Will The EU’s Collapse Push The World Deeper Into The Great Depression II?

16 05 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

“For want of a nail . . .  the kingdom was lost.”[2] Will Greece’s debt crisis lead to a Greek debt default and the collapse of the euro and an ensuing collapse of the 27-member European Union (or EU), and trigger the next round of crashes that will be described by economic historians decades from now as “the Great Depression II”?[3] The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo, Serbia brought the tensions between Austria-Hungary and Serbia to a head.  In turn, it is said this triggered a chain of international events that embroiled Russia and the major European powers; and World War I broke out in Europe.[4] Will Greece’s debt crisis set a series of events in motion that sends the world into a downward economic spiral of unfathomable proportions?

For years, I have wrestled with the question of whether the Europe would collapse economically, politically, socially and militarily.  Sounds absurd, you say?  The countries are too interwoven and mutually dependent now for that to happen, and at the very least they will muddle along, making the worst of the best situations, and achieving the lowest common denominator?  The United States of Europe, they are not and never will be, but they have achieved a degree of cohesiveness that I never thought was likely years ago.

I believed jealousies and rivalries and, yes, the hatreds of the past would linger barely beneath the surface, coming unglued at the most inopportune times when it really mattered the most.  When the chips were down, I felt the EU would splinter and fall apart; and that its participants and the world would write it off as a noble experiment that failed, much like the League of Nations.  After all, its successor—the United Nations—is considered to be a colossal joke by Americans, many of whom would love to see it shipped to Europe, and its building on the East River in Manhattan bulldozed and turned into a park, or made into co-ops or condominiums.

The bitter hatreds of the past seem to have subsided in Europe though, and it has become a cultural melting pot, more and more.  Airbus was the first tangible sign of economic integration that I never thought would be possible.  To see the Germans and French working together, and genuinely enjoying each other and producing competitive aircraft on a global scale, was something to behold.  The economic interdependence and booming economies covered up a myriad of sins, mistakes and weaknesses.  It all looked very rosy until the economic tide in Europe and worldwide began to turn.  Then, potholes showed up where there had been rose gardens; and recriminations began to occur that had been buried beneath the surface.

Today Greece is teetering, and anger is intensifying over proposed cuts that are to be made as part of the EU deal to save the country’s economy.  It is the age-old battle between the haves and have-nots, and between those who will bear the burden of the cuts and the wealthy who will escape them.  However, anti-American sentiments are growing because the International Monetary Fund (or IMF) is viewed as a tool of the U.S., which is carrying out American policies.  Like the U.N., the IMF has taken on more powers and responsibilities than were ever envisioned; and it needs to be curbed, and its U.S. support diminished.[5]

Perhaps a recent editorial by the Wall Street Journal best captured the “contagion” that began with Greece:

It hasn’t been a week since the terms of Athens’s . . . bailout were set, and already the reviews of this latest Greek drama are saying it’s a flop.  Yesterday the euro sank to its lowest level in a year.  Stock markets across Europe fell nearly 3%, and the carnage spread to Wall Street and beyond.  Greek interest-rate spreads climbed higher again, and market players have turned their attention to the euro zone’s other weak sisters as everyone tries to figure out who is most likely to follow Greece down the road to national insolvency.

The bailout, in other words, hasn’t stopped the much-feared contagion. If anything, it has spread it.[6]

The Archduke revisited—and hardly encouraging to a world that is in the process of revisiting the Great Depression.  And reason enough for panics, with many more to come.[7]

In another editorial, the Journal added:

The real gamble is being made by politicians who are calculating that, by taking the risk of sovereign default off the table for now, they are giving the global economic recovery time to build and making it easier to address Europe’s fiscal woes.

. . .

In the euro’s first serious test, the political class blinked.  The resulting moral hazard will haunt the single currency for years and reduce the incentive for governments to keep their fiscal houses in order.[8]

Even more troubling is the prospect that the 16-nation (out of the 27-EU member states) shared euro currency may be headed for disintegration.  “The euro is doomed,” said one market analyst.

