From The New York Times
July 3, 2009

O.K., Thursday’s jobs report settles it. We’re going to need a bigger stimulus. But does the president know that?

Let’s do the math.

Since the recession began, the U.S. economy has lost 6 ½ million jobs — and as that grim employment report confirmed, it’s continuing to lose jobs at a rapid pace. Once you take into account the 100,000-plus new jobs that we need each month just to keep up with a growing population, we’re about 8 ½ million jobs in the hole.

And the deeper the hole gets, the harder it will be to dig ourselves out. The job figures weren’t the only bad news in Thursday’s report, which also showed wages stalling and possibly on the verge of outright decline. That’s a recipe for a descent into Japanese-style deflation, which is very difficult to reverse. Lost decade, anyone?

Wait — there’s more bad news: the fiscal crisis of the states. Unlike the federal government, states are required to run balanced budgets. And faced with a sharp drop in revenue, most states are preparing savage budget cuts, many of them at the expense of the most vulnerable. Aside from directly creating a great deal of misery, these cuts will depress the economy even further.

So what do we have to counter this scary prospect? We have the Obama stimulus plan, which aims to create 3 ½ million jobs by late next year. That’s much better than nothing, but it’s not remotely enough. And there doesn’t seem to be much else going on. Do you remember the administration’s plan to sharply reduce the rate of foreclosures, or its plan to get the banks lending again by taking toxic assets off their balance sheets? Neither do I.

All of this is depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied economic policy in the 1930s. Once again a Democratic president has pushed through job-creation policies that will mitigate the slump but aren’t aggressive enough to produce a full recovery. Once again much of the stimulus at the federal level is being undone by budget retrenchment at the state and local level.

So have we failed to learn from history, and are we, therefore, doomed to repeat it? Not necessarily — but it’s up to the president and his economic team to ensure that things are different this time. President Obama and his officials need to ramp up their efforts, starting with a plan to make the stimulus bigger.

Just to be clear, I’m well aware of how difficult it will be to get such a plan enacted.

There won’t be any cooperation from Republican leaders, who have settled on a strategy of total opposition, unconstrained by facts or logic. Indeed, these leaders responded to the latest job numbers by proclaiming the failure of the Obama economic plan. That’s ludicrous, of course. The administration warned from the beginning that it would be several quarters before the plan had any major positive effects. But that didn’t stop the chairman of the Republican Study Committee from issuing a statement demanding: “Where are the jobs?”

It’s also not clear whether the administration will get much help from Senate “centrists,” who partially eviscerated the original stimulus plan by demanding cuts in aid to state and local governments — aid that, as we’re now seeing, was desperately needed. I’d like to think that some of these centrists are feeling remorse, but if they are, I haven’t seen any evidence to that effect.

And as an economist, I’d add that many members of my profession are playing a distinctly unhelpful role.

It has been a rude shock to see so many economists with good reputations recycling old fallacies — like the claim that any rise in government spending automatically displaces an equal amount of private spending, even when there is mass unemployment — and lending their names to grossly exaggerated claims about the evils of short-run budget deficits. (Right now the risks associated with additional debt are much less than the risks associated with failing to give the economy adequate support.)

Also, as in the 1930s, the opponents of action are peddling scare stories about inflation even as deflation looms.

So getting another round of stimulus will be difficult. But it’s essential.

Obama administration economists understand the stakes. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, published an article on the “lessons of 1937” — the year that F.D.R. gave in to the deficit and inflation hawks, with disastrous consequences both for the economy and for his political agenda.

What I don’t know is whether the administration has faced up to the inadequacy of what it has done so far.

So here’s my message to the president: You need to get both your economic team and your political people working on additional stimulus, now. Because if you don’t, you’ll soon be facing your own personal 1937.

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郑永年
2009/04/07

  经过很大的努力,G20终于有了一些收获,各国在一系列全球性金融和经济问题上达成了相当的共识。一些人说,这是一个新时代的开始。

  面临危机,各国都意识到在全球化时代,大家都是全球体系的一部分,无论是发达国家还是发展中国家,无论是大国还是小国,没有一个能够置身事外,大家都必须仅自己的一份责任。

  但G20峰会所透露出来的信心远远不止这一些。这样一次高调的并且具有实质性的国际峰会,在很多方面是对现存国际体系权力分配的大检验。

  从这次峰会上,人们可以看到老霸权如何接纳新兴力量及其新兴力量如何在现存体系中崛起的问题。这尤其表现在中国身上。很多人认为G20的核心是G2,即中美两国的互动主导了会议的议程。也有人更进一步说实际上是G1,即中国的态度决定了峰会的成效。

