When an acquaintance of mine in Greece had dinner with one of his relatives, a ranking official at the Bank of Greece, the discussion inevitably came around to the Troika—the bailout and austerity gang from the EU, the ECB, and the IMF—and how Greece should send them packing. “Of course,” the central banker said, “it would help considerably if we actually had a functioning government these past 182 years.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has a singular problem: 84% of all voters have “little” or “no” confidence in him. The fate of Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, leader of the opposition Socialist party, is even worse: 90% of all voters distrust him! Those are the two top political figures of the two major political parties, and the utterly frustrated and disillusioned Spaniards are defenestrating them both.
Deceptive calm and optimism have settled on the German financial markets. But Germany, after hyperventilating for two years about its superior economic model, is worried about exports. And Chancellor Merkel about the elections next year. It would be a heck of a lot easier to hang on to power if Germany isn’t in a deep recession because exports dried up. And they are drying up. But suddenly, domestic demand is getting hit.
It started on September 19. In several East German states, a lot of children and adolescents fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea. A week later, it was officially acknowledged as a foodborne illness. And now is has become the largest wave of food poisoning ever recorded in Germany.
Cypriot President Christofias dug in his heels. On Greek TV. Not behind closed doors with the Troika, the austerity gang from the European Commission, the IMF, and the ECB that have performed such miracles in Greece. But as Cyprus veers toward bankruptcy, his game of playing the Russians against the Troika has fallen apart, banks are in worse condition than imagined, and the bailout amounts jumped again.
The French government is trying to reign in its deficit by jacking up taxes, including the capital gains tax—an old philosophical pillar of the French left. But an explosive essay published last Friday hit a nerve with entrepreneurs, venture capital investors, artisans, and mom-and-pop business owners. And their anger, which spread across the social media, the papers, and finally TV news, turned into an open revolt.
The final amount that the US government owes at the end of fiscal 2012 (September 30) is, drumroll, $16,159,487,013,300. It owes it, in no particular order, to the Saudis, US citizens, the Social Security Trust Fund, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians…. It amounts to about 103% of GDP. An earsplitting hangover from a debt binge that robbed the future. But there are winners.
Despite the current hype about the recovery in California, the manufacturing index suddenly collapsed. And with the star of California, Venture Capital, facing a “dismal fundraising climate,” funding for startups might soon dry up.
The Paris auto show should have been exciting. Over 100 new models from econo-boxes to exotic prototypes. Chicks next to some of them. Nausea-inducing colors, downsized motors. Something for everyone. But it had been preceded by supplier events loaded with the dire verbiage of an industry on a death march. Particularly in France, whose private sector is veering into economic fiasco. And on Monday, it became official.
Awful as Greece’s GDP has been, it doesn’t do justice to the economic fiasco. Take new vehicle registrations: in August, they plunged 46.7% from prior year. Only 3,886 new vehicles were sold. A collapse of 80% from August 2008 at the cusp of the crisis. For the first eight months of 2012, sales were down 42% from prior year, and 65% from 2008. People have stopped buying new cars. And not just cars.