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经济学人:奥斯本将军 财政大臣诡计连连

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Bagehot

白芝浩
General Osborne
奥斯本将军
The chancellor's fifth budget was full of trickery—yet utterly serious
财政大臣发布的第五个财政预算诡计连连—但确实严肃
“NOW this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Churchill's genius for spin, after El Alamein had delivered the first big British victory of the second world war, is illustrated by how little-remembered are the modest claims he went on to make for that triumph. “Henceforth,” he continued, “Hitler's Nazis will meet equally well-armed, and perhaps better-armed, troops.” That was a weaselly fudge if ever Bagehot heard one.
“现在还没到结局的时候,甚至这不是结局的起点,但是这是开始的终点。”当阿拉曼传来英国在二战中首次大捷的消息后,丘吉尔在其用来称赞此次胜利的公告中有这么几句不引人注意却又最贴切的话,这使得丘吉尔口吐莲花的天赋显露无遗。他继续说道“今后,希特勒的纳粹军队会遭遇装备同样精良,甚至是更好的军队。” 如果白芝浩听到过含糊的外交辞令,也还会认为这是相当狡猾的一句。

George Osborne faced a similarly daunting exercise in expectations management when delivering his fifth budget on March 19th. Wan with nerves, the chancellor of the exchequer was able to announce to Parliament the best economic figures in five years of faltering growth, falling living standards and painful spending cuts. The economy is growing faster than in any other large rich country. It is creating record numbers of jobs: for the first time in three decades Britain's employment rate is higher than America's. The budget deficit is edging downwards. The difficulty for the chancellor was that, having been for so long denied, people want jam, which he was bound to refuse them. The deficit, at around £108 billion ($179 billion) this year, or 6.6% of GDP, is too large to support the tax cuts that many of his Conservative colleagues are demanding. But, while bound to disappoint, Mr Osborne needed to avoid seeming so cautious as to crush confidence in the recovery and his own stewardship of it. His task was to celebrate and reassure, yet give away almost nothing.