  上一次国际权力的大转移发生在上世纪30年代大萧条时代,即经济霸权从英国转移到美国。当时,殖民地英国因为战争已经筋疲力尽,美国对是否接下英国的金融和政治领导地位犹豫不决。在两次世界大战期间,美国认为,国际机构与前世界霸主英国的利益有千丝万缕的关系。

  但是,美国最终还是从英国那里接下了这个国际责任和领导权,实现了经济霸权的和平转移。此后,美国以其强大的经济和政治力量,重新组织了国际经济体系并且一直主导这个体系。

中国仍对现存体制表示“忠诚”

  那么,现在的中国是否准备建立一个其国际机构不再由美国和西方主导的世界新秩序?很多西方观察家认为,中国已经准备好这样做。

  这次G20峰会前,中国对改革现存国际金融体系的呼声极高。中国人民银行行长周小川和主管财经的副总理王岐山等先后发表文章,主张要改革国际金融秩序,并且提出了诸多具体的方案,例如发展出一个超主权的储备货币,增加新兴经济体在国际货币基金组织(IMF)中的作用等等。

  一时间,中国似乎成为国际体系改革派的领导力量。当然,中国的呼声也得到了很多国家的积极回应。一些国家对中国的期望很大,希望中国能够领头来改革现存国际金融体系。

  但是,现在真的可以谈论国际权力的和平转移了吗?美国真的因为这次金融危机国力衰落而准备放弃其霸权地位了吗?中国真的具有足够的能力和意愿从美国那里接过国际责任了吗?

  至少从这次峰会上中国的行为来说,历史还远远没有发展到这一步。中国没有那么大的力量,更没有强烈的意愿来进行所谓的权力转移。对中国来说,最重要的还是和现存制度的和平相处。

  G20之前,中国充其量是表达其对现存体系没有能够有效阻止金融危机的发生不满。用赫希曼(Albert O. Hirschman)的话来说,这是一种对现存体制的“抱怨”或者“牢骚”,表现的仍然是对现存体系的“忠诚”,是希望改进现存体制,而非退出(exit)现存体制。

  G20峰会的结果说明了这一点。中国的“抱怨”和“牢骚”得到了回应。美国和西方答应中国在IMF(国际货币基金组织)中拥有更大的发言权与代表权。当然这是以中国向IMF出资为条件的。就是说发言权和代表权取决于中国出钱多少。中国强调的IMF特别提款权SDR的国际储备货币的角色也得到了回应。

“大国责任论”呼声会越来越高

  这些当然有助于中国在现存体制上往上爬一些,就是说有助于中国的国际地位的提升。西方和美国乐意这样做,因为这无疑在消化中国等新兴经济体的外部挑战的同时强化现存体系的能力。就是说,这种结局可以解释成为中国和西方的双赢。

  因为是巩固现存体制,这次峰会的最大赢家还是美国和西方,因为这个体制是他们所主导的。美国的最大目标本来就是世界各国一同来拯救经济,因为一旦经济恢复,美国又会回到从前的霸权地位。

  美国尽管也有妥协,例如同意一定程度的国际监管(对对冲基金和评级机构等),但这方面纯粹属于虚的方面。国际监管的效力如何取决于IMF等国际机构,而美国会继续主导这些国际机构。

  中国和新兴国家通过在现存国际金融体制中提升自己的做法相当理性。一则这些经济体没有其他的体系可作选择,二则这样做有助于他们自身在国际体系中的和平崛起。

  在国际层面,中国和其他新兴国家还会在相当长的历史时期里面临相同的情况,作出类似的决策。

  就是说,中国会长期面临只有国际责任而无国际领导权的矛盾局面。因为美国和西方主导现存国际体系,他们就很容易通过修正体制来消化中国和新兴经济体的挑战和压力。

  也可以预期,随着中国的发展,来自发达国家的有关“中国大国责任论”的呼声也会越来越高。中国尽管对这种情况很不高兴,但也很难拒绝被要求承当责任。很显然,中国的这种被动责任的代价极其高昂。

国际空间不等于中国的实质领导权

  美国在从英国手中接过领导权之后,对当时的国际金融和经济体系进行了大力改造,使之完全符合美国的利益。并且当时美国面临独一无二的优越条件。

  二次大战之后,美国成为了西方的天然领导者。又加上冷战,西方世界需要美国来领导西方世界和前苏联阵营竞争。这些都为美国改制国际体系创造了有利的条件。

  同时,美国通过这一机制要么聚财,通过各种方式从全世界转移财富,要么向其他国家转嫁负担。就是说,美国建立的国际金融和经济体制是美国长期占据领导世界权的最重要机制。其他西方国家则是“搭便车”,也从这一体制中获得不少利益。最吃亏的当然是发展中国家,尤其是不发达国家。

