For a shocking change of pace, the Friday LinkSwarm will be on Friday:
Posts Tagged ‘Euro’
Take a look at these charts. Unemployment in Spain is up over 25%, and most have been unemployed more than 2 years. Matthew O’Brien is correct when he says that Spain’s inflexible labor laws contribute greatly to the unemployment, but errs when he says that “austerity hasn’t been the path to prosperity. It’s been the path to perma-slump.”
Austerity hasn’t failed in Spain. It hasn’t been tried.
Spain last ran a budget surplus in 2008, and since then it has engaged in deficit spending. In 2012, Spain’s budget deficit was 9.4% of GDP, and this year it will be 10.6% of GDP.
Remember, real austerity isn’t trying to tax-and-spend your way to prosperity. Real austerity is cutting budgets until outlays match receipts. Estonia bit the bullet and balanced its budget, and its economy is now growing at a steady clip. Meanwhile, governments all across Europe continue to try the same deficit spending Keynesian pump-priming, and keep having the same recession. In most of Europe, “austerity” has meant digging their own graves more slowly rather that stopping digging.
And European elites refuse to stop digging because their power and perks all stem from swaddling voters in an unsustainable cradle-to-grave welfare system.
If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Europe makes the same mistakes, gets the same results, and keeps doubling down on stupid, content to keep the farce running as long as they possibly can. Instead actually of solving the interrelated problems of debt, unsustainable entitlements, and the Euro, the Euroelite seem content to preside over the world’s slowest, most boring train wreck. Yes, it’s a pity the train is sliding inexorably toward the chasm, but there’s such fine vintages to be had in the saloon car, and it offers such a magnificent view of the coming crash…
While attention was focused on the Boston bombing, Gosnell, and gay marriage, Greece just got another bailout. This is in exchange for further “austerity.”
So Greece wants more money because it can’t even keep to its previous promises on its fake austerity goals.
Let me explain it once again: Real austerity is cutting spending until it matches incoming receipts. Not reducing the rate of deficit spending. Not raising taxes so politicians can continue to spend.
No country in the EU (at least outside the Baltics) has practiced real austerity. That Forbes piece on the Baltic nations includes a lot of good advice that EU nations are largely ignoring:
Don’t run up big debts. It is a lot easier to manage when things go bad if you aren’t overextended to start. Observed Rosenberg: “Estonia’s experience shows that prudent policies during the boom may not avoid a bust, but they can put the country into a better position to deal with shocks.”
Don’t engage in an orgy of “stimulus” spending. That will run up big debts without generating long-term growth. When budgets eventually are cut, as they will have to be, the economic loss and political pain will be even greater.
Make tough decisions early. People typically are ready to act after the crisis hits. In the case of Latvia, argued Asmussen, by acting swiftly “most of the required painful budgetary decisions could be passed before the so-called ‘adjustment fatigue’ kicked in.”
Maintain fiscal responsibility. Otherwise any progress will be transitory. Growth is the natural result of reform. Delaying reform exacerbates the problem while prematurely terminating reform short-circuits the recovery.
Emphasize budget cuts. Expansive and irresponsible public outlays usually contribute to economic crisis. Moreover, the state as well as citizens should sacrifice after a crash. The answer is to cut expansive and irresponsible public outlays. In fact, economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna found that “spending cuts are much more effective than tax increases in stabilizing the debt and avoiding economic downturns. In fact, we uncover several episodes in which spending cuts adopted to reduce deficits have been associated with economic expansions rather than recessions.”
Finally, don’t rest on one’s laurels. There always is more to do. Even nations which have implemented serious reform programs, like the Baltic States, could make further improvements.
As far as I can tell, none of the core EU states (and certainly none of the PIIGS) has tried this approach since the 2008 recession hit. They keep trying Neo-Keynesian pump-priming and deficit spending to keep both the Euro and their unsustainable welfare state float, and they keep experiencing endless recession. Their fake austerity comes in slightly reducing the amount of their deficit spending enough to pretend they’re in compliance to keep the bailouts coming. Ireland hasn’t practiced real austerity. Neither has Portugal, Spain, or Italy (though Italy has come closest).
The shell game of bailouts and fake austerity will continue as long as the Eurocrats can keep getting away with it.
News keeps on churning…
So the Cyprus crises is “solved,” for values of “solved” that means “everyone but bankers and Eurocrats get screwed.”
The European cradle-to-grave welfare state is unsustainable. It’s only a matter of how many trillions will be destroyed before the world is willing to face that fact.
Cyprus crisis is a miniature version of the Greek crisis, and the Greek crisis is a miniature version of Europe’s crisis. The scale and details differ, but the underlying problem is mind-numbingly familiar: People spending too much of other people’s money with too little accountability. Cyprus bank bailouts are unsustainable in the same way that Greek government bailouts are unsustainable in the same way that the European cradle-to-grave welfare state is unsustainable.