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel observed, Europe is in a “very, very serious situation”; and the U.K.’s new Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, may have major problems keeping the left wing of the Liberal Democrats and the right wing of the Conservatives (or Tories) in line, and a new election may be called before year-end.[9] Also, it is predicted that “China’s economy will slow and possibly ‘crash’ within a year as the nation’s property bubble is set to burst”—which may have troubling implications for whether China will continue to buy and hold our government debt.[10] In turn, this is a major economic and national security risk.

The economic tsunami that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan unleashed has produced consequences far beyond those that were ever envisioned—and far beyond American shores—which will last through the end of this decade, and possibly a generation.  Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, has said: “Greenspan was considered a master.  Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.”  These words speak volumes; however, they fall short of describing the global dimensions and consequences of Greenspan’s actions and inactions.[11]

The central banks of the world are essentially out of options, and the worst is yet to come.  Hold on tight.  It will not be pretty—and global citizenry anger may be truly mind-boggling![12]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (www.naegele.com).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See, e.g., www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles

[2] The proverb, “For Want of a Nail,” states:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Want_of_a_Nail_(proverb)

[3] See, e.g.http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100408/D9EURADO0.html and http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=aL3SiaURK8dQ&pid=20601087

[4] See, e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Archduke_Franz_Ferdinand_of_Austria

[5] As the London Times points out:

Even greater social unrest is expected as resentment simmers among poorer families at being told to tighten their belts when wealthy Greeks can protect their fortunes by moving their money abroad, some of it into property bargains in London.

See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article7113941.ece The Times article adds:

Mikis Theodorakis, the 84-year-old musician who composed the score for the film Zorba the Greek, calls for revolt against what he sees as an American plot to turn Greece into a “protectorate”.

[6] See http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheGreekBailoutFlop_000.pdf

[7] On May 6, 2010, the Dow Jones Industrial Average “ended down 347.80, or 3.2 percent, at 10,520.32, after being down as much as 998.50 earlier, the Dow’s biggest intraday drop on record.”

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/36988229

The CNBC article added:

“We’ve seen a crisis start in a country—Greece—become regional, impact the whole of the Euro zone and is on the verge of truly going global,” said El-Erian, CEO of the world’s biggest bond fund.

. . .

There is simply a growing recognition that Greece has got to default, said Rochdale banking analyst Dick Bove. “The riots in the streets showed the decision to repay the debt was not going to be made by the people in Germany, France and Switzerland, it’s going to be made by people in Greece and they’re not going to repay it,” he said. “Anyone seeing the riots is going to recognize that this government is going to be thrown out and anything replacing this government is going to be far more leftist leaning and they’re going to repudiate.”

See id. A Wall Street Journal article added:

The velocity of the plunge in stocks was breath-taking. Investors fled everything from stocks and risky bonds to commodities and poured money into safe assets such as U.S. Treasurys and gold.

. . .

“You worry about the a domino effect, from Greece to Portugal to Ireland and Spain,” said Richard Schottenfeld, general partner of Schottenfeld Associates, a New York hedge fund. “Pretty soon those kinds of losses are bigger than housing.”

Investors said they were worried about potential contagion from Greece’s ongoing problems, and whether eventual losses could even exceed those of the U.S. housing collapse.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704370704575227754131412596.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEADNewsCollection

[8] The Journal’s editorial added:

The real euro crisis, in short, is one of overspending and policies that sabotage economic growth. Sunday’s shock and awe campaign has merely postponed that reckoning—and at a fearsome price.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheRealEuroCrisis.pdf

[9] See http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aqquuYOAN_sE (“European policy makers last week unveiled a loan package worth almost $1 trillion and a program of bond purchases in an effort to contain a sovereign-debt crisis that has threatened to shatter confidence in the euro.  . . .  By resorting to what some economists have called the ‘nuclear option,’ the [European Central Bank, or] ECB may open itself to the charge it’s undermining its independence by helping governments plug budget holes”)

[10] See http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/2010/05/07/Commentary-Fiscal-WMD/UPI-69801273233877/

[11] See http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/ and http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

