Tag Archives: Italy

Matteo Renzi Puts the Lie to “There is not alternative” (TINA) to Austerity

By William K. Black

In a recent column I responded to a conservative scholar’s (Victor David Hanson) claim that U.S. “employment rates for college graduates are dismal” by showing that the employment rate for college graduates seeking employment was 96.8% – and rising.

Employment rates for recent college graduates are far worse than “dismal” in the periphery of Europe because the EU troika (the ECB, the EU Commission, and the IMF) have inflicted austerity on these nations.  This produced a gratuitous second Great Recession in the Eurozone as a whole, but it also caused Great Depression levels of unemployment in Spain, Greece, and Italy.  Those three nations have over 100 million in total population – roughly one-third of the eurozone’s total population.  College graduates in these nations have unemployment rates ten times greater than in the U.S.  (Hanson is a big fan of austerity, so he managed to get everything – the facts and the cause – reversed in his fable.)

Continue reading

The Troika Attack Italy for Refusing to Bleed the Economy

By William K. Black

The title to the latest Wall Street Journal article on Italy is “EU Tells Italy to Adopt More Austerity Measures.”  It’s an old, stupid remedy.  If you hit your carburetor with a hammer and it doesn’t fix it – hit it harder and more often.  Italy is the troika’s carburetor and austerity is its hammer.

The Troika’s Response to Renzi’s Electoral Success: Crush Him

The general context of the troika’s latest act of depravity is particularly interesting.  The troika consists of the European Commission, the IMF, and the ECB.  The troika’s insistence that the periphery inflict austerity caused not simply a gratuitous second recession through much of the EU but a Second Great Depression in Italy, Spain, and Greece.  One-third of the eurozone’s population – 100 million people – was kicked into a Great Depression due to the troika’s long-falsified economic dogmas.

Continue reading

Dr. Draghi Prescribes a Dose of Deflation for Spain as his latest Quack Cure

By William K. Black

I posted an article earlier today on the demented memes about eurozone deflation U.S. financial journalists parrot after talking to Brussels’ troika-trolls.  That article used the latest AP story to illustrate my points.

I promised a second installment that used a New York Times article (not sourced to AP) that was posted last night to illustrate the meme.  The NYT article is simultaneously more complex and more alarmingly analytically awful than the AP piece. 

This morning brought two April Fools’ Day articles about France and Italy that are also about the gratuitous second Great Recession (in the core) and the second Great Depression (in Spain, Italy, and Greece) inflicted by the troika’s infamous austerity dogmas.  This article discusses one sentence from last night’s NYT piece that notes the position on deflation of the head of the European Central Bank (Mario Draghi).  The NYT article misses the significance of the passage.  I show how the passage, particularly when read in conjunction with quotations from Draghi’s fellow troika-trolls in the articles about France and Italy, reveals the troika’s fanatical devotion to failed dogmas and the clueless nature of U.S. financial journalists covering the eurozone who continue to treat the trolls like savants.

Continue reading

Spain, Italy, and France: Economic Failures that Will Soon be Political Failures

By William K. Black

The troika has consigned one-third of the Eurozone to a gratuitous Great Depression

I have written several articles recently describing Spain’s continuing Great Depression levels of unemployment and the absurdity of the troika’s policies with regard to the “threat” presented by “deflation.”  The troika consists of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Continue reading

Warren Mosler’s talk in Chianciano, Italy, January 11, 2014

By Alexandria J E Angus

Warren Mosler gave this talk in Chianciano, Italy, on January 11, 2014 at the Chianciano Conference entitled Oltre L’Euro: La Sinistra. La Crisi. L’Alternativa. In English: Beyond The Euro: The Left. The Crisis. The Alternative [Google translation]. The video is embedded below, but you have to listen to a realtime translation in Italian, which doubles the listening time. I thought this talk important enough to transcribe, if not deliciously subversive on the part of Warren Mosler who offers Italians a way to save their economy. The transcription follows below the video.

Mosler describes how Italy (or any of the 17 EU countries that use the Euro) can leave the European Union safely if the EU persists, as it insists on doing, in impoverishing their country and citizens.

The subheads in blue are mine, not Mosler’s, and are designed to assist reading. Some terms Mosler refers to in the body text relate specifically to the Italian economy, and I can’t identify them because I don’t know their Italian names.

Enjoy.

Continue reading

Why Italy’s Election Has Caused Global Markets to Crater

NEP’s William Black appears on Daily Ticker with Henry Blodget. The election in Italy moved markets around the world. Blodget gets an explanation from Bill why Italy has such an impact.

You can view the episode at this link. (Sorry no embedding Yahoo videos).