  如上所说,尽管中国不满现存体系,但并没有要推翻现存体系。建立一个非西方主导的新国际秩序过于理想,并且即使能够实现,代价也会非常高。

  无论是中国的实力还是中国领导层所坚持的“和平崛起”或“和平发展”的信条,都不容许中国另建体系。自邓小平以来,中国的选择是接纳现存体系,并改革自身和国际接轨。

  这就决定了中国的唯一选择就是利用现存体系,一步一步往上爬。但是因为美国和西方是体系的建立者和主导者,中国改变不了受支配的地位。

  这是国际政治的现实面。因为这种局面不易轻易改变,就要求中国反思和重新考量和现存国际体系之间的关系。这不是说,中国可以脱离现存体系,或者另立体系,而是说中国要考量其政策重点到底在哪里?是在国际层面,还是在区域层面,还是在自身的制度建设。

  在国际层面,如果中国乐意,的确有很多的责任空间。例如西方世界一直要求中国开放自己的货币汇率并向IMF注入更多的资金。这种要求也会来自广大的发展中国家。但是,这种国际空间并不意味着中国能够得到具有实质性的领导权。

没必要作过度的国际承诺

  从长远来看,如何在不回避国际责任的同时来获得真正有意义的国际领导权,并且是可持续的领导权?中国所能选择的就是分权。因为全球化,各国需要一个国际秩序,但这个秩序的权力必须是有限的。

  现存秩序是美国西方建立和维持的,也是由这些大国所操纵的。这对很多国家非常不利。IMF既没有做到国际监管的作用,更没有做到帮助穷国的责任。在这样的情况下,要产生监督国际组织的权力纯属天方夜谭。

  分权就是要把国际权力分散到各个区域。在经济全球化的同时,经济的区域化也有更具实质性的发展。这就为区域货币的产生提供了有利的条件。

  在亚洲,产生一种区域货币的呼声已有多年,但因为政治原因,这种货币还是渺茫。但现实地说,在主权国家时代,一种超主权的货币即使产生了也不会有很大的效果。

  欧元在一定程度上已经说明了这一点。从这个角度来说,作为一种主权货币的人民币成为储备货币的可能性更大一些。当然,这对日元来说也是一样的。在未来一段时间里,如果没有一种货币能够取代美元的国际地位,但其他储备货币的出现则可以削弱美元一霸天下的地位。

  美元可能在一些领域或者区域仍然占霸权地位,但在另外一些领域或者区域,其他储备货币可以成为美元的替代选择,甚至完全取代美元。就是说,中国必须有计划地培养人民币作为未来的储备货币。

  中国不可避免地要承担一定的国际责任,但更为重要的是要实现实体经济的可持续发展和内部各种制度建设。

  在美元和黄金脱钩以后,美元的强势不仅在于美国所建立的国际体系,也在于美国庞大的实体经济,在于美国内部的各种制度建设。美元成为储备货币在很大程度上也是因为国际社会存在着一种对美元的主观期待价值和信任感。

  同样,国际社会是否对人民币产生足够的主观信任度取决于中国是否能够实现实体经济的可持续发展,取决于中国能否进行有效的内部制度建设。

  因为这次金融危机,美元的信任度受到很大的打击。美元之所以仍然被接受,不仅是因为除了美元,别无选择,也是因为美国还是有能力获取世界各国支持来维持美元的地位。但这也表明,危机已经给其他货币提供了很好的机会来发展成为未来的储备货币。

  对任何一个国家来说,无论是承担国际责任还是国际领导权,都包含有巨大的代价。作为崛起中的大国,中国不可推卸应当承担的责任,但也没有必要去作过度的国际承诺,更没有必要过早地去争取国际领导权。

  在没有实质性的能力对现存国际体系作具有实质性的改革之前,中国的重心还应当是自身的建设。

作者是新加坡国立大学东亚研究所所长,文章仅代表个人观点

Public finances

One crunch after another
Mar 11th 2009
From Economist.com

The financial crisis is battering public finances on several fronts

CALLS for co-ordinated fiscal stimulus to lift the world out of recession were joined at the weekend by Larry Summers, Barack Obama’s top economic adviser. Such co-ordination has been absent up to now, though that could change at the meeting of G20 leaders in London in early April. But there has been plenty of fiscal stimulus, led by America’s $787 billion package, as many governments seek to offset a collapse in private demand. There are worries not only about how much these measures cost up front but their longer-term effects on government finances.