3月19日,奥斯本提交其第五个财政预算报告,并回应大众的期待。这与(丘吉尔)如临深渊的情形十分相似。这位财政大臣面色苍白,紧张兮兮地向国会宣读了经济疲软、生活标准下降和财政紧缩的五年以来令人振奋的经济数据。英国的经济增长比其他的大经济体都要快。新增就业数量破了纪录:三十年来英国就业率头一次超越美国。而财政赤字也正快速下降。不可否认,人民是想要甜头的。奥斯本的困难在于他决心拒绝这种诉求。今年的赤字约有1080亿英镑(1790亿美元),占GDP6.6%。 如果按照一些奥斯本的保守党同僚的盘算的那样削减税收,这赤字就规模太大而无法给予支持。但他必须避免因为态度谨慎而打击了(人们)对经济复苏的信心,以及他对党的领导。他的任务本来就是欢呼庆祝,巩固经济势头,而不能给(民众)添福利。
He managed that, first by reminding Britons of the state they were in when the Tory-led coalition took over in 2010. The economy had suffered the deepest recession of modern times and seen the world's biggest bank bail-out. The government was borrowing a quarter of what it spent. That history lesson done with, Mr Osborne began to relax, and a dab of colour returned to his pallid cheeks. Britain was recovering from these horrors, he said, because of its adherence to “the plan”.
他做到了。首先,在托尼领导的党派联盟2010年赢得大选时,他就提醒英国民众英国当时的状况。此次经济衰退为进入现代历史以来最为严重的一次。本国银行纾困的规模也举世罕见。政府四分之一的开支由借贷而来。好在这段历史翻过去了。奥斯本可以放松,一抹血色也出现在他苍白的脸颊上。他说,英国在这些可怕的情况中走出来了,这要归功于贯彻下来的(经济) “计划”。
He referred to a raft of spending cuts, tax increases and pro-business gestures designed with a view to restoring the public finances to surplus by 2018. That target is, in fact, less fixed than Mr Osborne implies. It was pushed back several times while the economy languished: the deficit was originally to have been closed before next year's general election. The plan is, in short, little more than an expression of the chancellor's own shifting economic judgment.
他指的计划是减少开支,增加税收和刺激商业等一揽子措施,以期2018年时公共财政能增长且有盈余。这个目标其实并不像奥斯本说的那么坚决。经济不景气时,计划推迟了好几次:本来明年大选之前赤字应该消除了的。简而言之,这个计划不过是奥斯本自己对不断变化的经济结论的一个表达。
No matter. The recovery, and his political rivals' failure to predict it, has enshrined the plan as sacred and inflexible. This is a mark of the political capital Mr Osborne is now drawing on, even as he admitted the economy's many remaining weaknesses. His Labour Party rival, the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who chuntered grudgingly throughout the budget speech, appears to have been outdone. So have Mr Osborne's many erstwhile Tory critics. The apparently daunting task of arguing that the economy is stronger yet still too weak for giveaways turned out to be a cinch. The chancellor was triumphant.
不过这没什么关系。经济复苏了,他的政治对手又没有预料到这一点,使得这个计划变得神圣不可动摇。这也是奥斯本所倚重的标志性政治资本,即便他承认经济还有还多缺点。他的工党对手,影子财政大臣艾德.鲍斯在整个演讲期间都心有不甘的喃喃自语,看上去已经被淘汰了。托尼.布莱尔执政时期很多批评奥斯本的人也是这样。至于那个显然烫手山芋似的任务,即申明经济虽然好转但依然无力分派福利,现在也把握十足。奥斯本现在得意万分。
That patently owes as much to crafty politics as to economics, and Mr Osborne showed plenty more in his speech. It was less weaselly than stoat-like—a whirligig of policies and pledges that appeared more fascinating than substantial. They included several previously flagged traps for Labour. Legislation to cap the welfare bill—a popular idea, tricky for Labour, and of only token importance to the cost of welfare—is to be introduced to Parliament next week. Announcing some money for next year's 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the chancellor even found the opportunity to invite comparison between the medieval monarch it humbled, King John, and another brother-betrayer, Labour's leader Ed Miliband. It was one of the better budget gags.
这个胜利除了经济原因,也要归功于其灵活的政治手腕。而奥斯本在他的演讲中披露了其他的原因。这并非是白鼬一般的狡猾,而仅仅是让政策与承诺看上去吸引人,而非简单的有料。其中包括了工党之前树立的几项旗帜性的(政策)口号。通过立法给福利开支设定上限是一项广受欢迎的政策,是工党(收买人心)的把戏,其面子功夫上的重要性掩盖了福利成本。而这个政策下周就会提交到议会。在宣告明年举行大宪章800周年庆典的预算之际,奥斯本甚至找了个机会比较起中世纪享有盛誉的君主约翰与一个脱党的同志——工党魁首文立彬。这是结束预算讨论的好招之一。
The chancellor's more substantial offers appeared similarly designed to outfox his rivals. By raising the income tax threshold to £10,500, Mr Osborne will hope to woo aspirational low earners, a group that currently votes, if at all, for anyone except the Tories. By giving retirees more say over their pension pots, a more ambitious ploy, he must hope to stanch the seepage of silver-haired Tory voters to the UK Independence Party, which has no economic policy to speak of. To give the chancellor his due, pulling out a surprise liberal reform of this kind seemed also a sensible way to negate the unrealistic demands for a splurge.
奥斯本手里更多的实打实计划同样是用来智胜竞争对手的。通过将收入税门槛升至10,500英镑,奥斯本希望能吸引有迫切渴求的低收入者。如果他们去投票的话,这些人会支持任何一个候选人,除了保守党人。通过给这些退休人员更多的养老金这样一个更有野心的策略,奥斯本肯定希望阻止白发苍苍的保守党选民流失到英国独立党那里。后者没有什么经济政策可言。为了对奥斯本公平起见,这种类似自由派的改革看上去也是较合适的方法来打消(民众)不切实际的挥霍要求。
The method in his trickery
施诡计的方法
And there is an important truth in that. Though Mr Osborne's trickery is always evident, so, increasingly, is the seriousness of his purpose. For all his feints, traps and compromises, the chancellor has so far stripped the public sector of 600,000 jobs, capped welfare and overseen, in a downturn, historic growth in private-sector employment. He has cut business taxes, thereby persuading employers to accept a rise in the minimum wage.
奥斯本的诡计中有个重要的事实。尽管奥斯本很明显用了诡计,但是,更得提的是他严肃的目的。除了佯攻,圈套和承诺,到目前为止,他已经在公共部门削减了60万个职位,封顶了福利项目,并在这个经济衰退时期监督着私营部门的历史性增长。他还降低了营业税,因此促使雇主提高了最低工资。
It is reasonable to argue about whether Mr Osborne's measures have been just. Next year's election campaign will accordingly pit the Tory claim to have managed the economy well against Labour's aspiration to manage it more fairly. But no one should doubt the clarity of the vision that is driving the Conservative chancellor. Whereas David Cameron, the prime minister, promised to change Britain, with a fuzzy idea of volunteerism, Mr Osborne is actually changing it.
奥斯本的措施是否恰当?对其争论自然是合理的。照目前的情形,明年的竞选运动肯定会刻上保守党的如下口号:保守党人把经济管理的更有效率,而工党只想着让经济更公平。但是不会有人怀疑这位保守党大臣所秉持的明确愿景。当首相大卫.卡梅伦改革英国的构想还停留在模糊的志愿精神时,奥斯本事实上已经去做了。
His ambition is to make a more industrious society, less blighted by the entitlement culture that blossomed under Labour. Even after the deficit is no more, the chancellor believes, public spending should be held down. Again, his motives appear partly self-interested. Mr Osborne harbours leadership ambitions, and his ideas are finding more favour with the right of his party than Mr Cameron enjoys. The beneficiaries of his remodelled society might also be likelier to vote Tory. But just because the chancellor's vision is political does not necessarily make it wrong.
奥斯本有志于打造一个更加勤勉的社会,而不会被工党政府下培养起来的权利文化而影响得萎靡不振。当然,他的部分动机是自利。奥斯本控制了他的领导欲望。就保守党的一贯宗旨来说,奥斯本的观点得到越来越多的拥护,比卡梅伦得到的更多。在他重塑社会过程中得益的人也许更有可能给保守党投票。因此没有必要因为奥斯本的愿景政治意味浓厚就认定此计划是错误的。翻译:王化起 校对:周晓婷

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conservative [kən'sə:vətiv]

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adj. 保守的,守旧的
n. 保守派(党),

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demanding [di'mændiŋ]

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adj. 要求多的,吃力的

 
stanch [stɑ:ntʃ]

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vt. 止住,止血 vt. 减轻 adj. 坚固的 =s

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opportunity [.ɔpə'tju:niti]

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n. 机会,时机

 
popular ['pɔpjulə]

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adj. 流行的,大众的,通俗的,受欢迎的

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v. 拒绝
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adj. 枯萎的;摧残的 v. 使染上枯萎病;毁坏(bl

 
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