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弗里德曼:社保,有史以来最大的庞氏骗局
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话题: 弗里德曼:社保,有史以来最大的庞氏骗局
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弗里德曼:社保,有史以来最大的庞氏骗局 8 年, 9 月 之前 评分: 4  
译者说明:这是1976年诺贝尔经济学奖得主米尔顿·弗里德曼于1999年11 月在《纽约时报》上发表的著作,后经胡佛研究所(Hoover Institution)略作编辑收录在《弗里德曼精选文集》(《The Essence of Friedman》)中,原题目是《Social Security Chimeras》(《社会保障制度幻想》),编辑后的题目是《Social Security:The Biggest PonziScheme on Earth》。
当麦道夫(Bernard Madoff)骗案东窗事发的时候,二十世纪初期震惊全美的“庞氏骗局”又重新成为大家关注、研究的热点;而早在十年前,弗里德曼就在这篇文章里指出了美国现行的社会保障制度的弊端,那些触目惊心数字、那些同样拆东墙补西墙的做法,令其实在无愧于“最大规模庞氏骗局”的头衔。
十年后的今天,奥巴马政府上台时将要面临的是一万亿美元的财政赤字,如此惊人的赤字还有可能将维持几年之久,甚至为了提振经济这个赤字还可能进一步扩大;回头再看这篇文章,仍是颇有深意;而隔岸的我们,在审视我们自己的社保制度时,或许亦能从中得些启发。


最近,记者迈克尔总结出人们有关社会保障改革的传统看法,他写到:“改革的内容是相当清晰的,就是个人投资账户(部分取代由工资税资助的政府福利)、被推后的退休年龄、调整过的生活成本增幅。突然之间,将用作‘转制成本’的钱以预算盈余的方式迫近了。”

我故意突出了“部分”和“转制成本”,因为它们集中体现了传统看法的主要缺陷。

由于现有受惠人数量相对地已大于纳税人数量,且这种差距只会继续拉大,现行社会保障制度已变成鸡肋,这正好解释了为何人们普遍支持个人投资户口。尤其是年轻雇员,甚为怀疑他们会否获得任何与其(及其雇主)为社会保障税所付出金钱等值的东西。他们相信,要是能把钱投在自己的401k(***见注释一)或类似计划的账户中,他们能获得更好的回报。

可若真是如此,为何只“部分”取代而不是“全盘”取代政府福利呢?标准解释是:这不可行!因为工资税(或者只是当中部分)需要用来支付那些早已向现有或未来退休者承诺过的福利。这也是它们现在的用途,可这些事情在本质上不需要把某个特定税种和某种特定开支对应起来。

工资税和福利支付之间的对应关系,是社会保障局诱骗公众相信他们的手段之一,他们吹嘘社会保险计划不亚于私人保险,用他们的话来说就是“雇员通过定期投资共同基金来为他们自己准备未来的退休福利”。

这简直是胡说八道!

现有的雇员们支付的税金都用在现有的退休人员身上了,如果能有钱剩下来,那也会用于其他政府支出;尽管这样,为了维系这个“保险故事”,他们还是给这个既是政府资产又是政府负债的“信托基金”创立了一堆文件条目。在不远的将来,当到期需要支付的福利金额超越了工资税收入时,为了填补这个差距就只能加税、借钱、印钱或者削减其他政府开支了,无论这个“信托基金”有多大,情况都只能是这样。这个关于雇员将在退休时享受福利的承诺,不是依赖于某项专门资助该项福利的税收或者任何“信托基金”的,它其实依赖于对继任国会的期望,期望他们承认前任国会所作出的承诺--这种期望,被支持者们称作“各代人之间的契约”,被反对者们称作“庞氏骗局”。

《社会保障法》中所作出的福利承诺,其贴现值现在是大大高于工资税预期收入的贴现值,根据不同的估算,两者差距是一笔介乎4万亿到11万亿美元之间的无资金来源负债,或者说是一笔介乎比公众持有的有资金来源联邦负债略多一点到是其三倍之间的负债。对比一下,所有美国本土企业在1997年年底的市场价值总额才约为 13万亿美元。