[12] See also http://www.naegele.com/documents/MatthewKaminski-EuropesOtherCrisis.pdf (“Germans no longer feel obliged to pay for the sins of their forefathers by bankrolling Europe.  . . .  ‘The EU is falling to pieces'”) and http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Spain-debt-downgraded-by-apf-1816859080.html?x=0&.v=27 (Spain) and http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6f696c52-456a-11df-9e46-00144feab49a.html (“Soros warns Europe of disintegration”) and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703525704575061172926967984.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read (“Europe is entering unprepared into a serious economic crisis—and the nascent global recovery could easily collapse due to the unsustainable and Ponzi-like buildup of government debt in weaker countries.  . . .  The issues for troubled euro zone countries are straightforward: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (known to the financial markets, and not in a polite way, as the PIIGS) had varying degrees of foreign- and bank credit-financed rapid expansions over the past decade.  In fall 2008, these bubbles collapsed.  . . .  Since these struggling countries share the euro, run by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, . . . they are left with the need to massively curtail demand, lower wages and reduce the public sector workforce.  The last time we saw this kind of precipitate fiscal austerity—when nations were tied to the gold standard—it contributed directly to the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s.  . . .  Ireland’s banks are today probably insolvent. Who can afford to repay their mortgages when wages are falling and unemployment rising?  Irish house prices continue to speed downward.  This is not an example of a ‘careful’ solution—it is a nation in a financial death spiral”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1250433/Greece-debt-bailout-EU-leaders-split-euro-crisis.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/business/global/14debt.html?hp=&pagewanted=all


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21 responses

17 05 2010
Ian

This was a good read. For somebody, like me, who trades currency, it’s been a difficult few months. I believe the dollar is fundamentally weak but Greece has managed to blow the Euro completely up. They’re talking parity or the end of the Euro now.

The problem for the USA is the people are still pretty much asleep at the wheel. Our political elite are polarized and paralyzed and unable to deal with the economic problems at hand.

I happen to believe that when this house of cards comes crashing down, there’s going to be blood in the streets and maybe even a political revolution if hyperinflation wipes out the middle class……as some like Peter Schiff suggests could happen.

It’s interesting times to say the least.

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17 05 2010
naegeleblog

Thanks, Ian, for your excellent comments.

With respect to your statement that “[o]ur political elite are polarized and paralyzed and unable to deal with the economic problems at hand,” you are so so correct. Most have zero training in economics, and the issues go straight over their heads. Also, they are political “beasts” who only truly care about getting reelected and wielding power while they have it.

Your third paragraph is also very interesting. As you know, there is one school of thought about the coming hyperinflation; another group that believes in “stagflation”; and there are others who believe that at most hyperinflation will be short-lived, and that deflation will rule the day. I tend to agree with the latter scenario; however, it is anyone’s guess, and the economic history of this period will be written 20-40 years from now.

Regardless of one’s point of view, there will be chaos; and as stated in the last paragraph of my article, “global citizenry anger may be truly mind-boggling!”

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31 05 2010
Y.

I strongly doubt the elites will allow deflation. Deflation would have the effect of reducing their power relative to the rest of society (since the gap between the rich’s purchasing power and the PP of the common citizen will decrease), so I expect the printing presses to be put on hyperspeed to avoid this scenario regardless of economic consequences.

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19 05 2010
naegeleblog

“The Euro Turns Radioactive”

This is the headline of a Wall Street Journal article, which says that “[s]ome of the world’s largest money managers and central banks have become increasingly skeptical of the euro, presenting a threat to the common currency’s prospects.”

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704691304575254683361456058.html?mod=WSJ_Currencies_RIGHTRecentColumns (or http://www.naegele.com/documents/CentralBanksFundManagersTurnCautiousonEuro.pdf)

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20 05 2010
Sharon Knapik

Enjoyed this column. Agree with Ian on these odd investment times. I don’t trade currencies, but have been trying to build a reliable portfolio to act as a self-created annuity as I don’t trust anyone with our assets: don’t have enough to have truly excellent management and have enough to worry about retaining and growing it’s purchasing power.

Whatever complicity Greenspan has, to me the big picture involves more players and pieces in the puzzle. All were required to crumble the House of Cards. After all, our ability to stay airborne on fumes has been quite remarkable.

It seems to me that trans-nationalist types thought the citizenry would be compliant. Europeans we are not. Quelle surprise.

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20 05 2010
naegeleblog

Thank you again for your comments, Sharon.

First, Greenspan set things in motion—akin to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that I mentioned in my article above, which is said to have triggered World War I. Also, Giulio Tremonti’s quote is accurate.

