Category Archives: Europe

Bill Black: EU Austerity Witch Doctors Attack Each Other

As things go from bad to worse in the eurozone the putative adults have begun to fight openly in front of the kids.  The putative adults, of course, have refused to act like adults for six years and instead have lived in a fantasy world in which austerity – bleeding the patient – is the optimal response to a recession.  As many of us have been warning for six years, this is a great way to create gratuitous recessions and even the Great Depression levels of unemployment in three nations of the periphery with 100 million citizens.

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Saudis Deploy the Oil Price Weapon Against Syria, Iran, Russia, and the US

Asian stock markets continued to fall today, propelled at least in part by the adverse reaction to the Saudi announcement yesterday that they would let oil prices fall to $80 a barrel. And further reports indicate that the Saudis intend to keep oil prices low enough to force a realignment of prices not just among various grades of crude, but also for intermediate and long-term substitutes.

It is critical to remember that the Saudis have no compunction about imposing costs on other nations to maximize the value of their oil resource long term and hence the power they derive from it. Their oil price cut looks to be a strategic masterstroke.

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How Much Has the IMF Changed in Response to the Global Crisis?

Yves here. For US readers, the posture of the IMF may not seem like a terribly important topic. But most countries in the world face decent prospects of being subject at some point to its tender ministrations. And even those that would seem to be exempt, like Germany, nevertheless also are subject to its impact through how IMF programs affect its export markets and Eurozone arrangements.

The IMF’s policies received a great deal of attention last year as its chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, effectively admitted that austerity did not work. The formulation was that in most cases, fiscal multipliers are greater than one. That means that cutting government deficits, in an effort to lower government debt, is ultimately counterproductive because the economy shrinks even more than the reduction in spending. The result is that the debt to GDP ratio actually gets worse. This outcome is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, since the neoliberal experiment has produced the same bad results when administered in Greece, Latvia, Ireland, and Portugal, to name a few.

But what did this rare bout of empiricism mean for the IMF? This post gives that question a hard look.

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Bill Black: The New York Times Claims Opposing EU Austerity Leads to Anti-Semitism

Yves here. This post is more important than it might seem. I find it is taking more and more effort to navigate through the hall of mirrors of propagandizing, particularly in the geopolitical realm. Thus it is critical to read news on two levels: its content, and how it is presented, as in how it is framed, what experts are cited, what issues are buried or omitted. Living with all Pravda, all the time, is intellectually taxing, at least if you care to understand what is really going on.

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Too Big to Be Saved: Systemic Risk Alive and Well in Europe

With the recent Global Crisis, the interest in systemic risk and the interconnection between financial institutions has increased. This column investigates the case of European financial firms, where several factors can jeopardise a firm’s financial health. Using data since 2000 to evaluate the firms’ systemic risk, the authors find that for certain countries, the cost to rescue the riskiest domestic banks is too high. They might be considered too big to be saved.

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European Union Court of Justice Imposes Anti-Rasmussen Rule – Sanctions Cannot Be Imposed by Reason of Fabrication, Lies, Dissimulation

Yves here. A new ruling by the European Union Court of Justice is tantamount to shutting the gate door after the horses are in the next county. Nevertheless, it’s a striking if not well publicized indictment of US casualness about lobbing charges against countries on its enemies list.

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On the Vote Against Scottish Independence

We’re expecting to have some more thoughtful commentary in the next day or so from some close observers of the Scottish independence vote. On the surface, the results look more decisive than expected earlier. The margin of victory, at 55% against and 45% for, was wider than the forecast 54%/46% split. And the English press looks to be rubbing it in, with most UK media outlets showing celebratory images of the victors.

But keep a few things in mind….

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Bill Black: The New York Times’ Coverage of EU Austerity Remains Pathetic

Yves here. Bill Black shellacks a New York Times article that gives a big dose of unadulterated neoliberal propaganda supporting austerity. To give you a sense of the intellectual integrity of this piece, it including citing a Peterson Institute staffer without cluing readers in to the fact that the Institute has what is left of the middle class in its crosshairs.

Black stresses that one of the major lies behind the continuing for more, better hairshirts for long-suffereing Europeans is that the explosion in debt levels in Europe was the result of overly-generous social safety nets. In fact, as in the US, the tremendous rise in government debt levels was the direct result of the crisis. Tax revenues collapsed due to GDP whackage (and the costs continue as GDP is well below potential). And any economist worth their salt will also say that social safety nets ameliorated the severity of the damage, that those automatic stabilizers increased government spending when it was needed most, at the depth of the implosion, and prevented a spiral into a much deeper downturn.

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Oil – The Next Commodity Domino?

Yves here. As we’ve written, austerity in Europe and Chinese efforts to rein in construction-related lending have delivered enough of a hit to global growth so as to start denting oil prices, which were holding up in large measure due to tensions in the Middle East. This post suggests that more oil price weakness is in the offing. This is a big negative for the fracking boom, needless to say, and may give environmentalists more time to stymie further development.

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World Bank Pays $500 Million to Ukraine Central Bank Despite Warnings of World Bank Board and IMF Staff

Yves here. We are pleased to introduce Naked Capitalism readers to John Helmer, a Moscow-based analyst and journalist who, in the words of Mark Ames, “writes about the murky convoluted world of the extraction industry, its politics, and its oligarchs.” Given that the extraction industry is increasingly driving geopolitics, his beat overlaps with our “follow the big money” orientation. For instance, Helmer did original reporting on the IMF-Ukraine relationship which provided crucial to a recent Michael Hudson post on Ukraine that was first published at NC. Today he continues his look at how the US is funneling money into Ukraine, this time via a sus World Bank loan.

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Steve Keen: The ECB’s Eurozone Medicine is Nonsense

Yves here. While the impetus for Steve Keen’s post is the ECB’s latest pretense that it can and is doing something to combat deflation, he provides an excellent and short debunking of two widespread misconceptions about money and banking. The first myth is the money multiplier and the second is that reserves are the basis for bank lending.

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