One thing Greek politicians have taught other European leaders: fear mongering for the purpose of extortion is the way to go. It might not work, and it might be counterproductive, and it might destroy confidence in the economy and give investors goose bumps and blow up markets, and it might cause spooked consumers to hold back on purchases and worried businesses to freeze hiring plans, thus exacerbating the situation, but it’s nevertheless the way to go.
Poor Angela Merkel. The beleaguered German Chancellor just can’t catch a break. She has already committed hundreds of billions of taxpayer euros to bailing out collapsing countries. In return, she wants them to live within their means and restructure their economies so that the bailouts wouldn’t have to continue ad inifinitum. For that, she joins the Axis of Evil. And then the Swiss Minister of Defense speaks up.
The fiasco playing out in the natural gas industry doesn’t happen often in a free market, and when it does happen, it’s usually short: namely, prices below production costs. In the shakeout, less efficient or poorly capitalized producers get wiped out. Part of capitalism that weeds out weaker elements through sweeps of creative destruction. But in natural gas, the price has been below production costs for years, and the damage is huge.
During the French presidential election, it became clear that François Hollande would try to align other Eurozone countries, particularly Italy and Spain, into a southern front against German Chancellor Angela Merkel—to fix the problems of the Eurozone à la française. Now that he has won the election, he has set out on his pre-charted collision course with Germany. And yet, a revolt is brewing at home: “We fear a programmed strangling.”
The G-20 summit last November in Cannes, France, was all about bailing out Greece, and it turned into a fiasco. Now at the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, tiny Greece is still front and center, but the summit has been escalated: it would be about bailing out the entire Eurozone and its currency. And President Obama made his agenda clear: he wanted everybody else to do “what’s necessary to stabilize the world financial system.”
Every car sold in the US contains Chinese-made components. But suddenly, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, the White House decided to show its dentures. “We’re certainly looking at that,” said Tim Reif, general counsel in the US Trade Representative’s office, though he insisted that the election had nothing to do with it. Yet, the culprits for the horrendous migration across the Pacific are everywhere.
While we’re sitting on the edge of our chairs, waiting breathlessly for the Greek election, or for Fate to swallow Greece and send financial Armageddon over the Eurozone, stock markets rallied. Not because of a sudden plethora of good economic news, but in anticipation of how central banks might react to the Greek vote—that’s how far this farce has come! As if sheer artificial liquidity could wash away the putrid odor of decomposing debt.
“If Greece doesn’t get its next loan installment, the Eurozone will collapse the following day,” scowled Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing SYRIZA. By threatening the entire Eurozone with its demise, if he won the election, he ratcheted up the bailout extortion racket a few more notches. So the run on the banks turned into panic, and Eurozone heads of state, who’re already on edge, threatened in return. Everything is coming to a head.
“I believe, no,” is how Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti answered the question if Italy would seek a bailout—lacking the bravado and vehemence with which Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had claimed for the longest time that Spain wouldn’t need one. Until it needed one. The question was hot. It followed the kerfuffle that ensued when Austrian Finance Minister had let it slip that Italy might also need “support.” But Italy is too big to get bailed out.
In Greece’s chaotic wake bobs the listing Republic of Cyprus, soon to be the fifth Eurozone country, out of seventeen, to get a bailout. By June 30. Only last year’s €2.5 billion loan from Russia has kept it afloat. It’s economy is shrinking, unemployment is at a record, and real estate is collapsing after a phenomenal bubble and a nationwide title-deed scandal that has taken down the banks. But Cyprus has something—and it’s huge—that no other troubled Eurozone country has.