See, e.g., http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html

Second, your use of the word “fumes” is an apt description.

Third, as I have stated above, global citizenry anger may be truly mind-boggling—in America and elsewhere in the world—and it is only just beginning!

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20 05 2010
naegeleblog

Apocalyptic Warning By Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated:

If the euro fails, then Europe fails.

See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article7131340.ece

And so it may!

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20 05 2010
22 05 2010
naegeleblog

Congress Does Not Know What It Is Doing

The highly-respected Rasmussen Reports has concluded:

[M]ost U.S. voters continue to believe the legislators have little idea what they’re doing when it comes to the economy.

The latest national telephone survey of Likely Voters finds that just 27% are at least somewhat confident that Congress knows what it’s doing when it comes to addressing current economic problems. An overwhelming majority (72%) are not confident in Congress to address these problems.

. . .

These findings show little change from surveys dating back to late September 2008, just after the Wall Street meltdown that included the collapse of the Lehman Brothers financial firm.

See http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/may_2010/72_are_not_confident_congress_knows_what_it_s_doing_when_it_comes_to_the_economy

It is a fact that most politicians have zero training in economics, and do not understand it, and have no appreciation for economic history. They are simply interested in getting elected and reelected, and wielding power while they have it.

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24 05 2010
naegeleblog

The Great Lie Of Europe

Writing in UK’s Telegraph, Christopher Booker says:

We have still scarcely begun to wake up to the gravity of the crisis now upon us, not just for the eurozone but also for us here in Britain and for the entire global economy. The measures so far taken to prop up the collapsing euro, such as that famous “$1 trillion package”, are no more than gestures.

Greece was just the antipasto: Italy, Spain, Portugal and others are now hanging over an abyss of debt which scarcely all the money in Europe could fill—created by countries living way beyond their means, thanks not least to the euro’s low interest rates. The only possible consequence of the collapse of one of the world’s leading currencies, leaving Europe with no money to trade in, would be utter chaos.

What we are witnessing here is a judgment on the entire deceitful and self-deceiving way in which the “European project” has been assembled over the past 53 years. One of the most important things to understand about that project is that it has only ever had one real agenda. Everything it has done has been directed to one ultimate goal, full political and economic integration. The headline labels put on the various stages of that process may have changed over the years, such as building first a “common market”, then a “single market”, finally a “constitution”. But by far the most important project of all was locking the member states into a single currency.

This was always above all a political not an economic project, to be driven through at any cost, which was why all those “Maastricht criteria” laid down to bring it about were repeatedly breached. But as expert voices were warning as long ago as the 1970s, when it was first put on the agenda, there was no way economic and monetary union could work unless it was run by a single all-powerful economic government, with the power to raise taxes.

As was advised by Sir Donald MacDougall’s report to Brussels in 1978, it could only work if [it followed] the US model. . . .

. . .

The member states were locked together willy-nilly in a one-size-fits-all system, with a single low interest rate, enabling countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece to live on a seemingly limitless sea of borrowed money. And now, entirely predictably, judgment day has come.

If the euro does disintegrate, as Mrs Merkel warns, the consequences would be incalculable. Replacing all the national currencies was a gargantuan task, by far the most ambitious ever attempted in the name of European integration, and there is no Plan B. Without a currency, trade would collapse—leaving Britain, dependent on Europe for 50 per cent of its trade, just as seriously affected as everyone else. A system failure on this scale would make the 1930s pale into insignficance (sic).

Inevitably, cries went up last week for the EU to be transformed into a proper economic government with control over national budgets and the power to raise taxes—exactly what MacDougall and others were talking about in the 1970s. But it is too late, and all that remains are desperate gestures.

. . .

As alarming as anything, with this tsunami roaring down on us, has been the sight of our new leaders preening themselves. . . . As one analyst put it: “They are like children let loose in the sweet shop, seemingly oblivious to the horrendous reality unfolding before us.”

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/7754100/The-euro-crisis-is-a-judgment-on-the-great-lie-of-Europe.html

Sobering, very sobering, but not surprising—and consistent with what I have been writing.

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24 05 2010
naegeleblog

Here It Comes—Or Rather, This Is What It Looks Like To Be In The Beginning Throes Of The Great Depression II

A Washington Post article states:

If one or more [European countries] fail to make the expected progress on cutting budgets, restructuring economies or boosting growth, it could drain confidence in a broad and unsettling way. Credit markets worldwide could lock up and throw the global economy back into recession.

