Is the Eurozone Crisis a British-American Fantasy?

By: John Rubino | Mon, Sep 19, 2011
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The English-language media seems to be of one mind on Europe in general and Greece in particular: the system is toast, and a series of sovereign defaults leading to either a fundamental restructuring or failure of the Eurozone is inevitable.

But that's not the universal view on the Continent. Consider this from GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin, a French group (I think) that publishes provocative analysis of the global economy from a European perspective.

Global systemic crisis - Fourth quarter 2011: Implosive fusion of global financial assets

...But let's come back to Greece and what is beginning to be a "very repetitive old story" which, as we have already explained, returns to the front of the media stage every time Washington and London are in serious difficulties. Moreover, coincidentally, the summer has been disastrous for the United States which is now in recession, which has seen their credit rating cut (an event deemed unthinkable by all the "experts" only six months ago) and exposed their political system's state of widespread paralysis to an astonished world, all whilst being incapable of putting any serious measure in place to reduce their deficits. At the same time, the United Kingdom is sinking into depression with riots of uncommon violence, an austerity policy that fails to control budget deficits whilst plunging the country into an unprecedented social crisis, and a ruling coalition that doesn't even know why it governs together against the backdrop of the scandal of collusion between political leaders and the Murdoch empire. No doubt, in such a context, everything was ripe for a media relaunch of the Greek crisis and its corollary, the end of the Euro!

If LEAP/E2020 had to summarize the "Hollywood style" or "Fox News" scenario, we would have the following synopsis: "While the US iceberg is ramming the Titanic, the crew leads the passengers in search of dangerous Greek terrorists who may have planted bombs on board!" In propaganda terms, it's a known recipe: it's a diversion to allow, first of all, the rescue of the passengers one wants to save (the informed elite who know very well that there are no Greek terrorists on board) since everyone can't be saved; and then, hide the problem's true nature for as long as possible to avoid a revolt on board (including some of the crew who sincerely believe that there really are bombs on board).

...For now, as we have said for several quarters, the media and financial hysteria surrounding the Greek crisis is primarily in the realm of propaganda and manipulation. To see this, it suffices to note that outside Greece, no Euroland citizen would realize that there is a crisis in Greece if the media didn't regularly make it the subject of their headlines. Whilst in the United States, the daily ravages of the crisis do not need media coverage to be felt severely by the tens of millions of Americans...

Focusing on the background, we must emphasize that the "promoters" of a Greek crisis presented as a fatal crisis for the Euro have spent their time repeating it for almost two years without any of their forecasts coming to pass in any shape or form (except to continue talking about it). Facts are stubborn: despite the media outcry that should have seen off many economies or currencies, the Euro is stable, Euroland has come on in leaps and bounds in terms of integration and is about to break even more spectacular new ground, the emerging countries continue to diversify out of US Treasury Bonds and buy Euroland debt, and Greece's exit from the Euro zone is still completely beyond consideration except in the Anglo-Saxon media articles whose writers generally have no idea of how the EU functions and even less of the strong trends that drive it.

Now our team can do nothing for those who want to continue to lose money by betting on a Euro collapse, Euro-Dollar parity, or Greece's Euroland exit. These same people spent lot of money to protect themselves against the so-called "H1N1global epidemic" that experts, politicians and the media of all kinds "sold" for months to people worldwide and proved to be a huge farce fueled in part by pharmaceutical companies and cliques of experts under their orders. The rest, as always, is self-propelled by the lack of thought, sensationalism and mainstream media conformity. In the case of Euro-Greek crisis, the scenario is similar, with Wall Street and the City in the role of the pharmaceutical companies.

In fact we recall that what terrifies Wall Street and the City are the lessons that Euroland's leaders and its people have been in the process of learning from these three years of crisis and the ineffective solutions that have been applied. The nature of Euroland creates a unique forum for discussion among the elite and American and British public opinion. And this is what disturbs Wall Street and the City, which is systematically trying to kill this forum, either by trying to plunge it into a panic by announcing the end of the Euro for example; or by reducing it to a waste of time and evidencing Euroland's ineffectiveness, an inability to resolve the crisis. Which is the limit given the complete paralysis prevailing in Washington!

... Our team now expects a strong revival of European politics from the end of 2012 (similar to the 1984-1985 period) including a Euroland political integration treaty which will be put to a Euroland-wide referendum by 2015...For LEAP/E2020, there is no doubt that minds are ripe, throughout most of Euroland, for private creditors being asked to pay 50%, or even more, to resolve the future problems of public debt. This is, without doubt, a problem for European banks, but it will be managed to protect depositors. The shareholders themselves will have to take full responsibility: besides it's really the foundation of capitalism!

Meanwhile, with 340 billion USD to find for refinancing in 2012, the European and American banks will continue to kill each other while trying to maintain the pre-crisis situation which gave them unlimited central bank support. As for Euroland, they may have a very bad surprise.

... just as the EU and the banks, from 1982 to 2009, lent freely to Greece and without pressing for accounts, over the same period, the world has lent freely to the United States believing its leaders' promises about the state of the economy and the country's finances. And in both cases, the money has been wasted in real estate booms with no future, in extravagant crony politics (in the US cronyism is Wall Street, the oil industry, health service providers) and in unproductive military spending. And in both cases, everyone discovers that in a few quarters you can't fix decades of recklessness.

So, in November 2011 the United States will brace itself for a politico-financial "perfect storm" that will make the summer problems look like a slight sea breeze.

Some thoughts:

The idea that the UK and US have manufactured the Eurozone crisis in order to distract from their own impending doom is a little jarring to American sensibilities. But it's not surprising that the rest of the world differs from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Watch the political coverage of the BBC and Al Jazeera, for instance, and you'll see that US media's take on world affairs isn't universally shared.

Still, it's hard to see any other way of interpreting the euro's situation, since the numbers for Italy, Greece and the other PIIGS countries are what they are. At their level of indebtedness, austerity won't work because it produces lower tax revenues in the short run, which forces higher borrowing from ever-less-enthusiastic lenders. Interest rates rise, debt costs soar, and the numbers keep getting worse. When you can't pay your bills you don't pay your bills. And asking German and French taxpayers to cover the difference, as German chancellor Angela Merkel is discovering, is a recipe for regime change.

And the idea that a consensus is forming in Europe around forcing banks to take a 50% haircut on their sovereign debt seems to bump up against the size of the banks' holdings. According to these charts, European bank exposure to PIIGS country debt is so high that the result of this kind of writedown would be either multiple bank failures with all that that implies or a continent-wide bailout in which taxpayers (i.e. Germans) rather than bankers eat the losses.

It's also hard to see how it matters where the next crisis erupts. It could easily be the US or UK, since their numbers don't add up either. Both countries have insoluble problems which will eventually lead to collapse and/or currency crisis. But when one of us goes, the rest will necessarily follow. That's the nature of an interconnected financial system. A depression or hyperinflation here means a depression or hyperinflation there, and after a few years we won't remember or care where it started.



John Rubino

Author: John Rubino

John Rubino

John Rubino

John Rubino edits and has authored or co-authored five books, including The Money Bubble: What To Do Before It Pops, Clean Money: Picking Winners in the Green Tech Boom, The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It, and How to Profit from the Coming Real Estate Bust. After earning a Finance MBA from New York University, he spent the 1980s on Wall Street, as a currency trader, equity analyst and junk bond analyst. During the 1990s he was a featured columnist with and a frequent contributor to Individual Investor, Online Investor, and Consumers Digest, among many other publications. He now writes for CFA Magazine.

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