要戳穿所谓的“转制成本”(假设中的将现有社会保障体系私有化时要付出的净成本)一说,可以考虑如下设想性实验:假如在2000年1月1日,现行社会保障体系被废除了,为了兑现目前的承诺,每一位参与者都将接收一份政府债务,这债务相当于他/她在这项无资金来源负债中的精算份额。

给那些已退休人员的,就是短期国债或者债券,其市场价值将相当于预期未来福利之精算现值减去预期未来工资税(如果有的话)。给其他人的,就是一份债务契约,该契约到个人在现有体系里有资格享用福利时才到期兑现,该项债务的到期值相等于人们将享受到的福利的现值,再减去人们未来税务负债的现值(所有计算都以死亡率作修正)。

这样做的结果就是完全转化为一个纯粹私有的体系,体系里每一个参与者都接收到现有法律所承诺的(福利)。然而,除了分配新的债务契约所用的费用外,所有美国政府的负债都不会有哪怕一美元的改变,无论是有资金来源负债还是无资金来源负债--根本就没有所谓的“转制成本”,只是无资金来源负债变成了有资金来源的,“各代人之间的契约”将给后人留下一笔有资金来源的负债。

当这笔有资金来源负债到期时该如何支付呢?无非就是加税、借款、印钱或者削减其他政府开支,没有其他的途径了。通过工资税来资助这部分有资金来源负债的偿付而不是资助其他部分的做法,这时再也说不过去了,然而,对那些认为“转制成本”意味着只能实现部分私有化的人来说,这种资助就是他们的暗含假设。

工资税是一个坏税种:一种生产活动的累退税。这税项早就该被废除了,是时候推行私有化社会保障体系了。那么,私有化的体系应该是强制性的吗?现有体系是强制的,因此,人们普遍理所当然地认为私有化体系也应该一样。

1995年,经济学家马丁·费尔德斯坦在《公众利益》上发表的一篇文章里写到强制参与的理由有两个:“首先,某些人太过短视以致不懂为其退休生活作打算,其次,专为老人而设的入息审查救助计划可能会间接鼓励某些低收入人士故意不为其退休生活作准备,原因是他们知道将能受惠于入息审查救助金。”

第一条理由中体现出的家长式作派以及第二条理由中列举的关于依赖性的极端例子都是一样没说服力的。更重要的是,费尔德斯坦教授甚至没有提及强制性计划中明显的不公正性。

最明显例子就是预期寿命较短、收入来源有限的艾滋病患者,如果还要求他们把收入中相当大的一部分累积起来,那最后累积出来的必然都是对他们来说毫无价值的资产。

更普遍点来看,一个人究竟将其收入中多大的部分存起来作退休之用才是合理的,这完全取决于此人的生活状况与价值观。为所有人定下一个参与社会保障体系的最低比例,和为他们定下花费于住宿或者交通的最低比例一样,都是极不合理的。我们的普遍假设是,个人对如何支配其拥有的资源最有发言权。费尔德斯坦先生则只是简单声称,在某些特定情况下,政府比个人能作出更好的判断。

1964年,Barry Goldwater(***见注释二)曾因建议自愿参与社会保障体系而备受责难。我那时认为这是个好主意,我现在还这么认为。为了避免“某些低收入人士故意不为其退休生活作准备”这种情况出现,而要求人们百分百遵从政府预设的条条框框,这种想法是站不住脚的。我倒认为,在一个自愿参与的体系里,因为遭受不幸而需要救助的老人将远多于那些因为轻率无知而需救助的人以及那些蓄意等待救助的人。

对于将现有体系转化为自愿参与体系政治可行性,我不抱任何幻想;原有体制衍生出来的现状和既得利益集团专制而且过分强大。不过我相信,由于大家正更多地关注基本面而不是仅仅着眼于私有化过程的细枝末节,有关私有化社会保障体系的持续讨论将会受益于此。

注释一:401k即401计划(亦称作401K条款),始于20世纪80年代初,是一种由雇员、雇主共同缴费建立起来的完全基金式的养老保险制度,是指美国1978年《国内税收法》新增的第401条k项条款的规定,1979年得到法律认可,1981年又追加了实施规则,20世纪90年代迅速发展,逐渐取代了传统的社会保障体系,成为美国诸多雇主首选的社会保障计划。适用于私人盈利性公司。

注释二:Barry Goldwater是1964年美国总统选举期间,共和党推出的极右派候选人
 
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