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052304170.html

Not “recession,” but the continuation of the Great Depression II.

The Post article adds:

[We are in] a “brave new world” where sovereign default in one of the world’s core economic areas is a tangible threat. Bank holdings of European debt are now being studied with the same focus given to holdings of U.S. mortgage-backed securities as the global financial crisis unfolded in 2008—and with the same suspicion that problems in one part of the world could wreck others.

The most vulnerable European countries—Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland—may represent only about 4 percent of world economic activity, but “the debt crisis and its ripple effects are bad news for all corners of the world,” said Cornell University economist Eswar Prasad.

. . .

U.S. trade officials, hoping the country can dramatically boost its exports, are dismayed at the steep drop in the value of the euro—which is around $1.25, down from more than $1.50 in November. The decline makes American goods more expensive compared with those produced in Europe. The slide in the common European currency could also change the way China and a host of Asian countries approach their currency policies, possibly making them less likely to agree with U.S. demands to raise the value of their money. If they raised it, Asian goods would become more expensive in world markets, making it easier for U.S. products to compete.

. . .

Inside the euro zone, banks are intimately linked, with a web of investments and cross-country bond holdings that could be a main vector for financial “contagion,” with a default in one country weakening banks elsewhere.

There are some positive impacts in all this for the United States.

For one, uncertainty about European government debt has driven global investors toward U.S. government bonds, which in turn is pushing down long-term interest rates. The 10-year Treasury bond had a rate of 3.2 percent Friday compared with nearly 4 percent last month. Those lower rates should flow through to private borrowing, helping Americans getting mortgages or businesses looking to grow.

The European panic is also lowering the price of oil and other commodities on global markets, potentially making it cheaper for Americans to fuel their cars and heat their homes. A barrel of oil went for about $70 on Friday, down from almost $87 on April 6.

A final positive for the U.S. economy is that the stronger dollar will help keep inflation in check by reducing the cost of imports. That, combined with renewed worry about the strength of the recovery, is likely to give the Fed some leeway to delay raising interest rates above their current extremely low levels longer than it would have otherwise.

The most precise comparison is to the East Asian financial crisis that enveloped Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and other nations in 1997 and 1998. There were widespread fears that the crisis would damage the U.S. economy, including through a financial contagion effect. The Fed even cut interest rates in the fall of 1998 to try to forestall a weakening in U.S. growth.

But there was little obvious impact on the U.S. economy, which grew 4.5 percent in 1997, 4.4 percent in 1998, and 4.8 percent in 1999.

. . .

Also, it is clear that the economist Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini has gone “Hollywood” on us, and is full of himself. However, like Harry Houdini, whoever doubted that? 🙂

See, e.g., http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/7756684/Nouriel-Roubini-said-said-the-bubble-would-burst-and-it-did.-So-what-next.html

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26 05 2010
naegeleblog

What Would Reagan Do?

The Wall Street Journal has a fine article by David Malpass entitled, “The Panic, Round Two: What Would Reagan Do?” that is worth reading.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/DavidMalpass-ThePanicRoundTwo-WhatWouldReaganDo.pdf

Yes, the panics are upon us—and there will be many of them globally—as America and the world sink deeper into what economic historians will describe 20-40 years from now as the “Great Depression II,” or by some similar label.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii

David Malpass is right in asking what would Reagan do, because the former president—certainly at the top of his game—might have figured out a way of getting us out of this mess, or of somehow making it less onerous than it will be. After all, he was a creature of the “Great Depression I,” and he learned its lessons well.

Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent in December 1982, two years after his election—which was higher than any time since the first Great Depression—then dropped during the rest of Reagan’s presidency. But facts and figures do not tell the whole story of the Reagan presidency by any means: his personality and leadership qualities, and his ability to instill hope and optimism.

