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特朗普治下美联储的危机

发自纽约州伊萨卡——本来已经对美国的税收,贸易和移民政策大动手术的特朗普总统如今正研究一系列可能为美国经济引来更多后果的决策。随着美联储副主席斯坦利·费舍尔(Stanley Fischer)本月退休,美联储理事会的七个席位中已经出现了三个空缺。而到2018年2月美联储主席珍妮特·耶伦(Janet Yellen)的第一个任期也将结束,给特朗普造就了一个特殊的机会去给该机构贴上自己的标签。

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而特朗普究竟会提名谁以及这些人选的产生过程不仅涉及到美联储的长期运作,还会对美国经济及其在全球金融体系中的核心地位产生持续的影响。

美联储的信誉是人们花费数十年时间按照一定程序精心树立起来的。一个例子就是美联储前主席保罗·沃尔克(Paul Volcker)在1980年代初决定加息以提升利率并接受暂时性的失业率增加。如果当年沃尔克未能采取行动,美国就会陷入螺旋式通货膨胀。沃尔克的举动引发了短期的痛苦;而且也巩固了美联储的长期信誉。

通胀是由美联储无法控制的多种因素驱动的,包括生产力,外国商品价格和政府赤字,但对未来的期望也可以发挥关键作用。当企业和劳动者们认定美联储不愿承诺抑制通胀时,通胀往往会上升。

通货紧缩也是如此。起初商品和服务的价格下跌可能听起来像是件好事。但通缩也可能是灾难性的。一旦预计物价将继续走低,消费者将停止购买,企业将推迟投资。这些决定可能会造成恶性循环,因为需求下降导致就业,增长和价格三者纷纷下降,导致需求进一步萎缩。

2008年全球金融危机导致许多国家陷入了通缩的困境。但在美联储的努力下美国同时避免了严重通缩和通胀,而且恢复速度比其他发达经济体更快。美联储通过激进式宽松货币政策成功阻止了美国通缩。当时许多经济学家都担心货币供应量的急剧增长以及政府债务的急剧上升会刺激通胀并削弱美元。但这些恐惧最终被证明是毫无根据,美联储的信誉也再度得到了巩固。

美联储的信誉也是美元国际金融主导地位的基石。约2/3的全球央行外汇储备——也就是各国的应急基金——都投资在美元上。目前包括各国中行在内的外国投资者累计持有价值超过6万亿美元的美国政府债券,远超10年前的3万亿美元。美元作为主要全球储备货币的现状也有助于维护美国的低利率政策,从而降低美国消费者和美国政府的借款成本。

美联储的独立性,还有美国制度化的权力制衡体系以及对法治的遵守都对维持投资者对美元的信心至关重要。但如今特朗普政府正在削弱行政和立法部门之间的制衡,而他对法治的漠然可能对司法部门构成直接的挑战。 在这种情况下,任何破坏美联储独立性的行为都可能严重侵蚀美国经济实力所倚仗的制度框架。

美联储之所以能享有国际信誉,正是因为它独立于任何政治操纵。但美联储也拥有合法性,因为它对政府和人民负责。这个问责制至少应该是基于既定的经济目标——即低通货膨胀和低失业率——而不是某个时期某位执政者的心血来潮。

从这个角度来看,特朗普可能严重损害美联储的信誉。他只需要任命自己的忠诚追随者而非最优秀的技术官员;或是任命技术过关但只对总统本人而非美联储长官这个职位效忠的技术官员。

由特朗普追随者主掌的美联储可能会将经济增长置于其他目标(比如维持金融稳定和低通胀)之上。但这种做法虽然可能在短时间内推动GDP增长,但由于通货膨胀和金融市场的不稳定性增加,长远来看将会对经济增长造成损害。

另外一个风险是特朗普将实现自己那个让美元走弱的愿望——而且是长期性的。只要有一点点削弱对美元信心的可能性,在加上通货膨胀率上升,就可能会推高利率,导致更庞大的预算赤字,更低的增长率和螺旋式通货膨胀。

如果特朗普确实试图让美联储为自己的政治议程服务,那么他将会对这个确保金融稳定,稳定低通胀和持续增长的机构造成不可弥补的损害。最终得到的不是“美国优先”,而是削弱美元作为全球主要储备货币的地位,并为其他国家填补其在全球金融市场中留下的空白铺平道路。

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