The current Eurozone debt crisis is not only an acute economic and debt crisis. It is also political farce, with a heavy dose of irony. The motivation for the creation of the euro was noble; the European continent had ripped itself apart over centuries of internecine warfare, culminating with two world wars in the 20th century had massacred tens of millions of Europeans. What better way to unite Europeans and end this circle of bloodshed than to create a common currency, the euro. That explains how good motivation can lead to very bad ideas.
The concept that a common currency can be used by 16 nations with vastly different economic and fiscal policies was sheer folly. The past two years have witnessed the irrationality of this concept. Yet, Eurozone politicians have so much invested in the survival of the euro, they are prepared to defend it to the last European taxpayer. This mantra inevitably means defending the euro to the last German taxpayer. And it now seems that the rulers of Germany recognize that they cannot indefinitely ransom off the financial future of their voters to subsidize the euro and expect to remain in power. Thus, after a series of “final” resolutions to the Greek debt crisis, which were supposed to prevent the sovereign debt contagion spreading to Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy (which has clearly not happened) German ruling circles are beginning to raise skepticism over the most recent promises of Greek politicians. This leads to the possibility that eventually the largely German subsidized loans to Athens to stave off bankruptcy may come to an end. Increasingly, there is not only talk from Greece about leaving the Eurozone. There is emerging talk within Germany’s political and financial elites that perhaps the farce of repeated Greek bailouts should end, Athens should default on its debt and be kicked out of the Eurozone.
The irony of the situation is that a project intended to end inter-European strife through a common currency has not only proven to be a fiscal and economic disaster for the continent. The crisis is now re-igniting the embers of past conflagrations and hatreds in Europe. An example was the recent front page of a Greek newspaper featuring German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a Nazi armband and storm-trooper’s uniform. The increasingly strident comparisons of Merkel with Nazis in the Greek press is a reference to World War II, when Nazi Germany conquered Greece and inflicted a painful three and a half year military occupation of their country. That the euro seems to be failing as a political tool as much as a monetary unit is proof once again that the path to Hell is so often paved with the best of intentions.
global economic crisis
All signs point to 2012 witnessing an acceleration of the negative economic and fiscal metrics that plagued advanced and major emerging economies in 2011. In particular, the Eurozone debt crisis, which dramatically worsened in 2011, shows no sign of abating in 2012. A clear indication of this is that Eurozone cheerleaders President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, in New Year’s messages, warned that things with respect to the Eurozone crisis will be even more dire in 2012.
A sign of how bad things look in Europe is the latest PMI data on European manufacturing, which was continuing to contract towards the tail end of 2011. This all points to a recession. In fact, there is now a clear consensus among economists that the Eurozone will enter a double-dip recession in 2012, if it in fact has not already done so. Clearly, nations such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal are currently in a recession so deep, it meets the definition of a full-blown economic depression.
And what about the United States? With 2012 a presidential election year in America, expect the Obama administration to spin economic data seven ways to Sunday in an effort to make things look more rosy. Thus, an unprecedented reduction in the total size of the American work force is twisted into a lowering of the unemployment rate. But such gimmicks will probably become totally inoperative, once the impact of the looming Eurozone recession and banking crisis migrates to American shores.
In 2009, in my book , “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015: Recession Into Depression,” I forecasted that the massive transfer of private debt into public debt by sovereigns as a synchronized response to the global financial and economic crisis unleashed in 2008 by the collapse of Lehman Brothers would fail to resolve the crisis, and would lay the seeds for an even more virulent global economic crisis by 2012. With a global sovereign debt crisis now an established reality, and the Eurozone teetering while America has had its previous AAA credit rating downgraded by at least one major ratings agency, neither a continuation of failed policies nor gimmickry by politicians and central banks will bring an end to the global economic crisis in 2012. Instead of a return to economic growth, the most optimistic forecast one could make is stagnation which, at a time of structural mega-deficits and ballooning national debts, is a guarantee of further long-term economic misery for a great many of the planet’s inhabitants.
global economic crisis
After months of individual sovereign downgrades by the three leading ratings agencies, S & P has now entered a quantum leap by placing almost the entire Eurozone on a credit watch, including the behemoth economies of Germany and France. Furthermore, Standard & Poor’s followed up by placing the European Financial Stability Facility, the vehicle for supposedly bailing out problematic Eurozone sovereigns and banks, on a negative credit watch. The fact that even the EFSF is on the verge of a downgrade, along with potentially almost all the sovereign states using the euro, is proof positive that the Eurozone debt crisis is irreversible, the politicians have lost control, and when the inevitable downgrades follow this devastating credit warning from S & P, all hell will break loose.
In the meantime, the clownish politicos of the Eurozone continue their interminable series of emergency meetings, continuing to promise a final and complete solution to the Eurozone debt crisis. However, in a rare moment of candor, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that at best, a solution was years away. Given all that, will China and the other BRIC nations, along with private investors, really want to invest in Euro bonds?
Officer Larry of the NYPD is on his way to Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan to arrest peaceful protesters involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Being a public spirited member of the New York Police Department, Officer Larry does remind us that there is a global economic crisis underway that rivals the Great Depression of the 1930s.
global economic crisis
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have hashed out an agreement for a second bailout for debt-ridden Greece. They now have to convince their Eurozone partners to sign onto the agreement. An initial draft from the Eurozone summit in Brussels was vague and opaque, making no mention of numbers. But earlier reports hinted that the second bailout package would match in size the first one, which was in the range of approximately $150 billion in U.S. currency.
Already, stock markets are rising on news of this second Greek bailout package, and the wonderful clique of European politicians who boast that they finally, for certain this time, have the answer that will prevent the contagion from the Greek debt crisis from spreading.
With ambiguity surrounding the final version 2 of the Greek bailout package, there has been speculation as to whether or not private banks holding Greek sovereign debt will be asked to take a haircut. The massive exposure that German and French banks have regarding Greek debt suggests that anything involving a loss by private investors will risk an implosion of the European banking system. However, as public taxpayers in Europe take on an ever increasing load of debt to, in effect, bailout the private banks holding Greek, Irish and Portuguese debt, that in itself risks a further spread of what is now a virulent European debt crisis.
global economic crisis