Timing couldn’t have been worse. Or more opportune. A “secret” report by the German version of the CIA, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, bubbled to the surface, asserting that the bailout of Cyprus would use money from taxpayers in other countries to bail out mostly rich Russians who have over the years deposited their “black money” in Cypriot banks that are now collapsing.
In France, socialism isn’t a political movement that swept the elections this year, and it isn’t an economic philosophy that moved once again to the forefront, but it’s part of the DNA of much of the population. And it produces classic knee-jerk reactions to the current economic morass—such as the nationalization of tottering automaker Peugeot.
Prime Minister Ayrault made it official: the government would requisition vacant buildings regardless of who owned them and make them available to the homeless and the “badly housed.” In a few weeks, “an inventory” of buildings should be on his desk so that he could requisition the first properties “in January and February 2013.” A desperate move to halt the collapse of his numbers. And a broadside at investors.
On September 14, 1899, Henry Bliss stepped off a streetcar in Manhattan and got run over by a taxi. The first automobile fatality in the US. The taxi was an electric vehicle. As were 90% of the taxis in the city and about 30% of all cars sold in the US. Electric cars aren’t exactly new. Yet, the government is bleeding taxpayers to advance that technology, create jobs at a cost of $158,556 per job, and fund executive bonuses.
A French appeals court threw the book at Jérôme Kerviel who, in 2008, had been hung out to dry by his employer, French mega-bank Société Générale, for having—so alleged the bank—blown €4.9 billion in no time without its knowledge, using trick and device to conceal his gigantic trades for years. But now, Kerviel and his lawyer lambasted the proceedings as having been rigged from the outset.
The French government has been flailing about to counter economic trends that started while Nicolas Sarkozy was still president. And one of the most bandied-about catchwords these days is “competitiveness”—entailing the cherished and untouchable 35-hour workweek, equally untouchable wages, and sky-high employer-paid payroll taxes and social security charges. An explosive mix.
That France’s economy is hurting is an understatement. Manufacturing and service indices tested depths not seen since 2009 during the trough of the financial crisis. Cited reasons: “unfavorable business climate and lack of visibility.” In its desperation, the government deployed its big gun, a man with a vision: Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg. Him, with his big foot in his mouth.
The “shale gas revolution” opened up huge resources in the US, and natural gas production jumped as a consequence, but it pushed prices far below the cost of production, for far too long. A disaster for an entire industry. An amazing opportunity for its customers. Since April, the price has jumped 80%, and it’s still far below the cost of production.
A blatant act of fear mongering: if Greece were allowed to exit the Eurozone, it could end up costing the world €17.2 trillion, the study said; it would be “incumbent upon the community of nations to prevent” that. The study was commissioned by the powerful Bertlesmann Foundation, propagating the doctrine that certain bondholders must always be bailed out to prop up confidence in the financial markets. “Insolvency procrastination” is how a quintessential German industrialist responded.
Militants attack oil infrastructure and staff. Oil theft leads to severe pipeline damage, causing loss of production and pollution. There is piracy, sabotage, violence, and decrepit infrastructure. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and has the ninth largest natural gas reserves in the world. Yet only 50% of the people have access to electricity.