The Miraculous Turnaround in Ecuadorian Migration under President Correa

The Elephant in the Room is Spain, Not Italy

By Marshall Auerback


Another day andthe markets remain fixated on whether Greece comes to a “voluntary” arrangementwith its creditors.  The key word is“voluntary” because the myth of “voluntary compliance has to be sustained sothat those deadly credit default swaps avoid being triggered. 
But let’s faceit:  Greece is a pimple.  If the rest of the euro zone could cut itlose with a minimum of systemic risk, Athens would have long gone the way ofTroy.  The real issue is whether thecredit default swaps trigger such a huge mess with the counterparties that itcreates renewed systemic stress which more than offsets the benefits to theholders of the CDSs. 
The moreinteresting question is:  suppose Greece finally does get a deal?  Irealize everybody says it is a “one-off”, but do you really think theIrish, Portuguese, or even the Spanish and Italians will go along with that,particularly if (as is likely) they continue to experience double digitunemployment and minimal growth?
Now you could argue thatPortugal and Ireland, like Greece, are but small components of the EuropeanUnion and could well be covered in one form or another via the existingbackstops established over the last several months, notably the EuropeanFinancial Stability Fund (EFSF) and the European Stability Mechanism(ESM). 
But you can’t say this aboutSpain, which remains the real elephant in the room – not Italy – even thoughSpain’s borrowing costs remain lower than Italy’s. This is perverse. 
Though Italy has a highsovereign debt, it has a low private debt (the product of years of high budgetdeficits, but that’s the story for another blog). Italy has a fiscal deficitthat is low relative to most economies today. It already has a primary surplus.The greater than expected past expansion of the ESCB and the current ongoingLTROs are likely to absorb panic and forced selling of Italian debt. TheItalian 10-year yield could fall back below 5% (having already fallen from the 7%plus levels, pertaining a mere 6 weeks ago).

In theory, this rally in bond yields should lead to a reassessment of thegravity of the Italian problem and therefore the European sovereign debt andbanking problem. That could be positive for equity markets and, indeed, hasbeen so since the start of the year. 

But does Spain truly deserve theborrowing advantage it now has in relation to Italy?  Its 10-year bonds are yielding some 60 basispoints lower. True, its sovereign debt to GDP ratio is low at about 75%, but partof its enormous private debt will almost certainly have to be “socialized.”  Moreover, Spain has virtually the highestnon-financial private debt-to-GDP ratio of all the major economies.  Its ratio is almost twice that of Italy’s. Itsfiscal deficit last year was probably higher than the official estimates, closeto 9% of GDP (the previous Socialist government routinely lied about itsfigures – in fact, no country, not even the US, has lied more extensively aboutthe condition of its banks.  Spain, relative to GDP, has the largestshadow real estate inventory in the world, with the possible exception ofChina, which probably doesn’t even have a reliable second or third set ofbooks).

Let’s be clear about onething:  this is not a tale of Mediterranean“profligacy”, as least as far as public spending was concerned.  Anybody looking at Spain through a sensiblefinancial balances framework in the mid-2000s would have observed that theprivate sector was being squeezed badly by the fiscal drag. The externalposition was in deficit (current account) which means the public and externalbalances were draining growth from the economy. Yet it still boomed up into theonset of the crisis. How did that happen?

The profligates were all in theprivate sector, although you could readily argue that the government’s“responsible” fiscal policy created the conditions for a private sector debtbinge.
  Prior to 2008, the Spanisheconomy was held out as the darling of Europe however the reality was quitedifferent. The country was running budget surpluses by 2005 and foreigninvestment was booming. Most of this investment went into construction whichwas stimulated by a massive real estate boom.

A few years ago, using data fromData from the Banco de España (central bank) Bill Mitchell graphed the nationalbudget deficit as a percentage of GDP for Spain and the EMU overall from 1989to 2008 (data for the EMU clearly didn’t start until 1995). As Mitchell
notes,one can observe the tightening of fiscal positions as the Growth and StabilityPact provisions were forced on the EMU nations:


EMU and Spain: Budget deficit % of GDP,1989 to 2008

Consistent with a tighteningfiscal position leading to surpluses in 2005, the only way that this boom couldcontinue was for the private sector to go increasingly into debt.That is exactly what happened and because the property boom was so large thedebt levels were also very high – average household debt tripled. And that, incontrast to Italy, is the core problem with which Spain is dealing today to asubstantially greater degree than Italy. So it’s wrong to lump the two together interchangeably as the marketshave been doing.  Paella and pasta don’tmix well together.

Okay, but that was the previousZapatero
Administration.  Now we supposedly have a new “responsible” conservativegovernment that promises to carry out the same policies even moreresolutely.  And look how successfulthey’ve been:  Spain’s joblessclaims shot up a further 4% in January from December to 4.59 million, a signthat the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy is still shedding jobs at a recordrate. All sectors posted more claims but the rise was sharpest for services at5.1%. In construction, weighed down by a four-year property slump, the numberof residents registered as job seekers rose 2.1%. Compared with the same perioda year ago, overall claims rose 8%.  GDPcontracted 0.3%.  

