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America's Greatest Enemy Is Neither China nor Russia (It's Debt)

美国最大的敌人既不是中国也不是俄罗斯(而是债务)

What happens if the United States can't pay down its debt?

副标题:如果美国不能偿还债务,会发生什么?



by Joergen Oerstroem Moeller
What looked possible some years ago have with recent economic policy decisions turned into a realistic scenario: the United States face a technical default.
The figures and forecasts published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) leave little doubt. Currently, net interest burden accounts for 1.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) equal to 9.4 percent of federal revenue absorbing about one out of every ten U.S. dollars of federal revenue. In 2022—four years from now—it will be 2.7 percent of GDP equal to 16 percent of federal revenue absorbing one out of every six U.S dollars of federal revenue. Measured in share of total outlays, net interest will jump from 7.6 percent in 2018 to 12.2 percent in 2022 and 13 percent in 2028. This forecast though is based on very optimistic assumptions for the U.S. economy. Taking changes over the preceding couple of weeks into account, a net interest burden of 20 percent of total federal revenue looks realistic—a staggering figure with every American seeing one of every five U.S. dollars paid to the government used to finance debt.

几年前看似可能的事情,随着最近的经济政策决定,变成了一种现实的情景:美国面临技术性违约。
国会预算办公室(CBO)公布的数据和预测几乎没有留下任何疑问。
目前,净利息负担占国内生产总值( GDP ) 的1.6%,相当于联邦收入的9.4%,约占联邦收入的十分之一。
到2022年,即四年后,这一数字将高达GDP的2.7%,相当于联邦收入的16%,每6美元联邦收入中就有1美元被吸收。以在总支出中所占份额衡量,净利息将从2018年的7.6%跃升至2022年的12.2%和2028年的13%。
不过,这一预测是建立在对美国经济非常乐观的假设基础上的,考虑到前几周的变化,占联邦总收入20%的净利息负担看上去是现实的——这是一个惊人的数字,因为每5美元中就有1美元支付给美国政府,用于为债务融资。

Analyzing the composition of the budget it becomes clear that financing the net interest burden in 2022, not to speak of 2028, constitutes a challenge that the United States is unlikely to resolve without resorting to unconventional methods.
Mandatory expenditure accounts for 61 percent of total outlays in 2018, and according to the CBO, 64 percent in 2028. The remaining part of the budget is discretionary spending, which, including defense, gobbles up $622 billion (38 percent of discretionary spending) and net interest burden, adding up to $316 billion (19.8 percent of discretionary spending). The remaining discretionary outlays or around $700 to 800 billion are mainly for Medicare and other social welfare related programs.

分析预算的构成,很明显,到2022年,更不用说2028年,为净利息负担提供资金构成了一个挑战,如果不诉诸非常规方法,美国不太可能解决这一挑战。
2018年,强制性支出占总支出的61%,根据国会预算办公室的数据,2028年将占到64%。
预算的剩余部分是可自由支配的开支,其中包括国防开支,消耗了6220亿美元( 占可自由支配开支的38% ) ,净利息负担总计达3160亿美元( 占可自由支配开支的19.8% ),其余的可自由支配支出,即大约7000亿至8000亿美元,主要用于医疗保险和其他社会福利相关项目。



The U.S. trade offensive against China has led some observers to float the idea that China might threaten to dump its stocks of U.S. treasury bonds onto the market. This, however, is not going to happen. If it did, the dollar would fall, making it more difficult to export to the United States and drive up interest rates with the added negative effects on growth reducing consumption. China—and Japan—do not want that.
But they may be willing to restructure the debt. This is an offer in the style of The Godfather : “an offer you cannot refuse.” Both sides stand to gain something. Trump will claim that he took on China and managed to cut payments. China, in turn, can claim that a trade war was avoided and a restructuring deal does not mean it has given up its claims. Rather, the money will be paid over a longer period of time, or whatever other narrative is chosen.

