It’s good to see someone thinking clearly, and that someone is certainly not Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner who wants to dump more Euro risk on the backs of European taxpayers, especially German taxpayers.
Germany’s top two finance officials rejected using the European Central Bank to boost the euro-area rescue fund’s firepower, rebuffing a suggestion by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
“The EFSF’s sole purpose is the financing of states and that’s in order as long as it’s done via the capital market,” Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told reporters today. “If it’s done via the central bank it constitutes monetary state financing,” which is forbidden under European Union rules.
“We don’t think that real economic and social problems can be solved by means of monetary policy,” said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, speaking alongside Weidmann after the meeting of EU finance ministers and central bank governors. “That has never been the European model and it won’t be.”
60% of Germans See No Benefit to Being Part of Eurozone
Please consider Wolf Richter’s excellent article on recent German polls and the rebuffing of Geithner: Bailout Rebellion in Germany Heats Up
For the first time ever, a clear majority (60%) of Germans no longer sees any benefits to being part of the Eurozone, given all the risks, according to a poll published September 16 (FAZ, article in German). In the age group 45 to 54, it jumps to 67%. And 66% reject aiding Greece and other heavily indebted countries. Ominously for Chancellor Angela Merkel, 82% believe that her government’s crisis management is bad, and 83% complain that they’re kept in the dark about the politics of the euro crisis.
“There cannot be any prohibition to think” just so that the euro can be stabilized, wrote Philipp Rösler, Minister of Economics and Technology, in a commentary published on September 9 (Welt, article in German). “And the orderly default of Greece is part of that,” he added. Instantly, all hell broke loose, and Denkverbot (prohibition to think) became a rallying cry against the onslaught of criticism that his remarks engendered.
Even Timothy Geithner, who attended the meeting of European finance ministers in Poland, fired off a broadside in Rösler’s direction. In the same breath, he proposed the expansion—through leverage, of all things—of the European bailout mechanism, the EFSF. According to Austrian Finance Minister, Maria Fekter, who witnessed the scene, he warned of “catastrophic” economic risks due to the disputes among the countries of the Eurozone and due to the conflicts between these countries and the ECB. Then he demanded in dramatic terms, she said, that “we grab money with our hands to stabilize the banks and expand the EFSF unconditionally.”
The smack-down was immediate. German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, took Geithner to task and explained to him in no uncertain terms, according to Fekter, that it was not possible to burden the taxpayers to that extent, particularly not if only the taxpayers of Triple-A countries were to be burdened. A bailout “with tax money alone in the quantity that the USA imagines will not be feasible,” Schäuble said. (Wiener Zeitung, article in German).
Vocal support for Rösler came today from a group of 16 prominent German economists. If the government in its efforts to stabilize the euro didn’t consider the insolvency of a member country, they warned, Germany would become subject to endless extortion (FAZ, article in German). And to impose a Denkverbot concerning it would be a step back into “top-down state thinking.” They further lamented that these policies would turn the Eurozone into a transfer union. If the government wanted to establish a transfer union, it should discuss that with the German voters, they demanded, because it would be a fundamental change in the E.U. constitution and should be legitimized by vote. Otherwise, Germany would be “threatened by a populist movement to exit the E.U.”
Future Decided at the Polls
There’s more in Richter’s article including preposterous demands for Eurobonds by the Italian Finance Minister. Fortunately, the Eurobond idea is dead, thanks to a sensible ruling by the German courts.
Looking ahead, what Merkel wants will not matter after the next election. She will be toast, as will the leaders of Spain, Italy, and Greece.
French president Sarkozy may not survive either although some have written from France that his anti-Euro opponent, Marine Le Pen has no chance. I would certainly like to see some recent polls on that. Anyone have any?
Regardless, sentiment has clearly changed in Germany. Moreover, Finland and Austria have had enough of bailouts as well.
For more on breakup possibilities and ramifications, please see Eurozone Breakup Logistics (Never Believe Anything Until It’s Officially Denied)
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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