See, e.g., http://www.usnews.com/money/business-economy/articles/2009/08/27/is-unemployment-the-worst-since-the-great-depression.html

One must remember too that Paul Volcker was Chairman of the Fed, and he contributed mightily to keeping the economy on an even keel, and preventing runaway inflation. He was followed by Alan Greenspan, who never saw the Housing Crisis coming, and he testified to that before a House committee. Or, as Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, put it: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.” That speaks volumes, in terms of the human suffering domestically and globally, which Greenspan launched.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html; see also http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/

Implicit in Malpass’ fine article is the fact that Congress does not know what it is doing. Most politicians have zero training in economics, and do not understand it, and have no appreciation for economic history. They are simply interested in getting elected and reelected, and wielding power while they have it.

Malpass adds correctly:

As Reagan understood, true leadership requires stating goals and taking decisive action, in this case reducing government spending substantially enough to convince the private sector to invest again.

However, Ronald Reagan’s leadership was broader and more important than that. He instilled confidence and optimism when there had been little or none, across the board (e.g., national security, economics).

See also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/ronald-reagan-and-john-f-kennedy-a-question-of-character/

Sadly, Reagan’s leadership and vision are lacking now, as wrong-headed politicians lead us father down the path toward financial ruin, dashing the hopes and dreams of Americans and their counterparts worldwide. However, the days of reckoning are upon us. America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. We are beginning to see that now.

Also, Barack Obama has zero experience with respect to economic and a plethora of other issues. Americans should read (or reread) his “Dreams from My Father,” and realize that he is one of the most “uneducated” presidents in American history, in terms of real-world issues. This is not said by way of condemnation, but as a fact.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/

At best he is an academic. Perhaps more importantly, he and his advisers are “a bunch of academics” and ideologues, who have pre-set ideas about how the world should function, which do not square with reality. In many ways, they are the most ill-equipped individuals to confront and understand the “Great Depression II,” much get us through it.

I cannot think of another group that is so ill-equipped to deal with critical issues facing America and the world (e.g., two wars, the risk of any EMP or other devastating attack, North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, the Great Depression II). Fortunately, no calamities hit the Clinton years. We are not and will not be so lucky this time around.

Lastly, Ronald Reagan was blessed—yes, blessed by God. He had innate wisdom and a reservoir of faith, confidence, optimism and good will, and collective life experiences that allowed him to do just the right thing at the right time. Clearly, the fall of the “Evil Empire” was a shining achievement, but there were many many others too.

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28 05 2010
Sharon Knapik

The Obama administration is the worst I’ve witnessed and I do not believe they will be able to say or do anything at this point that instills confidence in the public. Without confidence, we will continue to circle the drain in the hopes that a fiscally conservative, less ethically challenged, and more Constitutionally sound Congress is elected.

At which point, the Congress may decide to cut up the administrations credit card. However, I don’t see Obama agreeing to this plan and wonder if we end up with the equivalent of a hung Parliament.

For the next President it would be helpful to have one who actually appears to like the country and the Constitution; while at the same time rooting out significant corruption and waste. Can only think of one person and it is not Mitt Romney.

Regarding your kind reply about Mr. Greenspan, he did not set things in motion as his policies were not the source of the problem, in my humble opinion. The problem goes back a long way, but really got out of hand when Clinton called for more CRA loans.

During the same administration, Summers, Rubin, and Greenspan urged removing Glass-Stegal and shot down Brooksley Born’s efforts to regulate derivatives. Thus, the weapons of mass financial destruction were set in place by permitting gross leveraging via derivatives with inordinate amounts of crap loans which were packaged into something vaguely pleasant smelling and sold to pension, sovereign wealth, and foreign banking funds. Greenspan just accelerated the rate of rotation and kept the plates aloft longer by lowering rates which fueled home prices exponentially, which increased tax bases, which inflated the prices of almost everything if one used pre-Clinton CPI measurements.

I surmise this was an effort to get the nation over projected critically short public pension and entitlement shortfalls and to push for a more Europeanized society, which does not sit well with rank and file productive people. While there has not been as much press in this nation, I feel it safe to say private sector ratepayers have zero interest in funding government employee pensions at 80% of their last three years pay average, whilst they scrape by on diminished 401k balances and Social Security payments that will not likely keep up with the real rate of inflation. [Gone to the grocery store lately?]

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28 05 2010
naegeleblog

Thank you, Sharon, for your comments.

I agree with your statement:

The Obama administration is the worst I’ve witnessed and I do not believe they will be able to say or do anything at this point that instills confidence in the public.

