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Bankruptcy and the economy

破产与经济
A fresh start
一个全新的开始
New evidence that rules for debtors are too tough
新证据表明,对债务人的要求太苛刻
LAST year nearly 1m Americans filed for bankruptcy. That is far fewer than the number who used to seek bankruptcy protection before the law was made tougher a decade ago. This reform may have done more harm than good.The aim of bankruptcy law is to give people relief from unpayable debts. Some two-thirds of individual bankruptcies are due to a lost job. Many bankrupts need time to get back on their feet. In the mid-2000s Chapter 7 rules made it easy to wash away debts. That irritated credit-card firms, which claimed that spendthrifts abused the system; so in 2005 the law was toughened. The idea was to shift people to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, where they would have to repay some of the debt.
去年,将近100万美国人申请破产。十年前,法律对于破产保护条件非常严苛,而那些曾经寻求破产保护的人数却远超过申请破产的人数。这项改革可能弊大于利。[破产法旨在帮助人们减轻无法偿还的债务。约有2/3的个体破产源于失业。许多人破产后需要一定时间才能从中恢复过来。21世纪中期,第七章规定有利于摆脱债务。这激怒了信用卡公司,并声称,“败家子们”滥用了系统;也因此2005年,法律变严格了。这样做的初衷是让人们适应第13章破产规定,即他们必须偿还一些债务。
The reform had a big impact. At least at first, Chapter 13 filings rose relative to Chapter 7 ones. And a new paper, from Stefania Albanesi, of the New York Federal Reserve, and Jaromir Nosal, of Columbia University, finds that the reform led to a permanent drop in the bankruptcy rate.
这项改革曾意义深远。至少,一开始,第13章文件与第7章文件相关联的。纽约联邦储备银行的Stefania Albanesi与哥伦比亚大学的Jaromir Nosal共同完成了一篇新的论文,指出这项改革实现了短暂的破产率降低。

However, other recent research suggests that this is not necessarily a good thing. Will Dobbie, of Princeton University, and Jae Song, of the Social Security Administration, look at Chapter 13 bankruptcies before the reforms of 2005. They link half a million bankruptcy filings to tax records and use a novel technique to analyse them. Because some bankruptcy judges are more lenient than others, people in similar straits may end up with different bankruptcy decisions. This quirk allows some useful comparisons.

然而,其他最新研究表明,这未必是一件好事。普林斯顿大学的威尔·多比(Will Dobbie)与社会保障总署的宋杰(Jae Song)于2005年改革前就研究第13章破产法。他们认为,这100万人中有一半破产与税收记录有关,并且使用一项新技术对其进行分析。因为一些审判破产的法官网开一面,所以处于类似困境的人有可能会有不同的破产决议。像这样的案例带来了用价值的对比。
Messrs Dobbie and Song argue that easier bankruptcy laws have good microeconomic effects. If a creditor may no longer claim large chunks of a bankrupt's salary, that may increase his incentive to work—and decrease his need to slip out of town, change his job and close down his bank account. On average, those granted bankruptcy earned over 6,000 more in the subsequent year than similarly-placed plaintiffs who were rejected. The unlucky ones found it trickier to service their mortgages. Michelle White of the University of California, San Diego and colleagues found that bankruptcy reform caused the default rate on prime mortgages to rise 23%.
多比先生和宋先生辩解道,破产法越简单,其产生的微观经济效应越好。如果债权人不再索要大量破产者的薪水,如此一来,或许可以刺激他工作,而且他也不用搬去郊区、更换工作、关闭银行账户。与那些有类似遭遇且遭到拒绝的原告相比,这些有保障的破产,平均可以在接下来的一年里挣6千逾美元。倒霉的人发现越来越难偿还抵押贷款。圣地亚哥加利福尼亚大学的米歇尔·怀特以及其同事发现,破产法改革导致贷款市场的拖欠债务率上调了23%。
Making consumer-bankruptcy law more debtor-friendly could hit Americans in other ways. If lenders are exposed to bigger losses, some argue, interest rates for such things as credit cards are bound to rise. But that danger can be overstated. Credit-card companies may be reluctant to charge rates higher than their competitors' lest they attract the dodgiest customers—those not put off by high rates because they know that, with luck, they won't have to pay their debts back.
消费者—破产法越有利于债务人,越是在其他方面冲击美国人。一些人争辩道,倘若借出方蒙受更大的损失,类似信用卡的利率势必上涨。但是,这种担忧或许有点言过其实。信用卡公司或许不愿意改变高于对手的利率,唯恐竞争对手会偷偷吸引顾客——这些顾客深知,如果运气好,即使利率再高,他们也可以不用偿还债务。
Figures released on March 6th by the Federal Reserve show that consumer debt rose for the 41st straight month (see chart). With inflation low and wages weak, that is worrying. Ms White wants to roll back some of the reform of 2005, making bankruptcy cheaper. Whether that just increases profligacy remains to be seen.
美国联邦储备局3月6日发布数据表明,消费者债务连续第41个月上升。通胀率低、工资减少,情况很不乐观。怀特小姐想把2005年改革压到最低标准,把破败变得更加廉价。此举是否助长享乐主义,仍为一个未知数。译者:黄柳

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