Monday, February 15, 2010

Greece Bailout - A Quick Summary

The whole Greece bailout crisis is starting to wear on me.

Here's the "quick" rundown:

1. Greece decides it's going to run a 12.7% of GDP budget deficit, more than 4x EU limits.
2. Bondholders refuse to buy Greek bonds, driving up borrowing costs for Greece.
3. Panic sets in as Greek may default, Euro dives, pressure on EU to bail them out.
4. Mainstreet media articles/Greece PM announces "Everything is OK, EU will save us."
5.. Germany responds to #4. with "Fuck that, we can't afford to bail those deadbeats out."
6. Repeat 4, 5 ad nauseum.

 So, will they or won't they?

First off when people say the "EU" will bailout Greece, what they're really saying is Germany and France will bailout Greece.  And they neglect to mention that if Greece gets bailed out, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain will soon be lining up for their handout.

Germany and France cannot afford to bail out everyone else, it's sheer idiocy. 
“If we start now, where do we stop?” Michael Fuchs, a member of economy committee of the German parliament's lower house, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “I can't explain to people on unemployment benefit that they won't get a cent more but Greeks can draw a pension at 63.”
Ms. Merkel raised Germany's retirement age form 65 to 67 in an effort to trim the country's deficit. Greece's maximum retirement age for men is 65, and 60 for women. The Socialist government of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou plans to raise retirement ages, freeze public sector wages and boost fuel taxes to bring the deficit down, but has provided few details on the strategy. The effort will take several years.
Indeed due to the global recession Germany has its own budget worries:
Germany’s no-bailout position is almost certainly being influenced by its own deteriorating finances. Its budget deficit is expected to grow to 5.5 per cent of GDP this year. The country’s economy failed to grow in the last quarter, raising fears of a double-dip recession. The euro zone as a whole grew only 0.1 per cent in the same quarter, after growth of 0.4 per cent in the third quarter.

Comically enough, the Greek PM has called the EU "timid" for failing to deal with the crisis.  This coming from a PM that refuses to deal with his county's own budget crisis and instead preferes to blame bond "speculators", the EU, and anyone else that will listen to his sob story.  The idea of responsibility and accountability is clearly a long lost memory.   Fuck rational behaviour.  Clearly "normal" now is to blame anyone else and hope somebody else will fix your problem for you.   Seriously, maybe we should be teaching our kids to lie creatively, steal, and mooch off others...while setting up someone else to take the blame...that seems to be the norm today.

Indeed, I'm not the only one pissed off about the incompetancy of the Greek government.
In Europe, this is causing a chain reaction, where images of striking workers make Greek politicians skittish about agreeing to move more quickly to rein in spending, which renders German voters reluctant to see their government aid in any rescue. The net result is a weaker euro and another display of how difficult Europe finds it to solve its problems internally.
Why should Germany bail out Greece when Greece isn't making any cuts or tax increases to rein in its budget deficit.  Indeed I don't understand how Greek citizens can be protesting to maintain the status quo.  The status quo isn't an option, either they cut spending and jack taxes, or they get booted out of the EU and their borrowing costs rocket.  Contrary to popular belief, you can't just do whatever the hell you want and not accept the consequences.

Then the article seems to go way off base and parallel Greek angst over potentially raising taxes/cutting spending with American angst with reappointing a tool of a central bank chief.
The populist backlash in the United States came close to cutting short Ben Bernanke's tenure at the helm of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, as lawmakers looked for an easy target after Republican Scott Brown's surprise win in a former Democratic stronghold put a focus on voter rage percolating across the country.
Trouble is, replacing Mr. Bernanke might have threatened the economic rebound by spooking financial markets; just as a failure by the EU to come up with a solid, realistic route out of the Greek debt mess could too.
First off, there's a reason Ben Bernanke should have been replaced, and it's not just "angry voters".  There's a reason voters were angry.  You know, a central bank head that couldn't see a housing bubble that he was involved in blowing.  How do you miss the shitty lending standards?  How do you miss the skyrocketing prices?  How do you miss the fact you cut rates to nothing?  Not to mention, how do you justify bailing out a bunch of insolvent banks that caused this mess with a massive taxpayer bailout as your "solution" to the problem (aided by a Treasury secretary that used to head one of those banks).   And if anyone asks to take a look at the Feds books, you politely tell them to piss off.  Can't imagine why the public might think you were at best incompetant, and at worse complicit in this taxpayer scam...

Secondly, reappointing him just because you're worried it will "spook the markets" is not a valid reason.  The stock market doesn't equal the economy dumbass, let it be spooked.

Just as the Democrats ignored their constitutents' hunger to see Mr. Bernanke's head roll and voted for his reappointment, so Greek and other European policy makers would be wise to ignore opinion polls until the EU has reviewed a progress report that Greece will submit on March 16.
No.  The US voters have a reason to be angry at the Democrats reappointing "Helicopter" Ben. Ask the Democrats if ignoring the voter works out come midterms.   Greek voters similarly have a reason to be angry at the ridiculous spending habits of their government...but if they're protesting to "maintain the status quo" then they're completely offside.

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