Hope persists that Germany would not only bail out Spain and the rest of the Eurozone but would also tolerate the Fed-ization of the European Central Bank. Even Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was hounding German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who was on vacation. Yet, Deutsche Bank, Germany’s de-facto vice-ministry of finance whose CEO serves as éminence grise behind elected officials, well, that venerable institution at the core of Germany Inc. appears to be closing the book on Spain.
The coordinated confidence-inspiring words from the Eurozone’s fearless leaders yesterday and today about doing whatever it would take to save the euro wasn’t about Greece anymore. Politicians have apparently given up on it. Instead, the fearless leaders were afraid of Spain. Its vital signs were deteriorating. It had threatened with default. So the ECB caved. And in doing so, it threw down the gauntlet.
After 21 summits to save the euro, followed by dog-and-pony shows to calm the markets, followed by confidence-inspiring pronouncements about insurmountable firewalls and pandemic structural reforms, the euro is in greater danger than ever before. Spanish Prime Minister walked away from the last summit in June with a victory smile. Now, Spain is on the brink. And word is out: default.
Spain’s banks are getting bailed out with €100 billion. It won’t be enough, but it’ll buy time—a Eurozone mantra. Three of Spain’s seventeen heavily indebted regions asked for a bailout from the central government, and more are coming, but the central government can’t bail out anything because it’s broke. It needs a bailout for itself and for its regions. A bailout far larger than any of the prior bailouts. And then there’s Italy.
“The euro is irreversible,” said ECB President Mario Draghi as a whiff of panic began sweeping over the Eurozone. Everybody was supposed to enjoy their long vacation, and nothing important was supposed to happen. But, like a group of disruptive homeless guys, the ECB, the International Monetary Fund, and politicians have apparently gotten tired of kicking the Greek bailout can down the road, and they stomped on it instead.