With Europe threatening the World Economy, here are a few thoughts by Paolo Manasse via Voxeu.
Many observers of the European Sovereign debt saga had long realised that the ECB was the only European institution up to the task of avoiding a breakup of the euro (see for instance Eichengreen 2009 on this site). The newly forged institutions, the ESFS/ESM, are both ill designed and inadequately funded (Manasse 2011).
The sharp criticism of German piecemeal approach, however, forgets that the ECB was created “in the image and likeness” of the Bundesbank; price stability is its core mandate. That was the price to be paid for convincing Germany to give up the Deutsche mark, and to share the same currency with inflation- and deficit-prone Italy. Now that the survival of the euro seems to hinge on the monetisation of southerners’ public debt, one way or another (primary or secondary purchases, anti-spread firewall), it is not surprising that the Bundesbank, backed by the FDP and CSU parties, is simply saying “no”. Weidman’s alleged resignation just proves the case. Full article here.
On the outside, the new Angela Merkel looks like the old one. She still wears her usual blazer — a camel-colored one on this particular Wednesday. Her striking amber necklace has resurfaced. Her hair? Always the same. Still, something has changed since the German chancellor returned from her summer vacation. And it was apparent on Wednesday, as she stood together with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on the first floor of the Chancellery in Berlin.
Guest post by Peter Tchir.
Is it a New EU?
Of the major players coming into June 2011, almost none are left. Attrition and elections have taken care of most of the major players. In fact, you could make a case that Merkel is really the only major player still in the same position.
I think this is important particularly for the ECB. Draghi has now had time to establish himself in his role, and get comfortable with the people at the ECB, the various central banks, and the politicians. He entered the role with a bang – a rate cut, more symbolic than anything, at this first meeting and then began the LTRO’s.
Since then, his efforts to get Spanish and Italian bond yields down have been thwarted by the markets and a deteriorating economic situation. He wants yields low and looks like he is prepared to stretch his powers to fulfill the mandate of “transmission of economic policies”.
How far is he willing to stretch? How much can he do based on that “transmission” mandate? That is the question and we need to get answers, but more and more, it looks like he is prepared to be aggressive. It may not be a completely new EU, but it has changed a lot in a year, and the ECB does look to be a new ECB.
Europe’s Iron Lady is getting tired of the Greek situation. Spiegel on what we can expect from Merkel going forward.
Antonis Samaras’ trip to Germany next week will be a complicated one. The Greek prime minister is expected to ask Angela Merkel for his country to be given two more years to adhere to the austerity conditions attached to the country’s EU-IMF bailout program. With political resistance growing in Berlin, the chancellor has little leeway for compromise.
The German guest on Greek public television had pleasant words. He said he was very consciously taking his vacation in Greece, a country of “hardworking people who support their families by working.” He said he hoped the “Greece-bashing” would finally come to an end back in Germany. Athens, he added, needs to be given additional time for its reform efforts because an exit from the euro isn’t up for debate. “I am pretty certain,” he said. “I hope and I expect that Greece will remain (a part of the euro zone).”
Consider Luther’s view on charity and the poor. He made the care of the poor an organized, civic obligation by proposing that a common chest be put in every German town; rather than skimp along with the traditional practice of almsgiving to the needy and deserving native poor, Luther proposed that they receive grants, or loans, from the chest. Each recipient would pledge to repay the borrowed amount after a timely recovery and return to self-sufficiency, thereby taking responsibility for both his neighbors and himself. This was love of one’s neighbor through shared civic responsibility, what the Lutherans still call “faith begetting charity.”
Guest post by Peter Tchir of TF Market Advisors.
Herding Cats and Obstinate Politicians
The mental image is so clear. Draghi, Hollande, and Obama, wiping the sweat from their brows with dust covered hands, having successfully corralled the Merkel. She’s still feisty and not happy about being in the pen, but they have managed it for now. Job well done, time for a well deserved refreshment after a long day.
It’s only then that they realize the Rajoy isn’t in the pen. They can’t believe their eyes. There is that damn Rajoy sitting on the other side of the river licking his paws preening himself. They cannot believe. They are stunned, flabbergasted, and about to go ballistic.
Seriously, after all the effort to cobble together something that they managed to convince the markets would turn into action is being derailed by the person who is most to benefit?
It is absolutely ridiculous, but it’s not as though they will just give up. They will corral Mr. Rajoy. It is inevitable and the real risk is whether Merkel is able to escape while their attention is focused on Rajoy.
So while it is concerning that Spain is not playing along, I think the pressure brought to bear will be great and Spain will accept something to keep the EU, ECB, and Obama happy.
Merkel managed impressing investors on Friday. The question is, what is next? Spiegel on Merkel’s dilemma going forward.
Merkel launched her counterattack on Friday afternoon. In a post-summit press conference, she said one first has to sort things out after such a long night, and she tried to counter the impression that she had been out-maneuvered by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Merkel underscored that she had pressed to make sure that the rules of the ESM were adhered to. She said she had successfully defended the ESM’s preferred creditor status and that only a single exception would be made, for Spain. Likewise, she noted that, if at all, the ESM would only provide direct assistance to private banks after a long process of setting up a banking supervision mechanism, and that Germany would have several opportunities to exercise its veto during this process.
So Merkel and her friends deliver another “Europe is saved” moment. This time with 120 billion USD pact in order to spur growth. The Algos managed lifting the markets, and may we remind you of the half year window dressing. The can is kicked down the road yet again, and yes, only the Spanish banks need more than 120 billion USD. They tell us we must save the Euro, but why, and for who? More on the subject by Golem.
It is a troubling aspect of our present financial and political situation that there has been a tendency, I would say a deliberate desire, to confuse wealth with debt; to present them as flip sides of each other when they are, in fact, entirely different. Why should this be? Well it might be because much of Mr Soros’ wealth, the wealth of the institutions he owns shares in, the wealth of banks and other financial institutions and the wealth of those who own and run them, is tied up in debt agreements of one kind or another. Your wealth and mine is probably in sovereign issued ‘money’. Most of us don’t have investments. Many don’t have savings to speak of. The wealth of the top 10%, on the other hand, is tied up in debt of one kind or another.
Since the advent of securitization, that process whereby debts can circulate as a form of currency, which can be used as collateral for issuing loans and can be counted as capital, debt has become a larger repository of wealth than sovereign currencies. Why do you think no one talks about the money supply the way they did in the 80’s? Governments do not control the money supply. The issuers of private debt control it.