Next, you wrote:

[T]he Congress may decide to cut up the administration[‘]s credit card. However, I don’t see Obama agreeing to this plan and wonder if we end up with the equivalent of a hung Parliament.

Congress can refuse to fund ObamaCare and other programs and emasculate them, or repeal them entirely if it chooses. Obviously, Obama can veto measures to repeal them, in which case his veto would have to be overridden and/or the repeal measures would have to be attached to legislation that he is not prepared to veto.

If the next president who can do the job is not Mitt Romney, in your estimation, who is it? 🙂

Next, you wrote:

Regarding your kind reply about Mr. Greenspan, he did not set things in motion as his policies were not the source of the problem, in my humble opinion. The problem goes back a long way, but really got out of hand when Clinton called for more CRA loans.

During the same administration, Summers, Rubin, and Greenspan urged removing Glass-Stegal and shot down Brooksley Born’s efforts to regulate derivatives. Thus, the weapons of mass financial destruction were set in place by permitting gross leveraging via derivatives with inordinate amounts of crap loans which were packaged into something vaguely pleasant smelling and sold to pension, sovereign wealth, and foreign banking funds. Greenspan just accelerated the rate of rotation and kept the plates aloft longer by lowering rates which fueled home prices exponentially, which increased tax bases, which inflated the prices of almost everything if one used pre-Clinton CPI measurements.

A myriad of factors coalesce to produce any depression throughout history. However, if Greenspan had seen the Housing Crisis coming—and he testified before a House committee that he did not—and if he acted with restraint as his predecessor Paul Volcker had done, events might not have spun out of control. Volcker was savvy enough to realize that massive weaknesses would be exposed if financial “equilibrium” was not maintained, and he acted accordingly. Greenspan went the other direction; and effectively an “economic tsunami” was released that is still rolling worldwide today.

Yes, more CRA loans were a mistake, as well as the removal of Glass-Steagall restrictions, and deregulation that Greenspan championed, as well as the failure to regulate derivatives. Yes, gross leveraging via derivatives was a mistake; however, the loans might not have been “under water” if proper underwriting standards had been used, and if the housing bubble had not arisen and grown to enormous proportions—which is Greenspan’s fault.

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30 05 2010
Sunil S

Very nice blog and articles. I think that there is this incredible engine that is constantly mentioned in popular press: America the consumer and China the producer. Of course, the intense freedom of thought and intellectual depth and breadth is what attracted the best and brightest to America and made it what it is. Going forward, out country has slacked because of enormous wealth. Human nature (you see) makes people less hungry and wanting. Now a large mass of peoples in the world are hungry and wanting. It is a time of great equilibrium. However, I believe that it will be hard for others to do this overnight. The political system in this country and the freedoms will be hard to replicate. So we may have some time (or not) as you point out. But it is still hard for me to see America the inspiration turn into America the ordinary. I hope that we will all see the light and rise and prevail to keep this country as the beacon of hope for all.

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30 05 2010
naegeleblog

Thank you for your comments, Sunil.

I agree with you:

I believe that it will be hard for others to do this overnight. The political system in this country and the freedoms will be hard to replicate. So we may have some time (or not) as you point out. But it is still hard for me to see America the inspiration turn into America the ordinary. I hope that we will all see the light and rise and prevail to keep this country as the beacon of hope for all.

Barring an EMP Attack or some other unforeseen catastrophic event, I believe America will continue to be the beacon of light and hope and freedom for the world. We are not perfect, but we are the best “experiment” in the course of history so far, and I do not see that changing.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/; see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/

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31 05 2010
naegeleblog

Dick Morris Predicts Collapse Of The Euro And Unraveling Of The EU

In his latest article, Morris states:

The inevitable outcome of the Greek financial crisis—soon to be followed by comparable events in Portugal, Spain and probably Italy—will be the collapse of the Euro and a sharp halt in the momentum for European integration.

Ultimately, there is only one nation in Europe that investors trust—Germany. And they will only support the Euro and treat the southern European nations (now called Club Med) as credit-worthy if Germany backs up the debt. The current $1 trillion fund is a palliative that will not satisfy the market once the larger obligations of Spain ($1.6 trillion) and Italy ($2 trillion) come into question.

