Saturday, March 24, 2012

It Isn't Over: Euro Bailout Fever

So maybe I was wrong about the Greeks. Maybe they will accept all the rules from Brussels. Of course a lot of Greeks are voting with their feet. Here is a BBC story that talks of the Greek Brain Drain.

But it isn't the end of the line for the bailout regime. Experts say 2nd Greece rescue won’t slow down Europe’s bailout merry-go-round - The Washington Post Portugal will need another bailout. And the economies of the PIIGS are contracting - though Ireland may grow a bit.

Here is the run-down:

Spain: Unemployment at 22.9% forecast to reach 24% and then some. That is Great-Depression-level unemployment, and the economy is forecast to contract 1.7%. Banks are the big worry - like they were in Ireland. (When did banks get this "we can't fail" rider to laws of markets?)

Italy: Next to Spain, it almost looks health. 8.9% unemployment. Economy to contract 1.5% according to estimates. But the dark cloud is debt at 120% of GDP and rising.

Portugal: "Accelerating in Reverse." That's how the WaPo sums it up. Unemployment is about 14% and the economy will contract by more than 3%.

Ireland: Unemployment at 14%. But its ties to the US economy and the UK more than Europe proper, may help a bit. If the US economy can keep sputtering along.
The 600 U.S. multinationals that have chosen Ireland already generate more than 12 percent of Irish GDP.
There is some hope that the economy will grow - or at least be relatively flat. But the last half of last year saw a contraction.

There is an annoying quote at the end of the section on Ireland.
If any country can dig itself out, it’s going to be Ireland, but at what cost?
If Ireland can't "dig itself out" then what? Is it "entitled" to handouts bailouts - funded mostly by Germany and a couple of Scandinavian countries with a portion from the IMF for good measure? (And the UK and other non-Euro-zone, European Union members get to pay an extra amount. If it isn't Ireland's responsibility to balance their checkbook - or Greece's or Spain's or whoever - then who has to come up with the money? Germany? Some of it comes from the IMF and some of that comes from the American Taxpayer, if not that much.

This isn't the result of a natural disaster. It isn't that Europe was destroyed by war. This was a party for the past few years brought on by low interest rates and high expectations. And the idea that the bill would never come due. And now that the bill has come due, they don't want to pay.

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