The direct costs of such packages are indeed large. The IMF reckons that for G20 countries stimulus packages will add up to 1.5% of GDP in 2009 (calculated as a weighted average using purchasing power parity). Together with the huge sums used to bail out firms in the financial sector (3.5% of GDP and counting in America, for example), these are immediate ways in which the crisis is affecting public finances across the world. But they are not the only ones.

A downturn affects government finances in other ways. Shares in most rich countries have plummeted. The MSCI developed-world index, which tracks stocks in 23 rich countries, has lost more than half its value since the beginning of 2008. Falling share prices hit government revenues as capital-gains tax takes decline. Similarly, taxes on financial-sector profits, a significant part of government revenue in many countries, have evaporated. And expenditures on automatic stabilisers such as unemployment insurance rise in a recession. All this widens budget deficits.

Direct stimulus measures also push up government deficits and debt, although the type of intervention affects how long-lasting its effects are. Most expenditure, such as infrastructure spending, is temporary (although it affects debt permanently). Revenue measures, such as tax cuts, are politically difficult to reverse. The question is whether this threatens the solvency of governments.

A paper on the state of the world’s public finances issued by the IMF in the run-up to the G20 meetings takes a stab at identifying and measuring the fiscal implications of the crisis for both rich and developing countries. Its conclusions are sobering. For rich G20 countries, fiscal balances will worsen by 6% of GDP between 2007 and 2009. Government debt will come off worse. Between 2007 and 2009, the debt-to-GDP ratio of rich countries is projected to rise by 14.5 percentage points. In the medium term, the outlook is even more worrying. Government debt for the average rich country will be more than 100% of GDP by 2014 compared with 70% in 2000 and 40% in 1980.

A great deal of uncertainty surrounds these estimates because so much depends on guesswork. Economic recovery, for example, could be slower than the IMF’s current projections: growth forecasts were revised down several times in 2008. Governments may also have to shoulder more burdens—private pension plans, which have been hammered by the crisis, may require government support. And the eventual cost of financial-sector bailouts will depend on how quickly and at what level prices stabilise of the assets governments have taken on. Past experience suggests that there is enormous scope for variation. Sweden had a recovery rate of 94% five years after its crisis in 1991; Japan had recovered only 1% of assets in the five years after its troubles of 1997.

The IMF points out that debt levels, while high, are not unprecedented by historical standards. But the worry is that primary fiscal balances in four-fifths of the rich countries studied by the IMF will be too high even in 2012 to allow debt to be stabilised, or brought down to 60% of GDP (which is the IMF benchmark for debt levels), even though revenues will recover as countries emerge from the crisis. What this implies is that, over time, fiscal deficits will have to be trimmed. And therein lies the rub.

Most rich countries have rapidly ageing populations. Unless entitlement systems are reformed (by reducing benefits) or tax bases broadened, fiscal deficits will rise still further. Some of the IMF’s ideas about how to do this will seem unpalatable: it argues that health systems, for example, will have to become less generous. But rich countries were always going to have to come to terms with the fiscal consequences of demographic pressures on existing welfare systems sooner or later. The crisis will bring this problem more urgently to the fore.

郑永年
2008/11/11

  横扫整个西方世界并且把很多发展中国家拖入其中的金融危机,已经带给人们很多的思考。其中最大的呼声莫过于重建世界经济秩序了。但无论是欧洲还是美国或者像中国和印度那样的新兴经济体,对未来新经济和金融秩序是怎么样的及其如何重建并没有基本的共识。

  欧洲在这方面表现得相当积极。尽管欧洲和美国一直在主导世界经济体制,但两者的利益不尽相同。实际上,欧元诞生本身早就说明欧洲要通过欧元的机制与美国分享更多的权力和利益。这次因为美国而引起的金融危机给欧洲来说是个好机会。

  美国显然和欧洲不同。美国的最大利益就是千方百计求得全世界(尤其是新兴经济体)的帮助,拯救现存体制,继续维持其霸权地位。

  所以,虽然西方一些人宣称只要跨大西洋联盟(欧美)合作,就可化解金融危机和重建世界秩序,但美欧之间对新秩序的理解不同,很难达成一致的意见。同时,无论是欧洲和美国,已经无力单独来化解危机或者重建秩序。他们必须面对现实,重估新兴经济体的能量。这样,中国的角色就体现出来了。

