by ilene - July 7th, 2011 1:44 am
The latest tranche of loans from the EU and the IMF has helped buy debt-ridden Greece some time. But the Greeks will find it hard to get back on their feet. Their country has been ruined by three political dynasties, which created a bloated system of cronyism that is hard to change. By SPIEGEL Staff.
Regardless of whether it happens under Papandreou alone or with both politicians working together, if Greece starts economizing, it risks choking its own economy. "It’s like a cat chasing its own tail," says Greek economics professor Yanis Varoufakis.
Former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff recently warned: "If they just continue with the European Union’s austerity program, they’re going to be in slow growth or recession as far as the eye can see, and at the end of the day they’re still going to default."
And it’s not as if Greece hasn’t already adopted austerity measures. Athens managed to cut its budget deficit from 15.4 percent of its gross domestic product to 10.6 percent last year, thanks to its first austerity package. The government made cutbacks in salaries, retirement funds and social benefits, among other things.
This austerity policy also caused 200,000 people to lose their jobs last year, with unemployment reaching an all-time high of 15 percent by late March.
With pay in the private sector also often falling by 10 to 20 percent, consumption likewise dropped by nearly 10 percent and the recession intensified. It’s a vicious circle. Since taxes need to increase and spending needs to decrease, the situation is likely only to get worse.
by ilene - June 20th, 2010 7:36 am
In New Jersey, taxes are high, the budget’s a mess, government is inefficiently organized, and the public pension fund is blown to kingdom come. Which makes New Jersey a lot like most other states in 2010. What makes the state unusual is its rookie governor, a human bulldozer named Chris Christie, who vowed to lead like a one-termer and is keeping his promise with brio. He has proposed chopping $11 billion from the state’s budget — more than a quarter of the total — for fiscal year 2011 (which starts July 1). He’s backing a constitutional cap on property taxes in hopes of pushing the state’s myriad villages and townships to merge into more efficient units. He’s locked in an ultimate cage match with the New Jersey teachers’ union. It may be the bitterest political fight in the country — and that’s saying something this year. A union official recently circulated a humorous prayer with a punch line asking God to kill Christie. You know, New Jersey humor. And in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Christie didn’t talk about the possibility that his fiscal initiatives might be compromised or defeated; he pictured himself "lying dead on State Street in Trenton," the state capital. Presumably that was a figure of speech.
The tone of the New Jersey budget battle may be distinctive, but many of the same notes can be heard in state capitals across the country. From Hartford to Honolulu, once sturdy state governments are approaching the brink of fiscal calamity, as the crash of 2008 and its persistent aftermath have led to the reckoning of 2010. Squeezed by the end of federal stimulus money on one hand and desperate local governments on the other, states are facing the third straight year of staggering budget deficits, and the necessary cuts will cost jobs, limit services and touch the lives of millions of Americans. Government workers have been laid off in half the states plus Puerto Rico. Twenty-two states have instituted unpaid furloughs. At least 28 states have ordered across-the-board budget cuts,…
by ilene - May 19th, 2010 10:43 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
How many times have I said this? Seriously?
Europe’s debt crisis shows the risks for the United States if it does not get its budget deficits under control, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said on Tuesday.
"If we need any further illustration of the potential threats to our own economy from uncontrolled borrowing, we have only to look to the struggle to maintain the common European currency, to rebalance the European economy, and to sustain political cohesion of Europe," Volcker said.
There, it’s official and Paul Volcker said so.
by ilene - February 11th, 2010 2:06 pm
Agreement has been reached in Europe on a “rescue” package for Greece. But it’s no cause for celebration. It’s the kind of “rescue” sensation one experiences after paying out what’s left in one’s wallet when confronted with a robber with a gun. The insanity of self-imposed budgetary constraints will be manifest to all soon enough. Economists and the EU bureaucrats who advocate a slavish adherence to arbitrary compliance numbers fail to comprehend the basis of government spending. In imposing these voluntary financial constraints on government activity, they deny essential government services and the opportunity for full employment to their citizenry.
