While France is preoccupied with the legislative elections next weekend, Germany and Austria plunge into public soul searching about the euro, its meaning, its relevancy, the sheer and endlessly growing expense of maintaining it. To which are now added the $125 billion for bailing out Spain, the first in a series. Then there’s Italy. Like so many things that appear useful and sensible, the euro has become dangerous.
Josef Ackermann, Deutsche Bank’s CEO until a couple of weeks ago, who knows a thing or two about skeletons hidden in the bank’s vast closets, says that he is “grateful the US is pushing Europe to act faster.” Just like his US counterparts on Wall Street in 2008, he wants massive bailouts of the banks. He has “no doubt” that the German people would rescue the Eurozone, he says. But the German people aren’t so sure about that.
On July 1, Cyprus, a tiny country on a divided island, will rotate into the Presidency of the Council of the mighty EU—one of those bitter European ironies because Cyprus will have to be bailed out, according to its Central Bank governor. Reality is now even staining the Teflon economy of Germany with a daily litany of suddenly awful data points. But a central banker pointed at an uplifting story of austerity and growth at the edge of Eurozone mayhem.
Tourism, Greece’s second largest industry after the shipping industry, and already in a downdraft, is taking another hit as tour-bus drivers will go on strike; wage negotiations have deadlocked. Owners demand that drivers take a 50% cut in pay and benefits on top of the 20% cut they’ve already suffered! And Greece is the model for Spain and Italy.
Not a day goes by when Germany isn’t under heavy fire from outside interests, including Barak Obama who is facing a tough reelection campaign; and the last thing he wants is any crap flying across the Atlantic and messing up his speeches. They all want Germany to agree to whatever it takes to bail out the Eurozone, beyond the hundreds of billions of euros it has already agreed to pick up. And now it has to decide, but timing couldn’t be worse.
As developments in the Eurozone veered from bad to awful, with Greece on the brink and Spain getting closer, Switzerland, a speck with 7.9 million people surrounded by turmoil, is bracing itself, according to the President of the Swiss National Bank and long-time euro-skeptic Thomas Jordan, for the collapse of the euro. In the process, it’s creating a housing bubble with potentially horrendous consequences.
Jens Weidmann, President of the German Bundesbank, ventured into a veritable lion’s den with an interview in Le Monde, largest liberal daily in France, supporter of President François Hollande and his “growth” policies. And there, he lashed out at Hollande, the ECB, Greece, at everything that smelled of a transfer union, at Paul Krugman even.
Greece’s exit from the Eurozone has reached critical mass and is now a routine topic at all levels of government. While heads of state still hue to the line that Greece should stay, out of the other side of the mouth comes but—now that the focus is on Spain, the one problem the Eurozone can’t digest. And after Spain is Italy, which is beyond bailout. And now word is out in Germany that Greece is a “failed state.”
No one likes paying taxes. You’d think. And it’s not just income taxes but a slew of other taxes. In San Francisco, we already have an 8.5% sales tax—but propositions to increase the state portion are worming their way onto the November ballot. And if it passes, it’s our own @#%& fault. In Japan, efforts to raise the national consumption tax have led to a groundswell of opposition and a nasty political fight. But what the heck happened in Europe?
They’d wanted to “blockupy” Frankfurt, Germany’s money capital, for four days with concerts, marches, and speeches to protest against the power of banks and austerity policies. But the city issued a blanket prohibition—highly controversial in a democratic nation. And on Saturday, when demonstrations were allowed, they became the background to the G-8 meeting at Camp David: a three-pronged attack on reason—with President’s Obama’s reelection at stake.