June 3, 2012
Unraveling the Welfare Safety Net - Europe Moves Closer to Banktatorship
By Mike Whitney
The present crisis, which is largely the result of excessive credit expansion and poor risk management by EU banks, is being used by the European Commission and the ECB to establish a euro-wide "banking union" and to impose savage cuts to social programs, health care, and pensions.
Yields on 10-year Treasuries plunged to a record-low 1.56 percent on Thursday morning as panicky investors stormed out of European financial assets into German and U.S. government bonds. Deteriorating credit conditions, a flurry of ratings downgrades, and bank runs in Spain and Greece have triggered a flight-to-safety which has pushed the benchmark 10-year below its previous all-time low of 1.67 percent. Falling yields indicate that investors have lost confidence in the ability of EU policymakers to resolve the ongoing debt crisis, particularly as it relates to growing troubles in Greece and Spain.
The present crisis, which is largely the result of excessive credit expansion and poor risk management by EU banks, is being used by the European Commission and the ECB to establish a euro-wide "banking union" and to impose savage cuts to social programs, health care, and pensions. The response by EU policymakers is a social counter-revolution designed to transform the 17-member monetary union into a permanent "austerity zone" ruled by corporate elites and big finance. Here's more from Reuters:
The eurozone's permanent bailout fund, the ESM, has not yet been ratified by all 17 members and already the European Commission wants to change its mandate to include direct bailouts to banks. The direct funding of underwater banks is a blatant power-grab, an attempt to establish the primacy of banks in the same way that the TARP was used to create Too Big To Fail in the US. TBTF means that the banks have merged with the state and that taxpayers provide blanket guarantees for their survival. Europe is moving fast towards this same model.
German chancellor Angela Merkel is opposed to allowing the ESM to recapitalise Spanish banks, but she's likely to capitulate if the crisis worsens. If she does give in, then the mismanaged banks will not be required to restructure their debt, wipe out bondholders and shareholders, remove bad assets, and replace management. All of the costs for such a bailout would fall on taxpayers, which is exactly what leaders of the European Commission and the ECB want. At the same time, the deepening crisis will be used to impose more fiscal reforms, which have already pushed unemployment to 20 year highs while submerging most of the south in a severe recession. Here's more from Reuters:
The EU Commission and ECB are allowing the crisis to grow to achieve their goal, which is the creation of a fiscal union controlled by banks that has unlimited access to funding and the power to impose policy ("austerity") through coercion. Here's a clip from economist Mark Weisbrot who sees the political motive behind the debt crisis:
It's all politics. Right-wing politics. 100 percent of the reputable economists that have commented on the debt crisis have criticized the way it has been handled, particularly in regards to austerity measures. Do you really think that Merkel or Draghi think that they're smarter than Stiglitz, Krugman, Reich, Eichengreen, Thoma, Weisbrot, Galbraith, Baker, Roubini, etc. etc? No. Merkel has no background in economics at all, and Draghi was formally an investment banker for Goldman Sachs.
These people are not interested in fixing the EZ economy. They are engaged in a stealth campaign to radically restructure EU society, to unravel to welfare safety net, to roll back the progressive gains of the last century, and to reduce much of the continent to 3rd world poverty. A banking union will further solidify the power of big finance over the individual states, and that is the main objective.
Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.