  很容易理解,最近一段时间里,西方一直在高调谈论中国的角色和中国责任,使得一些人飘飘然,受宠若惊,开始不知道如何定位自己的国际角色了。

新秩序并非确立另个霸权

  没有人否定中国必须参与新经济金融体制的建设。因为中国经济在国际经济体系上所扮演的重要角色,中国如果不去参与拯救危机或者体制重建,那么就与国家利益相悖。同时没有中国参与,就不会出现真正的国际合作。

  客观上,国际经济和金融体制的健全运作需要稳定器。大国无疑可以起到稳定器的角色。

  中国必须参与。但如何参与呢?这和中国对新国际经济金融秩序会是怎样的有很大的关联。

  首先要意识到新的经济和金融秩序的确立不是以一个经济霸权取代另外一个。不管美国的危机有如何严重,没有任何一个经济体包括欧洲在内都没有能力取代美国的未来角色。

  但美国的重要性并不意味着包括中国在内的亚洲要站在美国这一边,恢复美国的经济霸权地位。实际上,这次经济金融危机的发生的主要原因就是美国霸权这一事实。美国霸权成为事实既有美国本身的原因(即追求霸权地位及其维持这种霸权地位),也有其他一些国家努力依附于美国经济从而强化和巩固美国霸权的原因。

  18和19世纪,英国经济称霸全球。到了上一世纪,美国取代英国霸权。在西方,上世纪30年代的经济大危机被视为是缺少一个负责的全球性经济霸权所致。

  二战后所确立的以美元为核心的国际经济金融秩序就是从制度上保证了美国这样一个经济霸权的地位。但是,没有任何制度能够保证美国也同样能够履行作为一个霸权的责任。美国的霸权地位在帮助美国获得了巨大的经济利益的同时把各种危机转嫁给其他国家。其他国家尤其是亚洲国家生产和积累,美国则大量消费,这种现象已经持续数十年。

  人们经常说,美国人是消费未来。这话只对了一半。美国人大量消费的是其他国家的财富。而这些财富正是美国通过美元等经济和金融机制从其他国家转移而来。

欧洲在争取更大的国际支持

  这个国际经济金融体制因此弊端丛生。最主要的就是美国的滥用权力。无论在内政还是外交,绝对的权力造成绝对的腐败。这个体制赋予美国绝对的权力,但没有任何制衡这种权力的机制。

  它造成了这样一种局面:任何国家都必须依附于这种体制;如果不进入这个体制,那么国家就得不到发展;但一旦进入这个体制,那么就必然成为这个体制的附庸。

  同样,一旦这个体制生病了,其他国家也要跟着生病;这个体制死亡了,就要跟着死亡。因为美国是这个体制的“老大”,世界经济体系实际上就是美国体系。

  这也就是为什么这次美国发生了危机,亚洲国家都要想方设法地去拯救美国。日本是美国体系的一部分,中国的金融尽管不那么自由化,但也已经有一大半融入到了美国的体系。原因再也简单不过了,美国倒下了,这些国家也会跟着到下。这些国家不得不屈服于美国转嫁危机的能力。

  这也就很容易理解为什么欧洲国家很难得到亚洲国家的真正合作动力的原因。这次欧亚峰会,尽管双方都表达了最高层次的意愿来合作化解危机,但就是没有具体的措施和办法。

  无论是中国还是日本,眼睛都盯着美国,他们的关注重点仍然是美国。拯救美国就是拯救自己。但欧洲就不一样了。欧洲并没有有效的机制从亚洲转移财富,因此对亚洲很难构成真正的压力。

  欧洲早就意识到绝对的权力绝对的腐败的道理。因此,就有欧元的产生。当然,迄今为止,欧元还没有足够的能力来抗衡美元。美国的经济金融霸权确立已久,拥有很多的依附者。欧洲要得到同样的国际支持还有很长的路要走。

中国要靠自力扮演重要角色

  中国应当作什么样的选择?多年来,中国一直在追求一个比较民主的国际经济和政治秩序,但这个秩序是怎样的,中国始终没有一个明确的概念。但现在应当明确一些了,那就是经济和金融的多极化。

  只有美国一极的经济金融秩序对谁都没有利益,对依附于美国的经济体没有利益,对美国本身也没有利益。经济和金融多极世界就是说,这个世界需要美国、欧洲、亚洲和其他更多的经济金融权力极。

  这是一个比较分散或者分权的体系。各个极之间并非互相封闭,而是互有关联,但不能有一个绝对的霸权主导一切。它们间相互制约,防止权力的被滥用。

  如果亚洲国家尤其是中国和日本之间能够合作,亚洲早就成为经济金融权力的一极了。亚洲经济金融共同体的概念早就提出,但就是发展不出任何有形的制度。

  这里除了一般人们认为的中、日、韩三国之间的历史问题,更为重要的恐怕就是这些国家都在依附美国方面构成竞争。既然这些国家都已经高度依附于美国,怎么还能够有形成独立一极的意愿和能力呢?

