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商业 - 金融

美国财税浩劫将至,盖特纳胸有成竹

Richard Nieva 2012年05月02日

今年底,包括布什减税在内的美国很多税收(优惠)政策将按原定计划到期。这些政策累积数额高达5,000亿美元,约占美国GDP的3%。如果美国国会不采取行动,由此自动产生的增税可能逆转美国经济复苏进程,将美国重新拖入经济衰退。不过,美国财政部长盖特纳看起来对此已经做好了准备。

    随着美国多项税收优惠政策将于2012年底到期,“财税浩劫”(taxmageddon)正在迅速迫近,身为美国财政部长的蒂莫西•盖特纳却镇定自若。虽然在华盛顿也有很多人哀叹或许在劫难逃,但盖特纳的计划却是一步步解决问题。

    “财税浩劫”,更直白的说法是“财税悬崖”,指的是包括布什减税在内的美国很多税收(优惠)政策按原定计划将于今年年底到期。这些政策累积数额高达5,000亿美元,约占美国GDP的3%。如果美国国会不采取行动,由此自动产生的增税可能逆转美国经济复苏进程,将美国重新拖入经济衰退。

    盖特纳承认,大部分增税将出现在11月份的美国大选之后,只给国会留下了约两个月的时间来讨论并通过补救方案。但是,他似乎并不认为这短短两个月就将决定生死存亡。“不必非得在大选后的六周内解决未来几百年美国将要面临的所有问题,”他在加州联邦俱乐部(Commonwealth Club)于旧金山主办的一次活动上演讲时说。“要做的是建立起能取得一些进展的框架。”此次活动由《财富》杂志(Fortune)高级自由编辑亚当•拉辛斯基主持。

    同时,他表示,奥巴马政府在大选前的这几个月里也一直在做很多“准备”工作,包括让总统展开媒体宣传攻势,阐释财税改革的作用机制(盖特纳本人近来也对媒体比较友好,为下周他与美国国务卿希拉里•克林顿共同出访中国做好准备,此行将与中国领导人探讨经济问题及面临的挑战)。

    批评人士认为,当前行动不力(比如,替换自动减税措施或“削减支出”,这是去年夏季国会就已经批准实施的,与此同时努力上调美国的负债上限),意味着将来需要进行大量的工作。盖特纳的应对之策是分步骤实施——首先,调整财税政策,缩减开支,“借此启动整个流程,让财税改革产生一些长期有益的节约。”他说,目标包括提高联邦医疗保险计划(Medicare)和医疗补助计划(Medicaid)的可持续性发展能力。

    盖特纳还将“财税浩劫”置于更宏观的美国财政背景下来考虑。“它并不是我们作为一个国家面临的唯一挑战,”他说。“不能以此为借口,什么也不做。”他说,为未来做出改变,不应损害对教育或基础科研的投入。

    不过,即便盖特纳尽量对“财税浩劫”轻描淡写(虽然他同时也在强调其“重要性”),他承认这个问题足以可能扰乱民主当和共和党两党的关系。他说:“我认为,基本的现实状况和简单的财务计算就足以引发这种局面。”

    译者:早稻米

    In the face of the United States rapidly approaching so-called "taxmageddon," Timothy Geithner is calm. The Treasury Secretary's plan to avoid the colossal coming tax hikes, despite the end-of-days allusion popular with many in Washington, is to take things one step at a time.

    Taxmageddon, also known more plainly as the "fiscal cliff," refers to a slew of tax policies that are set to expire by the end of the year. These policies, which include the Bush tax cuts, add up to about $500 billion, or roughly 3% of the nation's gross domestic product. If congress fails to act, the automatic tax hikes could upend the economic recovery's progress, sending the country back into a recession.

    Stakes high, Geithner admitted that much of the heavy lifting would be done after the general election in November, giving congress roughly two months to agree on a fix. Still, Geithner doesn't seem to necessarily see the short time frame as do-or-die crunch time. "You don't need to solve all of a country's problems over the next hundred years in the six weeks after the election," he said, speaking at an event in San Francisco hosted by the Commonwealth Club, and moderated by Fortune senior editor-at-large Adam Lashinsky. "What you have to do is make sure you put in place a framework that makes some progress."

    In the meantime, he says, the Obama administration has been doing a lot of "up front" work in the months leading up to the election, including the having the president go on a press whirlwind explaining how the tax reforms would work. (Geithner himself has been press friendly of late, a prelude to his trip to China next week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss economic issues and challenges with that nation's leaders.)

    Critics say doing only a little now -- like replacing the automatic tax cuts, or "sequestration," that congress put in place last summer while trying to raise the nation's debt ceiling -- means leaving a lot of work down the road. Geithner's response is working in stages -- first making tax changes and spending cuts that correspond to the sequester, "and then set in motion the process that will allow tax reform to come alongside some sensible long-term savings," he said. Among those goals would be making Medicare and Medicaid more sustainable, he said.

    Geithner also put the taxmageddon situation into the context of the nation's larger fiscal landscape. "This is not the only challenge we are facing as a country," he said. "You cannot use that challenge as an excuse to do nothing for the economy now." Making changes for the future, he said, should not ravage funding in education or basic science and research.

    Still, though he downplayed the situation (while also emphasizing its "importance"), he acknowledged the issue is enough of a looming threat to rouse bipartisanship with Republicans. "I think the basic reality and the basic fiscal math is going to force them to that point," he said.

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