Score another one, then, for the high priests of fiscal rectitude. Harsh cuts, tax increases — this is by no means a recovery policy. The capital markets have got their pound of flesh. But Greece is no more able to reduce its deficit under these circumstances than it is possible to get blood out of a stone. Politically, it means ceding control of EU macro policy to an external consortium dominated by France and Germany. Greece becomes a colony.
Nor will the policies work, as the ’strict enough conditions’ imposed will further weaken demand in Greece and, consequently, the rest of the European Union. Furthermore, the rapidly expanding deficit of Greece has benefited the entire EU because it supported aggregated demand at the margin, and the sudden reversal contemplated by this package will reverse those forces.
The requirement that budget deficits should be zero on average and never exceed 3 per cent of GDP or gross national debt levels should not exceed 60 per cent of GDP not only restrict the fiscal powers that governments would ordinarily enjoy in fiat currency regimes, but also violates an understanding of the way fiscal outcomes are effectively endogenous, as Bill Mitchell has noted on several occasions.
Meanwhile, Greece and the rest of the Euro zone is being revealed as necessarily caught in a continual state of Ponzi style financing that demands institutional resolution of some sort to be sustainable. The separation of the monetary authorities from the fiscal authorities and the decentralization of the fiscal authorities have inevitably made any co-ordination of…
by ilene - January 17th, 2010 2:13 pm
Bankrupt states have finally found a a way out of their budget deficits: Taxes on legalized pot.
In certain western states, at least, the public supports the move.
WSJ: [A] national marijuana-legalization movement…has lately been emboldened by several factors, including laws allowing marijuana for medical purposes.
The recession may be another reason. With many states suffering big budget deficits, for instance, legalization advocates say the states could benefit from new taxes on the sale of marijuana. In addition, the Obama administration appears to have taken a more-mellow attitude on medical marijuana as societal views about the drug evolve. In a poll last week of 500 adults in Washington state by SurveyUSA, 56% of respondents said legalizing marijuana is a good idea.
"We’re beyond a tipping point culturally," said Roger Goodman, a Democrat representing Kirkland, Wash., and other Seattle suburbs in the Washington legislature who co-authored the legalization bill, known as HB 2401. "Now we’re at a point where we’re figuring out the safest way to end prohibition."
by ilene - January 6th, 2010 12:50 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Deep thoughts on 2010 from PIMCO’s bond guru:
Quixotic journeys often make for great literature, but by definition are rarely productive. I am, after all, referring to windmills here – not their 21st century creation, but their 17th century chasing. Futility, not productivity, was the ultimate fate of Cervantes’ man from La Mancha. So it is with hesitation, although quixotic obsession, that I plunge headlong into a discussion of American politics, healthcare legislation, resultant budget deficits and – finally – their potential effect on financial markets. There will be windmills aplenty in the next few pages and not much good can come of these opinions or my tilting in their direction. Still, I mount my steed, lance in hand, and ride forward.
Question: What has become of the American nation? Conceived with the vision of liberty and justice for all, we have descended in the clutches of corporate and other special interests to a second world state defined by K Street instead of Independence Square. Our
governmentdoesn’t work anymore, or perhaps more accurately, when it does, it works for special interests and not the American people. Washington consistently stoops to legislate 10,000-page perversions of healthcare, regulatory reform, defense, and budgetary mandates overflowing with earmarks that serve a monied minority as opposed to an all-too-silent majority. You don’t have to be Don Quixote to believe that legislators – and Presidents – often do not work for the benefit of their constituents: A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported that over 65% of Americans trust their government to do the right thing “only some of the time” and a stunning 19% said “never.” What most politicians apparently are working for is to perpetuate their power – first via district gerrymandering, and then second by around-the-clock campaigning financed by special interest groups. If, by chance, they’re ever voted out of office, they have a home just down the street – at K Street – with six-figure incomes as a starting wage.
What amazes me most of all is that politicians can be bought so cheaply. Public records show that combined labor, insurance, big pharma and related corporate interests spent just under $500 million last year on healthcare lobbying (not much of which went to politicians) for what is likely to be