REPUBLICANS have trumpeted their victory in the mid-term elections as a revolt against big government, from bail-outs to fiscal stimulus. Having made short work of the Democratic Congress, it was inevitable that they would next turn their sights on the Federal Reserve, a perennial target of the wilder-eyed.
共和党人将他们在国会中期选举中的获胜大肆宣传成目标直指“大政府”的一场反抗,从金融救市方案到财政刺激政策,奥巴马政府均出手阔绰。解决“民主党”国会可谓迅雷不及掩耳,趁热打铁,共和党人将下一个靶子掷向美联储——怒目睽睽之下已是众矢之的,共和党人岂会善罢甘休。

On November 3rd the Fed said it would buy $600 billion-worth of Treasury bonds over the next eight months with newly printed money. This second round of quantitative easing (QE), the Fed hopes, will nudge down long-term interest rates, thus stimulating spending and fending off the threat of deflation.
就在11月3号,美联储宣布,将在未来8个月内以购买价值高达6千亿美元的政府长期债券的方式向实体经济投放新一轮货币。美联储希望,第二轮量化宽松的货币政策将能够温和地推动长期利率的下移,从而刺激开支并且抵御来自通货紧缩的威胁。

Republicans and "tea-party" activists erupted in criticism. "Cease and desist," cried Sarah Palin, a former vice-presidential candidate. "Currency debasement and inflation," declared a gaggle of conservative economists and commentators in an open letter published as a full-page ad in leading newspapers. Republican leaders in Congress wrote to Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, to express "deep concerns"; and two of their colleagues proposed stripping the Fed of its statutory responsibility to promote growth and employment, leaving it to occupy itself only with controlling inflation.
对此,共和党人以及茶党中的一些活跃分子如同揭了盖的火山,批评之声如潮水般袭来。“停止不正当竞争”, Sarah Palin(萨拉·佩林)可谓声嘶力竭,她曾经竞选过这届政府的副总统职位。“美元将会贬值并且通胀一定袭来”,一群保守的经济学家和评论家如此宣称,此番言论见诸于各大主流报纸以整版形式刊发的一则公开信中。众议院中的共和党领袖们写信给美联储主席伯南克先生,表达“深切关注”;他们的“志同道合”之辈中,有两位提议剥夺美联储促进经济增长和实现充分就业的法定责任,从而留给美联储仅仅全神贯注于控制通胀这一经济职责。

At first blush their complaints are perplexing. Core inflation (excluding food and energy) was just 0.6% in the year to October, the lowest since records began in 1957. Even food prices are up only 1.4% from a year earlier, while petrol prices are well below their peak of 2008. In a Gallup poll, 33% of respondents called unemployment the most important problem facing the country; just 1% picked inflation. Even the dollar’s recent drop is small beer.
一眼瞟去,这些反对派的抱怨言论让人如堕云雾。截止到今年10月,核心通货膨胀指数(扣除食物和能源产品)仅仅上升了0.6个百分点,是自1957年数据统计以来的最低值。较之去年,甚至是食物价格也仅上攀了1.4%,而汽油价格则远远低于2008年的峰值水平。在由盖洛普发起的一项民意测验中,近乎1/3的受访者认为现在的失业状况是美国面临的最重要问题;而仅有1%的人选择了通货膨胀。甚至美元在近期贬值也是微不足道的。

Yet the fight is not ultimately over numbers, but ideology. To be sure, the Fed's reputation has suffered among Americans of all political stripes over its failure to prevent the crisis and its bail-outs of banks. But the tea-party movement holds it in particularly low regard, seeing it as the monetary bedfellow of the hated stimulus and bail-outs. Some 60% of tea-party activists want the Fed abolished or overhauled, according to a Bloomberg poll. One of the movement's heroes is Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas who wants to scrap the Fed outright and bring back the gold standard. His son Rand, newly elected as a senator from Kentucky, has also been stridently critical. QE can be made to seem sinister: an animated video on YouTube that portrays it as a conspiracy between Goldman Sachs and the Fed to fleece the taxpayer has been viewed over 2m times.
然而双方争执的焦点最终并非在经济数据,而是意识形态。由于没能阻止金融危机的爆发并且在援助银行的救市方案中“出手大方”,毫无疑问,美联储在美国政客中的声誉近乎扫地。但是茶党分子发起的运动则尤其对联储嗤之以鼻,将它看作是遭到众人痛骂的奥巴马政府一揽子经济刺激政策的金钱帮凶。根据彭博的一项民意调研,约有六成的茶党成员希望对美联储来一场彻底大整改或者干脆关门了事。造起此类声势的“带头大哥”是罗恩·保罗(来自德克萨斯州的众议院议员),此人就想将美联储彻底扔进历史的故纸堆里(或“此人就想彻底报销掉美联储”)并且回到金本位制时代。他的儿子兰德·罗恩——刚刚履职为来自于肯塔基州的参议员议员——对美联储的批评几近刻薄。量化宽松的非常规货币政策似乎是罪大恶极:在YouTube上有一则视频,其点击量已达两百多万次。该视频将“量化宽松”描述成是高盛和联储之间的共同阴谋以便骗取纳税人的血汗钱财。

The ideological content of the backlash should not be overestimated. In 1892 William Jennings Bryan, later the Democratic presidential candidate, declared: "The people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later." Liberals accuse the Republican leadership of likewise concocting an excuse to rally their base against Barack Obama. Indeed, the letter to Mr Bernanke criticises QE2 in much the same language used to oppose fiscal stimulus: as a dampener of business confidence and stability.
但是,反抗声中此起彼伏的意识形态之争也不应该过高估计。在1892年,William Jennings Bryan——后来成为民主党的总统候选人——宣称“内布拉斯加的民众支持自由铸造银币并且我也赞成,我将在以后查找论证。”自由派谴责共和党的领导人同样是在炮制借口来集合力量对抗奥巴马政府。事实上,写给伯南克先生的信件中关于批评“第二轮量化宽松”的内容与反对财政刺激政策的言论如出一辙:打击了商业投资信心并且破坏了经济稳定。

