… with apologies to the Marx Brothers
On the evening of 19 October, the FT’s rolling blog reported, the most senior politicians, diplomats and officials of the eurozone (EZ) and with Christine Lagarde (of the IMF) in train, gathered in Frankfurt. They had an appointment – a night at the opera with M Trichet ECB president (retiring) and Draghi ECB president (incoming). They also decided to go through a pretence of wrestling with deep policy issues on the future of the eurozone with M Sarkozy dramatically dashing from a Parisian maternity ward to get to Frankfurt on time.
With the passage of the past few weeks one has gone from initial disbelief to growing incredulity to the final realisation that actually, in both the EU and the US there is a now almost complete incapacity to formulate and implement anything approaching a coherent set of economic and financial policies capable of addressing the series of interrelated problems besetting both economies. In Europe there is on the official view first the Greek problem, second, the banking crisis and third, the finalisation of EFSF2 – the package agreed in outline (which is to say not agreed at all and no more than a fraudulent pretence) three months ago. All three issues are inter-related but they are also three quite separate bits. In the US the EZ crisis also has real implications for American banking – and thus the prospective triggering of a global contagion. To be fair to the Americans they have banged on at the Europeans (Obama and Geithner in particular) but to no avail whatsoever. Again though (Democrat) Washington also is paralysed: a Republican/Tea Party politics, deeply reactionary but entirely coherent holds the political balance. They are using it in effect to unpick those small remnants of the New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society (as well as their antecedents in nineteenth century progressivism) that have survived the last couple of decades. They also believe the wrong side lost the Civil War, the Federal Government is unconstitutional, the Federal Reserve is adulterating the dollar – and an awful lot else. They have a visceral hatred of banks (but hate Washington much more) – something they share with Occupy Wall Street. Read the rest of this entry »