Germany will have to buy the southern European debts and assume national responsibility for their repayment. But while her leaders may be willing to do it, I doubt that her voters will acquiesce. German nationalism—the force that dominated Europe for one hundred years—will not take kindly to paying the bills for their profligate neighbors to the south.

While conservatives are quick to blame the social welfare policies of Greece and the other Club Med nations for their deficits, the fact is that this increasing level of debt is what inevitably happens when a nation is not allowed to use monetary policy to counter economic downturns. With the German-dominated European Central Bank in charge of interest rates, Club Med nations did not have the zero interest option the Fed embraced in this country. So the only way out of recession was through fiscal policy which led to deficits that are out of control and a debt that cannot be repaid.

But unless Germany steps up and assumes responsibility for these debts—something its voters likely will not permit—the Euro is dead. Some have spoken about creating a two tier Euro, one backed by Germany and a softer currency that would not be. But this is merely a euphemism for the end of the single currency for the continent.

. . .

This does not mean that trade barriers will return to Europe and it does not preclude deeper ties among the well-behaved nations of northern Europe. But it does mean that the United States of Europe will not come to be.

Those who value freedom should heave a sigh of relief at this prospect.

See http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/2010/05/31/the-european-union-will-come-apart/#more-1037

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16 06 2010
naegeleblog

EU Chief Warns Of Nightmare Vision For Europe

As the Daily Mail reports:

Democracy could ‘collapse’ in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned.

In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money.

. . .

Other EU countries seeing public protests over austerity plans include Hungary, Italy and Romania, where public sector pay is to be slashed by 25 per cent.

. . .

Mr Barroso’s warning lays bare the concern at the highest level in Brussels that the economic crisis could lead to the collapse of not only the beleaguered euro, but the EU itself, along with a string of fragile democracies.

. . .

News of the behind-the-scenes scramble in Brussels spells bad news for the British economy as many of our major banks have loaned Spain vast sums of money in recent years.

. . .

The looming bankruptcy of Spain, one of the foremost economies in Europe, poses far more of a threat to European unity and the euro project than Greece.

Greece contributes 2.5 percent of GDP to Europe, Spain nearly 12 percent.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1286480/EU-chief-warns-democracy-disappear-Greece-Spain-Portugal.html (emphasis added)

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25 06 2010
naegeleblog

Greece Puts Its Islands Up For Sale To Save Economy

In a desperate attempt to repay its debts, and because it cannot find the monies to develop the infrastructure on the islands, Greece is preparing to sell—or offering long-term leases on—some of its 6,000 islands. Potential investors are Russians and Chinese, according to the UK’s Guardian.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/24/greece-islands-sale-save-economy

In actuality, such austerity moves by Greece may be too little too late, especially as the “Great Depression II” continues to take hold globally during the balance of this decade—at the very least. Also, the amount of money raised might be a pittance when compared to Greece’s staggering debt.

The article adds:

As strikes almost paralysed the country [in May] and hedge funds bet against the economy, German politicians called for Greece to start selling islands, historic buildings and artworks. It now appears that the Greek government has heeded their demands.

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12 08 2010
naegeleblog

While The EU Might Survive What’s Coming, Many European Governments May Not

There is an interesting article on this subject in Forbes, which is worth reading.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/11/global-economy-finance-europe-opinions-columnists-michael-moran.html?partner=daily_newsletter

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14 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

What Remains Of An Undergraduate Degree In Economics

As indicated above and elsewhere in my writings, I believe:

Economists are like mindless lemmings; and their reliability is less than that of weathermen (and women) on TV. They never saw the downturn coming; they have been at a loss to predict its duration; and they do not have an earthly clue about where we are going. The best of the lot might be able to describe what happened in the past, but not much more than that.

We are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such 20-40 years from now, or by using similar descriptions. Yes, there are “green shoots,” and will be from time to time, just as there were during the Great Depression of the last century too. However, it did not end until the onset of World War II—and not because of any governmental economic programs or “tinkering.”

Hold on tight, and sit on the sidelines with cash. Things will get very ugly before this decade has run its course.

Having read this, a Wall Street Journal contributor brought words by economist Joan Robinson to my attention, which are wise and worthwhile repeating:

The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.

See, e.g., http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joan_Robinson; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Robinson

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