distinct and independent influence of its own when it gets out of order". Milton Friedman on the other hand noted in his seminal article ‘The Role of Monetary Policy’, “that (1) It cannot peg interest rates for more than very limited periods; (2) It cannot peg the rate of unemployment for more than very limited periods.” We have therefore too much expectation bunched up for central banks to deliver, which they have very little in their armor to facilitate.

  5. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    Rightly or wrongly, the Republican attack on "spending" is aimed at the increasing share of GDP going to various cross-subsidy programs sponsored by government. There is a sense by many taxpayers that there is something "unfair" in this redistribution.

    I suspect the middle of the Democratic officeholder class in Washington is simply not going to support "spending" in the general sense.

    So the equilibrium political point in the US is now towards slow growth.

  6. CommentedMark Pitts

    The good profesora doth seek to mislead her readers: Global investors have not in fact “flocked to US government debt.”

    An amount roughly equal to the last three years’ total deficit has been purchased by the Federal Reserve, using their printing press. Thus, there has been essentially no new net investment in US debt by world investors for the last three years.

    And those global investors who appeared to “flock” to US Treasuries were actually “fleeing” from bonds issued in euros, understandable since it was a currency that many were predicting would cease to exit.

    The professor makes her assessments “based on current economic assumptions” meaning, no doubt, that we are soon to return to 3-4% growth. How else could she conclude that current deficits of around $1 trillion per year can be stabilized with cuts of $2.4 trillion spread over ten years?

    In any case, if the average interest rate on US debt increases by just 1.7% in the years ahead, that $2.4 trillion ten-year savings ($240 billion per year) goes to pay higher interest rates, and the deficit goes back up despite the cuts.

    And in ten years, the Medicare disaster will hit with full force, but let’s not even speak of that...

    Academic economists and government officials may find Ms. Tyson’s analysis convincing, but bond investors everywhere have their eyes on the door.

  7. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The greatest challenge is to understand there there is no return to growth, at least not the way it happened so far.
    When we talk about "refocusing" it means to understand the root causes behind the crisis, or more precisely system failure instead of continuing with superficial, cosmetic adjustments.
    The present overconsumption, over production economic model is totally unnatural, thus it is unsustainable.
    People are not searching for, working for, paying for goods to satisfy natural, modern, human desires, but they are craving for artificial desires the sophisticated marketing machinery and the subsequent social pressure forces on them.
    Through multiple factors this illusion, this "Matrix" has come to an end, it is impossible to sustain. More and more people and nations are "disconnecting from the Matrix" for different reasons.
    The debt burden, the social inequality, the exhausted natural resources and environmental damage brought the whole present human system into a dead end.
    We cannot avoid looking into the mirror and accepting defeat.
    Accepting the inevitable now and starting to build a new system while we are still in a relatively healthy shape is much better than waiting for a total meltdown and then starting panic reactions.
    We cannot cheat nature and natural laws, we are part of the system not above it.
    It is time we wake up and adapt to the system before we are forced to do so.

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