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Banking Debacle In Cyprus; Grand Theft Auto In Brussels

March 21st, 2013

For those who thought that the Eurozone debt crisis had
simply gone away, they received a rude reminder that this destructive fiscal
disaster is not only still with us, but that its contagion continues to metastasize.
The private banks in Cyprus were among many privately-owned financial institutions
in the Eurozone that lost heavily on their investments in Greek debt-both
public and private. Proportionate to the size of its assets and the GDP of
Cyprus, the banks in that Island nation
were especially exposed to the ravaging collateral affects of the Greek sovereign
debt crisis.

As with other Eurozone economies whose private banks faced
insolvency, the Eurozone rescue specialists in Brussels offered a bailout
package to save the banks, with strings attached. In the specific case of
Cyprus, the terms were especially onerous. The price of a rescue package by the
Eurozone for Cypriote banks was the requirement that the individual depositors in
those banks bear most of the cost of the bailout. All savers with deposits of up
o 100,000 euros would pay a levy of 6.75 percent of the amount they had deposited with the
financial institution-a deposit of over
100,000 euros would be required to sustain a staggering levy of 9.9 percent.

Was it hubris, or simply rank stupidity (or perhaps a
combination of both) that led the politicians in Brussels and Nicosia to
believe that the Cypriote public that was about to be legally robbed, after
being lied to by their own government with sublime assurances that their deposits
were safe, would simply take such an outrageous policy prescription lying down?
When the understandably angry people of Cyprus engaged in mass protests, the
spin that came out of both Brussels and Nicosia simply defied all logic. The political
decision-makers claimed that they thought since half of the depositors of Cypriote
banks are Russian citizens living offshore, they could never imagine the
remaining Cypriote citizens who were about to be fleeced to pay for bad investment
decisions they had nothing to do with would feel so upset.

Now that reality has intervened in the bizarre punitive
bailout scheme hatched by the politicians, there is frantic back-peddling in
Nicosia. When the bank levy came before the Cypriote parliament, not a single
legislator voted in favor of it, for to do so would clearly be political
suicide. The policymakers are now scrambling for a “plan B,” but meanwhile
the damage has been done. The legalized theft of depositors’ assets that politicians in the Eurozone attempted
to enact is a precedent. Despite assurances
from Brussels that this was a one-time scenario only designed for Cyprus, every
citizen residing in the Eurozone, and in other advanced economies afflicted by
the sovereign debt crisis, now knows that a desperate government can, at any
time, seize their life savings, and employ them to bail out private investors
and bond holders. Again we see robust application of the economic maxim of our
age:”privatize all profits, but socialize all losses -with a
vengeance.”

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