Evening Must-Read: Wolfgang Münchau: Radical Left Is Right About Europe’s Debt
Over at Equitable Growth: European Economic Integration: The Rebalancing Challenge in Europe: Monday Focus

Noted for Your NIghttime Procrastination for November 23, 2014

Screenshot 10 3 14 6 17 PMOver at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog


Must- and Shall-Reads:

And Over Here:

  1. Wolfgang Münchau: Radical left is right about Europe’s debt: "Assume that you share the global consensus view on what the eurozone should do right now. Specifically, you want to see more public-sector investment and debt restructuring. Now ask yourself the following question: if you were a citizen of a eurozone country, which political party would you support for that to happen? You may be surprised to see that there is not much choice. In Germany, the only one that comes close to such an agenda is Die Linke, the former Communists. In Greece, it would be Syriza; and in Spain, it would be Podemos.... You may not consider yourself a supporter of the radical left. But if you lived in the eurozone and supported those policies, that would be your only choice. What about Europe’s centre-left parties, the social democrats and socialists? Do they not support such an agenda? They may do so when they are in opposition. But once in government they feel the need to become respectable, at which point they discover their supply-side genes.... Of the radical parties that have emerged recently, the one to watch is Podemos.... Nacho Alvarez, a senior member of the party’s economics team, laid out his programme with a refreshing clarity... renegotiation of interest rates, grace periods, debt rescheduling and a haircut... Podemos’ goal was not to leave the eurozone.... The aim is the economic wellbeing of the country. To an outsider, that seems a balanced position. Not so in Spain. The establishment fears that this agenda will turn the country into a European version of Venezuela. But there is nothing controversial about the statement that if debt is unsustainable it needs to be restructured.... It is logically inconsistent for the single currency to enter a secular stagnation and not restructure its debt. Since nothing is being done to avoid the former, there is a probability approaching 100 per cent of the latter happening. Yet, for the moment, European governments keep playing the 'extend and pretend' game..."

  2. Ed Luce: Washington’s two foreign policies: "It goes without saying that almost any deal would be unacceptable to Benyamin Netanyahu’s Israel. The same applies to Saudi Arabia and other US Gulf allies. The Saudis have been putting it about that Riyadh would start its own nuclear programme if the US struck a deal that fell short of fully dismantling Iran’s.... Not only, it seems, will there be two US foreign policies. But most of America’s Middle East allies will be backing Capitol Hill’s. Can Mr Obama thread a path through this? The most dramatic example of clashing US foreign policies was after the first world war. President Woodrow Wilson put his authority on the line in Paris to create a League of Nations that the US would lead. His enemies in Congress, led by the patrician Henry Cabot Lodge, had different ideas. They sunk the treaty and with it America’s engagement on the world stage for the next 20 years. An Iran deal would also be faced with Congressional hostility. The big difference is that Mr Wilson pulled out all stops to sell his treaty. It still foundered. In the words of Vali Nasr, a former Obama official, this president sees an Iran deal as a ‘nice to have’, rather than a ‘must have’. Unless ‘must have’ becomes both the goal of Mr Obama and Congress, a Wilsonian fate awaits."

  3. Lawrence Summers: Companies on Trial: "Lord Chancellor Edward Thurlow... corporations have 'no soul to be damned, no body to kick'.... Garrett’s data and his narrative provide a textured understanding of these trade-offs and many others in dealing with corporate crime.... The current trend towards large fines as the response to corporate wrongdoing seems to promote a somewhat unattractive combination of individual incentives. Managers do not find it personally costly to part with even billions of dollars of their shareholders’ money, especially when fines represent only a small fraction of total market value. Paying with shareholders’ money as the price of protecting themselves is a very attractive trade-off. Enforcement authorities like to either collect large fines or be seen as delivering compensation for those who have been victimised by corporate wrongdoing. So they are all too happy to go along. In the process, punishment of individuals who do wrong or who fail in their managerial duty to monitor the behaviour of their subordinates is short-changed. And deterrence is undermined. There is a broader cultural phenomenon here as well. Relative to other countries such as the UK or Japan, the principle that leaders should resign to take responsibility for failure on their watch even when they did not directly do wrong is less established in the US. This is probably an area where we have something to learn..."