How could it have been avoided? The same way any of the multitudes of financial crises that have rocked Europe in last several years could have been avoided: Don’t spend money you don’t have. That solution is both blindingly obvious and completely unacceptable to the Eurocratic elite (as well as our own liberal ruling class). After all, the bloated welfare state is where they get theirs. Nothing can be allowed to come between the permanent ruling class and their perks. Nothing.
Some current Cyprus news:
Once Greece hit the skids in 2010, it was inevitable that Cyprus would follow. Already by 2011 the government was effectively prevented from selling bonds by a junk credit rating. It resorted to a €2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) loan from the Russian government, due in 2016. The killer, though, was the pact reached in October 2011 to reduce the value of Greek government bonds by 70 percent. That produced a loss to the Cyprus banks of more than €4 billion—the same in proportion to the economy’s size as a $4 trillion loss in the U.S. President Demetris Christofias, seemingly not realizing the severity of the blow, agreed to the haircut without seeking offsetting aid for Cypriot banks. He eventually sought a bailout, but, befitting a left-wing politician who earned a doctorate in history in the Soviet Union, dragged his heels on cutting government spending while inveighing against the “troika” of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Losses mounted.
Imagine a basketball being swatted back into Angela Merkel’s face…
A few updates on yesterday’s Cyprus bank deposit seizure story.
The EU creditor states have at a single stroke violated the principle that insured EU bank deposits of up $100,000 will be guaranteed come what may, and in doing so they have more or less thrown Portugal under a bus.
They have demonstrated that the rhetoric of EMU solidarity is just hot air, that they will not force their own taxpayers to share a single cent of clean-up costs for the great joint venture of monetary union – in which northern banks, insurers, pension funds, and indeed governments, were complicit.
Their refusal to pay is entirely understandable in one sense – and if I were a German taxpayer, I would not care to swallow these losses either – but then the leaders of these creditor countries can hardly expect the world to believe that they will in fact do whatever it takes to hold EMU together. Quite obviously, they will not.
The sooner this is made clear, the better. The sooner they take the proper course of withdrawing from EMU and organise the break-up the euro in the least disruptive way, the sooner Europe can recover.
Chances are pretty low that you haven’t heard that the EU has decided to seize portions of people’s bank accounts in Cyprus as a condition of a bank bailout:
When Cyprus’s banks reopen on Tuesday morning, every depositor will have some of his or her money seized. Accounts under 100,000 euros will have 6.75% of the funds seized. Accounts over 100,000 euros will have 9.9% seized. And then the Eurozone’s emergency lending facility and the International Monetary Fund will inject 10 billion euros into the banks to allow them to keep operating.
It’s hard to express in words just how bad an idea this is. Europe has truly crossed the Rubicon.
“The establishment of the principle that a government can, and at times of economic strain must, help itself to your savings, and that this is a legitimate tool of statecraft, ought to provoke riots.”
I’ll go further: riots are not enough.
If I were one of the people having my wealth confiscated, the proper response to such actions would be join an angry mob hanging the still-twitching bodies of the people who proposed and passed such a measure over the nearest lightpost.
Think it can’t happen here? Remember, liberals have already floated the idea of seizing your 401K.
The Eurocrats in Brussels have already decided that they would prefer to seize people savings rather than let the Euro fail, or admit that the European cradle-to-grave welfare state is unsustainable. “The dream of political union matters more to Europe’s governing caste than the well-being of the people they represent.”
I didn’t post anything yesterday because I was trying to figure out how much money I should put into gold and silver to get ahead of the European bank runs I half anticipated. Indeed, in this case such bank runs would etirely rational But they haven’t started outside Cyprus itself.
In order to divert attention away from the economic, moral, and political bankruptcy of Europe’s cradle-to-grave welfare state, some liberals, relying on figures from the Out of Our Ass Institute of Statistics, are tying to claim that Greece’s excessive spending comes from a “bloated defense budget.”
Try again. Greece only spends 5.5% of it’s budget on defense:
Either Europe (and the United States) must reform their runaway, bloated welfare states, or their welfare states will bankrupt their nations.
Feeling less suicidal than usual, Greek voters have opted for the conservative (for Greece) New Democracy party in parliamentary elections, beating out the radical-left Syriza, which insisted Europe keep shoveling money into the black hole that is the Greek budget, but rejected even the fake austerity the Eurocrats demanded. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has his work cut out for him, convincing the Eurocrats that yes, this time, they really are implementing austerity. This time for sure!
Look for this to help forestall the inevitable “grexit” for, oh, maybe three months. Which is when I bet Greece will find out it can’t pay it’s bills again after the latest infusion of cash, the money Europe kicked in will have strangely disappeared without seeming to have been spent on any fundamental government services, and insiders will have managed to transfer another few months of funds into their out-of-country banks accounts in advance of the next crisis…