It has been two years since the flames were first spotted in Greece, yet the blaze still hasn't been put out. Now it has spread to Italy.
It's been five years since the U.S. housing bubble
burst. Housing remains among the biggest reasons the U.S. economy
is doing so poorly.
On both continents, there is no longer any doubt about the severity
of the threat
or the urgent
need for better policies. Yet the players seem spectacularly unable
Deciding who will get stuck with the tab.
'In every crisis, you have to allocate the losses between debtors, creditors and taxpayers,' says Anna Gelpern, an American University law professor and former Treasury official. 'It's a shockingly simple concept, and completely intractable.'
美利坚大学(American University)的法律教授、前财政部官员盖本(Anna Gelpern)说，不管哪一次危机，损失都要由债务人、债权人和纳税人来分担。这是一个极其简单的概念，丝毫不容变通。
'By definition, it's a political problem,' she adds. 'Even if you came up with an optimal allocation, if it's not politically salable, it can't happen.'
This time, the scale is daunting. The International Monetary Fund estimates that holders of U.S. mortgage
and other debt lost $2.7 trillion in the U.S. phase of the global financial
crisis, some of that already shifted to taxpayers. American homes are worth nearly $7 trillion less than they were five year ago, a 25% decline. Nearly 23% of Americans with mortgages owe more than the value of their homes.
这一次的损失大得让人望而生畏。据国际货币基金组织(International Monetary Fund)预计，在这场全球性的金融危机中，美国的住房抵押贷款和其他债务的持有人损失了2.7万亿美元，而一部分的损失已经转嫁到了纳税人的头上。与五年前相比，美国住房市场总值下降了近7万亿美元，降幅达25%。将近23%的美国人的抵押贷款余额高于手头住房的价值。
All sorts of attempts have been made to reduce monthlymortgage
payments for some, to refinance high-interest mortgages, to be sure foreclosures are done correctly, to recapitalize banks so they can absorb
losses, and so on. The big step untaken: reducing the principal
on mortgages. The big hurdle: Who takes the hit? The banks? Mortgage investors? Taxpayers?
In Europe, delays in admitting that Greece borrowed too much turned what might have been a difficult but manageable problem into a calamity. One big reason for the delay: deciding who would take the hit. German taxpayers? French-bank shareholders? Foreign bondholders?
When a borrower