  4. Matthew Yglesias: The GOP's political strategy against Obama keeps leading to policies conservatives hate: "Republicans' strategy has been savvy politics, but it's forced them — repeatedly — to accept worse policy outcomes than they otherwise could have obtained. Alleged presidential overreach is largely a mirror-image of systematic congressional underreach... deliberately choos[ing] to leave obtainable policy concessions on the cutting room floor.... The clearest example of obstructionism leading to policy costs is probably the Affordable Care Act. Democrats had the votes to get this done, but the party was plainly desperate for bipartisan cover. In exchange for votes, Republican members of congress could have gotten tort reform or other policy priorities. But they preferred to keep their fingerprints off the bill, even if that meant a policy outcome they liked less. On climate change, Republican behavior was even more counterproductive.... A similar preference for worse policy outcomes has manifested itself through inaction.... Obama, in other words, was offering a real policy concession (entitlement cuts) in exchange for political cover for tax hikes that were going to happen anyway. But Republicans preferred to keep their fingerprints off any kind of action, even if that meant a policy outcome they liked less. These triple-breakdowns of bipartisanship have made Obama a much less popular and successful-looking president.... But... fFor a party driven by a core commitment to low taxes and welfare state rollback, it's a bit odd.... [The Republican] Congress is, itself, violating a basic norm of American politics — the norm that says given a choice between a better policy outcome and a worse one, a legislator should choose the better outcome.... If Republicans wanted more conservative-friendly policy outcomes, they could be getting them. But they prefer more Republican-friendly political outcomes...

  5. Richard Milne: Central banks: Stockholm Syndrome: "When the global financial crisis broke in 2008, Sweden’s central bank seemed to be one of the best-equipped to fight it. The Riksbank was led by Stefan Ingves, a former senior official at the International Monetary Fund whose expertise lay in financial crises and how to avoid them. One of its deputy governors was Lars Svensson, an expert on Japan’s long battle against deflation and a top thinker on monetary policy. With these credentials, the two men seemed ideally suited to guide the Riksbank’s policy through the turmoil.... At first, they found common ground as the Riksbank cut interest rates in 2009 to 0.25 per cent, their lowest level since its founding in 1668. But for the next two years, the duo clashed bitterly.... The Riksbank’s decision in 2010 to start raising rates--an idea Mr Svensson firmly opposed – has transformed the Swedish central bank from a small but respected institution to a cautionary tale for central banks worldwide. 'Sweden has done an experiment the whole world is interested in', Mr Odendahl says. 'What should we do when monetary policy should be accommodative but there are financial risks? The Swedish lesson is that tightening policy prematurely isn’t the answer'."

  6. Ann Marie Marciarille: Missouri State of Mind: The Hidden Co-Pay in Community Based Long Term Care: "Allison Hoffman has an interesting post... I admire... for its discussion of the cost to 'next friends' or caregivers in our increasingly home and family based system of long term care.... 'Hidden co-pay' -- as marvelous as it is -- may not do justice to the real story of the impact of family based and institutionally based long term care on women. One of the  most common nursing home resident stories is one about the institutionalization of a former female caregiver, herself, after all."

Should Be Aware of:


  1. Michael Ignatieff: Advice to Young Liberals: "I may have come into politics with an unacknowledged condescension toward the game and the people who played it, but I left with more respect for politicians than when I went in. The worst of them—the careerists and predators—you find in all professions. The best... a credit to democracy... knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy, knew when to take half a loaf and when to insist on the whole bakery, knew when to trust their own judgment and when to listen to the people.... It is really something in life to be utterly disabused about human motive, venality, capacity for double-crossing, and yet still come to work every day, trying to get something done. Liberalism will become an enclave conviction of a shrinking minority unless those who call themselves liberal reconnect their faith in tolerance, equality, opportunity for all with the more difficult faith in the dirty, loud-mouthed, false, lying business of politics itself. This disdain is cynicism, masking as high principle. The ultimate allegiance of a democratic politician is not to party, not even to principle, but to the venal process called politics. So my final advice is this: Politics is not a vulgar means to a goal, it’s a noble life unto itself, and unless you love it, you can’t do it well. I didn’t get there, but I hope you will."

  2. Adair Turner: Germany’s Secret Credit Addiction: "With recent data showing that German exports fell 5.8% from July to August, and that industrial production shrank by 4%, it has become clear that the country’s unsustainable credit-fueled expansion is ending. But frugal Germans typically do not see it that way. After all, German household and company debt has fallen as a share of GDP for 15 years, and public debt, too, is now on a downward path. 'What credit-fueled expansion?' they might ask. The answer lies in the reality of our interconnected global economy.... Today’s total debt level seems both unsustainable and impossible to reduce without depressing the economy.... This poses two questions to which orthodox economics and conventional policy have provided an inadequate response. First, how can we ensure that economies grow without rapid private credit growth, which leads to crisis and a debt overhang? Second – and the crucial issue today – how can we escape the debt trap in which past credit growth has left us?... Relying solely on ultra-easy monetary policy is dangerous. It encourages excessive financial risk-taking, increases inequality, and can work only by regenerating the rapid private credit growth that got us into this mess in the first place. Relying on competitive exchange rates, meanwhile, is collectively impossible.... We need to stimulate growth and increase inflation without generating higher private or public leverage. The only way to do that is to run increased fiscal deficits, permanently financed by central-bank money..."