The debt crisis in Europe just seems to get worse with each passing day, and it is yet another glaring example of why the EU is a mind blowing failure. The EU is made up of 27 nations that all have their own economic policies, and 17 of those nations are trying to use the euro as a common currency. But when you have 27 different governments pulling in different directions, it is inevitable that there are going to be major problems. The stunt that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou just pulled is a perfect example of the nightmare that the EU has become. European officials worked really hard to pull together a deal to address the debt crisis (of course the deal was a total mess, but that is another matter), and a couple of days later Papandreou decides that Greece should hold a national referendum on it. It is so bizarre that it almost defies words. But that is what happens in the EU. Someone else always wants to have a say. Someone else always wants to throw a fly into the ointment. Someone else always want to throw in their two cents. The EU is a bureaucratic nightmare and this latest episode is yet another example of that fact. First the politicians in Europe come up with an idiotic plan that is going to make the financial crisis much worse, then Papandreou comes forward and pulls a stunt that shatters what little confidence the financial markets still had in Greece. That is why the EU should break up. It is a total failure and it is time that we all admitted it.
Financial markets reacted in horror to the news that Papandreou wants Greece to hold a referendum on the debt deal.
Apparently Papandreou wants the Greek people to willingly choose the harsh austerity measures contained in the package. To be honest, that is not entirely unreasonable considering the tremendous economic damage that austerity measures have already done to the Greek economy.
So if there is a referendum, will the Greeks vote for the package?
That is not at all certain.
As month after month of protests have shown, austerity measures have been extremely unpopular in Greece.
But a lot of Greeks are not too keen on rejecting the bailouts and being forced to leave the euro either.
Both alternatives would be extremely unpleasant.
“We have faith in our citizens, we believe in their judgment and therefore in their decision. All the country’s political forces should support the (bailout) agreement. The citizens will do the same once they are fully informed”
Predictably, global financial markets were shocked by the announcement by Papandreou. The Dow was down another 297 points on Tuesday, and bond yields for the PIIGS shot up significantly.
It really is mind blowing to watch what is happening to some of the bond yields over in Europe.
The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 200 percent. If you want to see what a financial meltdown looks like, just look at this chart.
Most importantly, the yield on Italian bonds continues to surge higher.
The higher those bond yields go, the worse things are going to get for Europe.
And those bond yield are skyrocketing in spite of rampant bond buying by the European Central Bank.
A CNBC article from earlier today noted the extraordinary intervention by the ECB that we are witnessing right now....
“Yesterday we had one of the biggest ever days of peripheral sovereign bond buying from the Securities Market Program, with some banks estimating that over 5 billion euros of peripheral sovereign bonds were purchased via the ECB’s bond buying program in an effort to keep a lid on peripheral sovereign bond yields” said Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London.
Europe is falling apart financially and politicians all over Europe are furious with Papandreou right now. The following comes from an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that was published earlier today....
The Greek referendum – if it is not overtaken by a collapse of the government first – has left officials in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels speechless with rage. The ingratitude of them.
The spokesman of French president Nicolas Sarkozy (himself half Greek, from Thessaloniki) said the move was “irrational and dangerous”. Rainer Brüderle, Bundestag leader of the Free Democrats, said the Greeks appear to be “wriggling out” of a solemn commitment. They face outright bankruptcy, he blustered.
A number of European politicians are warning of severe consequences for Greece. For example, the Finnish minister of European affairs and foreign trade, Alexander Stubb, even declared that if Greek citizens do not vote the right way it will mean an exit from the eurozone for Greece....
"The situation is so tight that basically it would be a vote over their euro membership"
If Greece ends up rejecting the bailout package, it would essentially mean a complete and total debt default by Greece. The following is what Nobel prize-winning economist Christopher Pissarides said about the potential consequences of a "no" vote....
"In the scenario of a 'No' vote Greece would declare bankruptcy immediately, they would default immediately. I can't see them staying within the euro"
But there is no guarantee that a referendum will actually be held. The Greek government has been thrown into a state of chaos and is on the verge of collapse.
To many, it seems more likely that the government will fail and that we will see early elections in Greece. For example, the following is a quote from an anonymous Greek trader that was posted in an article on Business Insider this morning....
I believe the present government will be history by the end of this week. Most probably this evening actually, when the already scheduled emergency cabinet meeting is to be held.
The important question to be resolved is whether the present government will be replaced by an interim national unity government for several months ratifying in parliament the Eurogroup decisions of last week and then proceeding with elections, or else whether national elections will be immediately announced with probable dates the 4th or 11th of December.
But in the final analysis, it is not the Greek government that is the problem.
The reality is that the way the eurozone was constructed was fatally flawed from the very beginning.
It was inevitable that trying to force 17 different countries with 17 different economic policies to use a common currency was going to end up creating a huge mess.
People all over Europe know this is true. Just consider the following quotes....
* Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan, and Larry Hatheway of Swiss banking giant UBS: "Under the current structure and with the current membership, the euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change."
* EU President Herman Van Rompuy: "The euro has never had the infrastructure that it requires."
* Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder: "The current crisis makes it relentlessly clear that we cannot have a common currency zone without a common fiscal, economic and social policy"
* Professor Giacomo Vaciago of Milan's Catholic University: "It's clear that the euro has virtually failed over the last ten years, even if you are not supposed to say that. We pretended to be Germans, but it was an illusion"
So why should those of us living in the United States care about all of this?
Well, it is because a financial collapse in the EU could plunge the entire globe into a horrific economic nightmare.
Today, the EU actually has a larger economy and a larger population than the United States does. The EU also has more Fortune 500 companies that the United States does.
If Europe experiences a financial crash, it is going to send shockwaves to the very ends of the earth.
Another reason why Americans should care is because what is happening right now in Greece, in Italy and in some of these other countries is eventually going to come to the United States.
Just like Greece, we are in debt up to our eyeballs.
Just like Greece, our politicians thought that they could pile up gigantic mountains of debt indefinitely.
Just like Greece, this debt is going to have very, very serious consequences.
Just like Greece, we are going to have mass economic rioting in our streets.
The road that Greece is going down is the exact same road that the United States is going down.
Yes, the Federal Reserve could step in and print up trillions and trillions of dollars, but that would not solve our problems. The truth is that a hyperinflationary crash can be even worse than a deflationary crash.
What is happening in Greece is just the beginning. A bunch of other eurozone nations are also rapidly approaching a date with destiny. At some point the United States is going to experience massive problems as well.
The epicenter for the financial collapse of 2008 was the United States.
The epicenter for the next financial collapse will almost certainly be Europe.
When Europe goes down, the rest of the world will be dragged down with them.
The next wave of the economic collapse is coming.
You better get ready.