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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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General Osborne
The chancellor's fifth budget was full of trickery—yet utterly serious
“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.
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.
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.
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.
The method in his trickery
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.
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.
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


重点单词   查看全部解释    
inflexible [in'fleksəbl]


adj. 不可弯曲的,僵硬的,顽固的,不可改变的,不容变

reasonable ['ri:znəbl]


adj. 合理的,适度的,通情达理的

modest ['mɔdist]


adj. 谦虚的,适度的,端庄的

previously ['pri:vju:sli]


adv. 先前,在此之前

except [ik'sept]


vt. 除,除外
prep. & conj.

spin [spin]


v. (使)旋转,疾驰,纺织,结网,眩晕

woo [wu:]


v. 向 ... 求爱,追求,恳求

triumph ['traiəmf]


n. 凯旋,欢欣
vi. 得胜,成功,庆功

comparison [kəm'pærisn]


n. 比较

erstwhile ['ə:sthwail]


adj. 以前的;从前的;往昔的 adv. 以前;往昔地