  那么如何追求一个分权的和民主的国际经济金融体系?中国和日本合作非常重要,但可欲不可求。不管中日两国今后会有多么密切的经济交往,日本很难和中国同处一个体系之内。

  中日一体从前没有发生过,现在没有发生,以后也不会发生。在这种情况下,中国必须重新靠自己的力量和自己在国际经济金融体系内的角色。

  毋庸置疑,中国在国际经济和金融的角色越来越重要,并且今后的地位会继续提高。但必须意识到,不管中国的力量在将来变得多么强大,类似美国的一霸超强的时代已经过去。中国唯一有可能的定位是和亚洲其他国家一起追求成为国际经济金融体系的一极。要追求这个目标,中国不可避免要面对几个重大的问题。

理性处理同欧洲的关系

  首先是和美国的关系问题。中美两国已经到达相当高的依赖程度。中国对国际经济金融的整合就其本质来说就是和美国的整合。但如上所说,这种整合在支持着美国经济霸权的同时实际上也使得美国权力更容易腐败。

  尽管从短期看,中国还是可以从依附于美国经济中得到好处,但为了最终促成亚洲权力极的形成,中国要有意识地减少对美国的制度依赖。实际上,在经济上减少对美国的依赖也有利于中国在其他方方面面减少来自美国的压力。

  其次是理性处理和欧洲的关系。中美两国之间因为有地缘政治的关系,中国有很大的动力经营和美国的关系,但中国和欧洲的关系则不一样了。

  中欧之间没有地缘政治关系,双方很容易互相忽视。但中欧关系显然对建设多极经济金融体系非常重要。在减少对美国的依赖关系的同时,中国应当向欧洲作些倾斜。

  但这种倾斜并不是非此即彼的选择,就是说放弃美国而转向欧洲。如果这样,就会犯和依赖美国同样的错误。向欧洲倾斜就是说中国要支持欧洲成为经济金融的权力一极的同时寻找自己的国际空间。

  更为重要的就是亚洲优先问题。中国要把重点放在亚洲,这不仅是因为中国是亚洲国家,而且更是因为中国和亚洲国家的经济已经得到相当高的整合程度。这种整合程度随着中国的继续发展,必然会进一步加深。但在中国和亚洲经济金融整合的制度化方面,中国不可强求,一种自然状态的整合更合乎亚洲特征。

  这些方面的努力都会在不同程度上促成国际经济金融的多极化。一个经济金融的多极世界对中国本身有利,对亚洲有利,对世界也有利。中国的大国责任既不是向美国负责,也不是向欧洲负责。真正有意义的责任就是建立中国一直在强调的一个公正的世界经济和金融秩序。

注:作者是国立大学东亚研究所所长

By DAVID LEONHARDT
Published: October 7, 2008

Thirty billion dollars to keep Bear Stearns from collapsing. Another $85 billion for A.I.G. Hundreds of billions, here and there, lent to banks.

All told, the Federal Reserve has pumped $800 billion into the financial system, Ben Bernanke, its chairman, estimated on Tuesday. That figure doesn’t include the untold sum that the Fed now plans to spend buying short-term debt so that companies can continue to pay for their daily operations. And it doesn’t include any of the money the Treasury Department is laying out, like the $700 billion bailout fund or the $200 billion that could be spent propping up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

After 14 months of crisis, the federal government — meaning you and me — has put serious money on the line. As a point of comparison, the entire annual federal budget is about $3 trillion.

Just how are we going to pay for all this?

The short answer is that the budget problems the country seemed to have a year ago are now even worse. Next year’s deficit (relative to the economy’s size) will probably be the biggest since 1992, and maybe since 1983. Taxes will have to rise or government spending will have to fall, if not both. Trying to contain the mess created by a bubble no doubt costs serious money.

Yet this is also a case in which the short answer isn’t the full answer, or even the best answer.

As expensive as the damage control may be, it isn’t likely to cost near as much as the headline numbers suggest. More to the point, the alternative — not spending some serious money to deal with the crisis — would probably end up costing a lot more. As it is, the various bailouts are not the main reason next year’s deficit is growing. The deteriorating state of the economy is.