美国对中国发起的贸易攻势让一些观察人士认为,中国可能会威胁将其持有的美国国债抛售到市场上,然而,这种情况是不会发生的。
如果果真如此,美元就会贬值,从而加大向美国出口的难度,并推高利率,同时增加对增长的负面影响,减少消费,中国和日本都不想这样。
但他们可能愿意重组债务,这是一个教父式的提议:“一个你无法拒绝的提议。”双方都会有所收获。
特朗普将声称他挑战了中国,并设法削减了付款,反过来,中国可以宣称避免了一场贸易战,而重组协议并不意味着它放弃了自己的主张,相反,这笔钱将在更长的一段时间内支付,或选择任何其它方式。

At a first glance it may look like China stands to gain unprecedented economic power over the United States, but a deeper analysis leads to a different conclusion. It will bring home what the daily exchange of threats obfuscates: that the two economies can only thrive in tandem. China has no interest whatsoever in a weak American economy; it needs the U.S. market for its exports, incoming and outgoing direct investment with American companies, a strong supply chain allowing it to play on its comparative advantage and an American commitment to economic globalization. The United States, for its part, shares an interest in maintaining and deepening the existing supply chains, plus operating in Chinese markets where many large American multinationals harvest a strong profit.

乍看之下,中国可能会比美国获得前所未有的经济实力,但深入分析就会得出不同的结论。
它将使人们认识到,每天的威胁只会换来令人困惑的混乱:只有两国经济同步发展,才能实现共同繁荣。
中国对疲软的美国经济没有任何兴趣;它需要美国出口市场、需要美国公司的直接投资、一个强大的供应链使其能够发挥其相对优势,并使美国履行对经济全球化的承诺。
就美国而言,维持和深化现有的供应链,以及在许多美国大型跨国公司获得丰厚利润的中国市场开展业务,与美国休戚相关,有着共同的利益。

Politically, however, the United States will unquestionably come out as a loser. It would be interpreted as a loss of face at home, in China and all over the world: the world’s former economic superpower has to ask for help to service its debt so unwisely run up over several decades.
The question will be asked whether China will put a price on its help. It may not need to do so because the mere signal of American economic impotence is sufficient to tip the scales where both the United States and China have conflicting interests. According to Wikileaks, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked to Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during a conversation in March 2009, "How do you deal toughly with your banker?" In an interview in May 2012, after his retirement as chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen fleshed it out saying “Actually the way I said it was—and I still believe this—that it’s the single biggest threat to our national security. Obviously it’s complex, but the way I looked at it, if we didn’t get control of our debt, there would be continued loss of confidence in America.”

然而,在政治上,美国无疑将是一个失败者。
这将被解释为在国内、中国和世界各地丢脸:这个世界上的前经济超级大国不得不寻求帮助,以偿还几十年来不明智而累积起来的债务。
人们会问,中国是否会为自己的帮助付出代价,它可能无需如此,因为仅仅是美国经济无能为力的信号就足以扭转中美两国利益冲突的天平。
据维基解密报道,时任国务卿希拉里·克林顿在2009年3月的一次谈话中对澳大利亚总理陆克文说,“你如何对待你的银行家?”
在2012年5月的一次采访中,海军上将迈克·马伦从参谋长联席会议主席的职位上退休后,对此进行了充实,他说:“实际上,我说过——我仍然相信这一点——这是对我们国家安全的最大威胁,显然,这是复杂的,但在我看来,如果我们不能控制我们的债务,对美国的信心就会持续丧失。“

These astute and blunt revelations of the nexus between debt, power and confidence have largely been forgotten as the federal deficit over recent years fell to around 3 percent. The figures outlined above disclose that the birds let loose are now coming home to roost engineering a gradual power shift from one big power to another through the intricate ways such power shifts take place.

随着近几年联邦赤字降至3%左右,这些关于债务、权力和信心之间联系的敏锐而直率的披露基本上被遗忘了。
上面概述的数字揭示出,放飞的鸟儿现在正在回家栖息,通过这种复杂的权力转移方式,权力从一个大国逐渐转移到另一个大国。

Joergen Oerstroem Moeller is a former state secretary in the Royal Danish Foreign Ministry. He is a visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

作者简介:
约尔根 ·厄斯特罗姆 · 默勒是丹麦皇家外交部前国务秘书,他也是新加坡 ISEAS Yusof Ishak 学院的客座高级研究员。