Mr Bernanke, himself a Republican, took office in 2006 hoping to stay out of political debates. That is proving difficult. Interest rates are near zero, and quantitative easing is at best a feeble tool for boosting growth; Mr Bernanke, like many economists, thinks more fiscal stimulus is what is needed now. Some Republicans saw a speech he made to that effect on November 19th as a partisan act. "The politicisation of the Fed has occurred," says Tom Price, a Republican congressman from Georgia and sponsor of a bill that would remove full employment as one of the Fed's goals. "The problem is it's been on the administration's side and not on the congressional side. We've got a Federal Reserve that is in essence monetising the debt and encouraging more deficit spending."
伯南克先生,其本人就是一位共和党成员,在2006年履职美联储时便是希望远离政治党派争伐。结果证明,这种想法是难以实现的。当下,利率已接近零水平而且“量化宽松”充其量是推动经济增长的权宜之策;伯南克先生,和许多经济学家一样,认为采取更多的财政刺激方案是眼下的应时之需。一些共和党人将美联储主席在11月19日就财政刺激方案发表的演说视为一种偏袒举动。“美联储偏向政府的信号已经显现”,Tom Price如是说,此人是来自于乔治亚州的众议院共和党议员,他还是一项议案的发起人,该项议案旨在从联邦储备委员会的经济目标中划掉“实现充分就业”这一项。“问题是美联储站在政府这一边而不是依靠国会那一边,我们现在看到的美联储,从本质上讲为债台高筑和赤字开销推波助澜。”

These broadsides are less threatening to the Fed's independence than they appear. Senate Democrats could block, and Mr Obama could veto, any change to the Fed's mandate. And besides, the Fed's expanded mandate of 1977, to promote "maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates" has never made much economic sense, since the only thing the Fed can really affect is inflation. In practice it behaves much like central banks, for whom controlling inflation is the only mandate. A simpler mandate would actually fit with Mr Bernanke's own desire for a numerical inflation target, probably 2%.
这些猛烈抨击不过是徒有其表,还是不能威胁到美联储独立决策的能力。对于任何旨在变更美联储政策的行动,参议院中的民主党议员可以实施阻拦,而且奥巴马总统拥有一票否决权。况且除此之外,关于在1977年扩充美联储的经济目标——即实现充分就业,稳定商品价格和调节长期利率——从经济学上讲,还不甚入理,因为美联储能够真正左右的唯一情况是应付通货膨胀。事实上,美联储的举措极像中央银行,对后者来说,控制通货膨胀是唯一的经济工作。而一项更为简明的经济工作应该更合乎伯南克先生本人在当下的期望,即维持通货膨胀大约在2%的水平。

Republicans can make Mr Bernanke's life difficult with hostile oversight hearings; ominously Mr (Ron) Paul will become chairman of the House subcommittee on monetary policy next year. But most analysts still expect the latest round of QE to be completed as planned.
共和党人可以采用布施敌意的监管听证会来给联储主席的政治生活添堵;不祥之兆便是保罗先生将会在来年晋职为国会货币政策小组委员会的主席。但是大多数(时事)分析师仍然期望新一轮量化宽松的货币政策能够按计划实施完毕。

A bigger question is whether the Fed will engage in any further QE if the economy stays weak. There the greatest obstacle is growing unease within the Fed itself. Tom Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, has recently stepped up his criticism, calling QE a "bargain with the devil". On November 8th Kevin Warsh, a Fed governor who has long been Mr Bernanke's most loyal ally, questioned the wisdom of QE in a Wall Street Journal article. Several other QE sceptics will get votes on the Fed's main policy committee next year.
让人们投入更多关注的问题是,如果经济依然保持疲软,美联储是否会将量化宽松进一步深入推进下去。在美联储内部就滋生着令人不安的庞大“荆棘”。Tom Hoenig,身为美联储堪萨斯城分行的主席,其对美联储的微词不断升级,称量化宽松是“跟魔鬼做交易”。在11月8日, Kevin Warsh(伯南克先生最忠实的同盟者,并且身兼美联储理事一职)在《华尔街日报》上发表了一篇质疑量化宽松可行性的文章。明年,对时下货币政策持有怀疑态度的一些才学之士将会在美联储的主要政策制定委员会中拿得投票权。更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/

Mr Bernanke may plan to stay the course, but the chorus of criticism is already doing damage. It has nourished investors' doubts that the Fed will finish, much less add to, the planned $600 billion in bond purchases. That has helped drive up long-term bond yields from 2.53% the day after the Fed's announcement to 2.8% now, precisely the opposite of what QE was meant to achieve. If those perceptions stick, QE will be seen to have failed and the critics will have won. Unfortunately, the same will not be true of the economy.
伯南克先生也许会按计划将“量化宽松”贯彻到底,可是众口一词的斥责之声已经造成了危害。后者已经助长了投资者的疑虑:暂且不提给当下的货币政策添砖加瓦,美联储6千亿的政府长期债券认购计划是否会存在一定程度的缩水尚不得而知。就在货币政策出台的第二天,萦绕在投资者心中的担忧便推动政府长期债券收益率从2.53%上升到现在2.8%,刚好与量化宽松所指向的目的南辕北辙。如果这些看法长期盘绕在人们的心中,那么量化宽松将会"饮恨"当世而且批评言论定会赢得先机。不过话又说回来,笔者却认为这种局面将不会写进美国经济发展的历史里。