Have another Pat Condell rant, this one on why Europe needs a revolution against the anti-democratic EU:
Posts Tagged ‘Euro’
The indomitable Walter Russell Mead has been traipsing around Europe, and has much of interest to report from various countries there regarding the continuing slow-motion Euro crisis.
The Italians? Not happy.
The Italians feel caught in a cruel trap; the euro is killing them but they don’t see any alternative. When a German visitor gave the conventional Berlin view (the southern countries got themselves into trouble by bad policy, and austerity is the only way out; budget discipline and cutting labor costs are the only way Italy can once again prosper), a roomful of Italians practically jumped on the table to denounce his approach.
The Italian position is basically this: it’s crazy to blame Italy or the other southern countries (except Greece, which nobody seems to like very much) for the euromess; Germany played a huge role in designing the poorly functioning euro system in the first place and remains its chief beneficiary. When German banks lent billions to Spanish real estate developers and hoovered up the bonds of southern countries, where were the German bank regulators? German politicians, say the Italians, don’t want to admit to their voters that incompetent German bankers and incompetent German bank regulators wrecked the German financial system by making stupid loans worth hundreds of billions of euros. In a “normal” world, German politicians would have to go to their taxpayers to fund a huge bailout of insolvent German banks thanks to their cretinous euro-lending. Pain would be more equitably distributed between borrowers and lenders.
From an Italian point of view, much of Europe’s austerity isn’t the result of German moral principles; Italians think that a cynical absence of moral principles led the German political class to scapegoat garlic-eating foreigners in a desperate attempt to prevent the voters from noticing just how recklessly incompetent the German elite really is. Germany is using the mechanisms of the euro to force southern governments to bail out German (and French and other northern) banks at immense social pain and economic cost. The Italians, even sensible and moderate ones who want to cooperate with Europe, totally reject the logical and moral foundations of the German approach to the crisis, and they feel zero gratitude or obligation to make life easier for Germany as the drama unfolds.
The French? Not happy.
In France, the people I spoke with worried about the rise of the National Front. According to some polls the ultra-right could emerge as the biggest party in France in the next round of regional and European elections. The French Socialists under the increasingly unpopular President Hollande don’t seem to have much idea about how to move forward; their most popular politician at the moment is a Minister of the Interior who is trying to compete with the National Front for the anti-immigrant vote by breaking up encampments of Roma and denouncing them as immigrants who don’t want to assimilate.
Also they, and the rest of Europe, seriously misunderstand the Tea Party:
One of the reasons Europeans are so fearful of the Tea Party is that they assume that because it is right wing and populist it is like the National Front in France or Golden Dawn in Greece. Today’s small government American Tea Partiers are much farther from Huey Long and Father Coughlin in their political views than some European right wingers are from the darker demagogues of Europe’s bloody past, and until the European establishments understand this, they will likely continue to misjudge the state of American politics.
The Germans? It’s complicated.
There are Germans who sympathize with the Italian critique of EU austerity policy, but Germans on the whole seem to feel that in pushing a tough reform agenda in Europe, and linking further payments and bailouts to that reform agenda, they are doing their neighbors a favor. They sincerely believe that their own relatively strong economic performance is the result of their willingness to accept some liberalizing reforms coupled with a commitment to fiscal prudence. They think that by exporting this model they are helping other European countries on the path to lasting prosperity, and they believe that with some patience, the other European countries will soon begin to experience the benefits of German-style economic reform.
Europe, of course, has a very unhappy history with things labeled “German-style.”
Mead feels that Europe is rich enough to continue subsidizing it’s Euro-folly for the immediate future, but it comes at a cost:
The bitter public feelings generated by the euro crisis and its long, painful aftermath are still working their slow and ugly way through the European political system. In country after country we are seeing steady gains by political movements that bear a superficial resemblance to the American Tea Party, but in fact flirt much more with the kind of dangerous nationalist and chauvinist ideas that have proven so destructive in Europe’s past.
It’s a sobering, moderately lengthy read, and I commend all of it to your attention.
It’s shaping up to be another busy week, so here’s a quick update on the European Debt Crisis front:
The ongoing European Debt Crisis hasn’t ended, it’s merely undergoing a summer hiatus while the various bankers and Eurocrats involved in the shell game take their customary 8 week vacations. As such, expect a new round of crisis headlines to come rolling in during the fall.
Remember: The purpose of the shell game is to let insiders unload their bad debts onto taxpayers. (Look how it was done in Ireland for pointers.) The shell game will continue as long as the insiders can get away with buying off restive electorates with an unsustainable cradle-to-grave welfare state.
Europe’s present is our future.
For a shocking change of pace, the Friday LinkSwarm will be on Friday:
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 afloat, 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.