Okay,“give them time”, argue the defenders of the new government.  And, if the Rajoy Administration was trulyembarking on a new policy course, that would be a fair comment.  Unfortunately, this government has signed onto even tighter fiscal policy rules.
Somehowthey are expected to suck demand out of their economies through tax increasesand spending cuts, but when the slower growth that results in means the targetfor deficit reduction is not met, the Spanish, like their Greek, Irish,Portuguese and Italian counterparts, will be punished for it.

Eventhe Rajoy Administration implicitly appears to recognize this danger, as it isalready moving the goalposts in regard to its spending cuts targets as apercentage of GDP.  Unfortunately, theyblame this on external circumstances beyond their control. To the extent thatthey agree to submit themselves to rules which were routinely disobeyed by theGermans and French during the EMU’s inception, that is true, although theSpanish government refuses to acknowledge that their resolute tightening fiscalpolicy ex ante might well have something to do with the fact that Spain’seconomy continues to deflate into the ground ex post.  Remember,
thehistory of the Stability and Growth Pact has long demonstrated that thesenonsensical rules are already impossible to keep within during a significantdownturn. And now the new Spanish government wants to tighten them even furtherand invoke pro-cyclical fiscal reactions earlier.
This, at a time when the nationalunemployment rate is approaching 23%, and the youth unemployment rate (25 yearsor younger) is at 49%, according to the latest Eurostat data.

Sonearly 50 per cent of willing workers under the age of 25 in Spain are withoutwork and will remain like that for years to come. That will damage productivitygrowth for the next decade or more. It is an indication that the monetarysystem has failed and attempting to reinforce those failures with moreausterity will only make matters worse.  The new government’s proposed fiscal policy “reforms” areparticularly toxic policy mixture for Spain.

Of course, the ongoing threat ofa disorderly default in Greece also remains a potentially dangerous areaif it is not contained by the ECB’s actions.
 But it’s more interesting to see what happens as the magnitude ofSpain’s problems become more apparent.  Will the troika tell Spain that a Greek style70% haircut is not in the cards?  Willthey try to suggest that the government is rife with corruption, that thecountry is chock-a-block full of scoff-laws and tax evaders, and that theefficient Germans would do a much better job of collecting taxes?

Spain is still a relatively youngdemocracy.
  The transition began a mere37 years ago when Francisco Franco died in 1975, but there was an attemptedcoup by Antonio Tejero as recently as 1981. This is worth pondering whilst observing the implosion of Spain’seconomy. The decision for Europe’s bosses is this: they must ultimately confront theconsequences of their policy choices. They can destroy the eurozone by continuing with the same failed mix ofpolicies or by salvaging it by adding what has been missing from the outset: amechanism for shifting surpluses to the deficit regions in the form ofproductive investments(as opposed to handouts or loans). Turning stateslike Spain into sundrenched economic wastelands within the eurozone, andforcing the rest of the currency area into a debt-deflationary spiral, is amost efficient way of blowing up the whole system and possibly threatening thevery existence of Spanish liberal democracy itself.

What the eurozone needs is functional finance

By Fadhel Kaboub.
(Also featured in the Financial Times)

Sir, The eurozone’s obsession with “sound finance” is the root cause of today’s sovereign debt crisis. Austerity measures are not only incapable of solving the sovereign debt problem, but also a major obstacle to increasing aggregate demand in the eurozone. The Maastricht treaty’s “no bail-out, no exit, no default” clauses essentially amount to a joint economic suicide pact for the eurozone countries.

The eurozone needs a functional finance approach to economic policy, which requires that the European Central Bank, as the monopoly issuer of the currency, acts as a lender of last resort to allow the expansion of aggregate demand through government spending. The ECB’s refusal to use its firepower is what is driving eurozone bond yields to unsustainable levels. The ECB can easily purchase Italian debt to lower yields, but such action would constitute a violation of Article 123 of the European Union treaty. Unfortunately, the likelihood of a swift political solution to amend the EU treaty is highly improbable. Therefore, the most likely and least painful scenario for Italy (Greece, Portugal, Spain etc) is an exit from the eurozone combined with partial default and devaluation of a new national currency.It has been fascinating to watch the entire world turned upside down during the past few weeks over the eurozone’s self-inflicted economic pain – the same pain that so many developing countries have suffered under the Washington consensus austerity measures and sound finance principles.

The takeaway lesson is that financial sovereignty and adequate policy co-ordination between fiscal and monetary authorities are the prerequisites for economic prosperity. In the end, what matters is not the level of the deficit or the national debt, but rather their effects on employment, price stability and economic growth.

Dr. Fadhel Kaboub, Assistant Professor of Economics, Denison University, Granville, OH, US

ECB: Europe’s Last Hope?