So if you want to conjure up some doomsday stories about the federal budget, I’m happy to play along (and will do so momentarily). But those stories aren’t mainly about the credit crisis. They’re about the dangers of ignoring economic realities — which, when you think about it, is how we ended up in this credit crisis in the first place.

The most newsworthy part of Mr. Bernanke’s lunchtime speech on Tuesday was his sober overview of the economy. He called the financial crisis “a problem of historic dimensions” and indicated that the Fed would soon cut its benchmark interest rate once again.

But the bulk of the speech was a catalog of the extraordinary steps that the Fed and Treasury had taken since August and the delicate line they had tried to walk along the way. They have lent enormous amounts of money to banks and trumpeted those efforts to try to restore some confidence to the credit markets. Fed officials have pointed out that they are nowhere close to being out of bullets either. They work for the central bank, after all. They can always print money.

But Mr. Bernanke and the Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, have also emphasized that they’re not being too generous. They are mainly making loans and investments, and they expect to recoup much of the money they’re spreading around.

Outside the government, economists differ about whether Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson have been too aggressive or not aggressive enough and whether they have been aggressive in the right ways. But there is not much concern that they are taking on additional debt — or even about the amount of it.

“The policy actions are not likely to have a large effect on the budget over the next five or 10 years,” Douglas Elmendorf, who has become a go-to Democratic economist during the crisis, told me. John Makin, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, added: “The last thing I’m worried about right now is additional government indebtedness. There really isn’t an alternative.”

Mr. Makin pointed out that during Japan’s long malaise, the government passed a stimulus package almost every year that was equal to more than 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (equivalent to about $400 billion in this country today). But interest rates in Japan remained low, a sign that economic weakness, not deficits, was still the problem.

That being said, today’s ever-expanding bailouts do create some dangers. You’ve probably heard the term moral hazard, which is shorthand for the idea that government rescues may lead investors to take new, unwise risks — and ultimately require yet more rescues.

The Fed is also setting itself up for tough decisions about when to end its various emergency programs. If it waits too long, it could leave so much money sloshing around the economy that inflation will take off. Fed officials have suggested they understand that they made precisely this mistake after the 2001 recession, when they kept interest rates low and added to the mania in the housing market.

Finally, there is the net cost of the bailouts, which may well be bigger than Mr. Bernanke has acknowledged. Under the new program announced Tuesday, the Fed will own the commercial paper that serves as short-term loans for companies. If some of those companies go bankrupt, the Fed could suffer some losses.

The Treasury’s $700 billion bailout fund, meanwhile, is based on the premise that investors are collectively undervaluing assets and that the government can pay above current market prices without losing much money. “One has to be at least a bit skeptical,” the economist Greg Mankiw says, “about the idea that government policy makers gambling with other people’s money are better at judging the value of complex financial instruments than are private investors gambling with their own.”

After talking with budget analysts, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the bailouts will end up costing several hundred billion dollars, spread over several years. Perhaps $100 billion of that cost may come next year. Add in another $100 billion or so for the weakening economy — specifically the fall in tax revenue, increases in spending on social programs and the possibility of another stimulus package.

Even before the crisis, the Bush administration was set to bequeath a $550 billion deficit to its successor. Now, a better estimate appears to be $750 billion — or 5 percent of gross domestic product. The only years since the 1960s that the deficit has been nearly so large were the early 1990s (almost 4.5 percent of G.D.P.) and the mid-1980s (with a peak of 6 percent in 1983).

Obviously, next year’s deficit is a problem. And if you assume the credit crisis isn’t about to lift — which seems smart at this point — the ultimate cost of the bailouts could conceivably go higher. Whatever the final figure, it should still be put in some context.

Despite everything, the biggest fiscal problem remains, far and away, health care. Based on the rate that medical spending has been rising, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts that Medicare and Medicaid will take up 10 percent of G.D.P. within two decades, up from about 4 percent now. In today’s terms, that would be the equivalent of adding at least $900 billion to the deficit every single year, in perpetuity. It makes the cost of the bailouts look like a rounding error.

When it comes to health care, we have a situation that is blatantly unsustainable. With the right choices, we can prevent that. But so far, we instead seem to be hoping that the situation will magically resolve itself, which is a recipe for big problems and perhaps even a crisis.

Let’s see. That doesn’t sound familiar, does it?

By DAVID LEONHARDT
Published: September 24, 2008

Maybe the American taxpayers should be asking Warren Buffett to be negotiating on their behalf.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has spent a good part of the last two days on Capitol Hill arguing that the government should not demand a stake in any Wall Street firms it bails out. Demanding such a stake, Mr. Paulson says, could scare away many of those firms from participating in the bailout, leaving the credit markets as hobbled as they are now.

And then Mr. Buffett swooped in on Tuesday evening and announced that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, was investing $5 billion in Goldman Sachs, money that would help the firm — which made far fewer bad investments than most of Wall Street — shore up its balance sheet. What will he receive in exchange for his investment? Something like a 7 percent stake in the firm.

Mr. Paulson, of course, has a different objective than Mr. Buffett. The Treasury secretary is trying to resuscitate the country’s financial system and keep the economy from falling into a deep recession. If he drives too hard a bargain, he won’t solve the problem. Mr. Buffet is merely trying to make some money.

But to the many critics of the Paulson plan, the juxtaposition of the Goldman deal and the proposed bailout crystallize the problems with the plan. The critics are worried that the government is taking on too much risk with too little upside. And they can’t help but notice that other governments that faced similar crises in recent decades — in Japan and Sweden — struck deals that looked more like Mr. Buffett’s than Mr. Paulson’s.

On Wednesday, several members of Congress wistfully mentioned the Goldman deal. “When Warren Buffett invests $5 billion, he gets preferred stock in Goldman Sachs,” Jeff Bingaman, a Democratic senator from New Mexico, said to Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman. “We’re being asked to endorse a bailout where we basically take the assets that these companies — these firms — can’t otherwise dispose of at a reasonable price.”

Mr. Buffett appears to have gotten a very good deal, one that may not have been available to anybody whose name carries less prestige — which is to say, just about anybody else. (He will receive dividends that will effectively pay him a 10 percent annual return on his investment, as well as the right to buy a sizable stake in Goldman at a price below the current market price.) Goldman partners figured that his investment would allow them to turn around and raise yet more capital from other investors. Sure enough, they announced Wednesday that they were doing so.

A firm that accepted money from the Treasury Department would get none of this halo effect. If anything, investors might view a firm desperate enough to approach the Treasury as an endangered species unworthy of further investment.

But as imperfect as the Buffett analogy may be, it still raises a real question: Is the government getting a raw deal? The inability of Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke — as well as President Bush — to make people comfortable with the answer is the main reason that the bailout has encountered so much hostility.

Economists overwhelmingly agree that the risk facing the economy is serious enough to need quick, bold action. Yet they’re deeply skeptical that Mr. Paulson’s plan is the right one. Mr. Buffett’s deal nicely highlights their two main worries.

The first is that the Paulson plan may not have the best chance of success. Mr. Buffett’s deal with Goldman injects $5 billion in cash into the firm, and those dollars strengthen Goldman’s balance sheet. Goldman will then presumably become more willing to lend money, and the credit crisis will be one small step closer to lifting.

The Japanese government, after years of missteps, followed a strategy much like this one in 1998, putting capital directly into its banks. The move helped end that country’s long downturn.

Mr. Paulson, on the other hand, has asked for a $700 billion credit line to buy distressed assets from financial firms. It’s the equivalent of trying to cut a tumor out of the financial system. But there is a potential downside.

The Treasury wouldn’t just be giving money to the firms. It would be buying an asset of some value (albeit much less value than a year ago). As a result, the transaction might not do enough to bolster the firms’ balance sheets.

The second worry is that even if the Paulson plan works, it may end up being needlessly expensive. There is huge uncertainty about the true value of those distressed assets. If the government overpays for them, it won’t have any way to recoup the money.

Without an ownership stake — like the one Mr. Buffett got or the one the Swedish government got when it bailed out its banks in the 1990s — taxpayers wouldn’t really be able to share in the bounty of a Wall Street recovery.

Now, what would Mr. Buffett have said if Goldman asked for his money and wouldn’t let him share in the upside? “He would have said ‘no deal!’ ” said Daniel Alpert, of Westwood Capital, an investment firm. “And that is what Congress must say as well in defense of the American people.”

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson answered their critics by returning to the same point they have made before. If companies must hand over an ownership stake, only the sickest may come forward. Others may wait out the crisis, confident they can survive. But the credit markets would meanwhile remain paralyzed, as a Treasury official argued to me, and the economy could deteriorate.

It’s certainly possible that the Fed and Treasury are right. But the Goldman deal — in which a firm that didn’t seem near extinction voluntarily agreed to give up a fat equity stake in exchange for cash — puts the onus on Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson to make a better case than they have so far.

Mr. Bernanke pointed out Wednesday that Mr. Buffett had urged Congress to pass the current bailout plan. I’d point out that Mr. Buffett drove a harder bargain when his own money was on the line.