Wednesday, April 28, 2010

After Greece?

Portugal? Not yet but the Wall Street Journal reports "Its overall public debt is close to 80% of GDP, while's Greece's surpassed 110% of GDP last year.

The Portuguese government is slated to borrow around €20 billion to €22 billion from bond markets this year, less than half of Greece's borrowing needs". However, give it a few months and a lack of fiscal discipline.

Spain? Now that's a far bigger economy, but it has public debt at lower rates compared to GDP than the UK and France. Its problem is going to be prolonged stagnation, and unemployment at a destabilising 20%. However I wouldn't see it falling before any of the others.

Italy? As the third biggest economy in the Eurozone, this would precipitate a crisis that makes Greece look like a sideshow. Italy has serious problems, as the billionaire halfwit running the place continues to be willfully ignorant of the need to upset people by cutting spending. Italy has public debt proportionately similar to Greece, at well over 100% of GDP. Its most recent sovereign debt issue was only barely adequately covered by subscribers, meaning the next one will have to be at a higher interest rate. It has one saving grace, in that private debt levels are low as Italians have a savings culture stronger than other Eurozone countries. It is this, and the fact Japanese continue to "invest" in their government's sovereign debt, that has saved Japan from collapse (but meant the economy has been zombie like.

Ireland? It has bitten the hard pill of budget cuts, so should be safe but it still has the largest budget deficit of them all, because it decided to nationalise banks. Its recapitalisation of Anglo-Irish Bank has been classified as debt, when before the Irish government wanted to treat it as equity.

What's the verdict overall? Socialism doesn't work. It especially doesn't work if governments promise voters who expect something for nothing, and it shows the enormous damage and the costs imposed by constitutionally unrestrained governments. Governments who can overspend, and effectively issue promissory notes for debt that they issue, but have no means to repay. Governments that ever grow, that constantly offer more and more "freebies" to citizens, that grow the welfare state, that grow the bureaucracy of the unproductive, yet employed.

It is a path to absolute ruin, and it is a path that has been popular in much of Europe for some years, and a path that the UK, the US and New Zealand have also been following. Albeit all of them have had the option of devaluing their currency, effectively stealing from the holders of their currencies (in debt and savings) to enable this sovereign debt cycle to be perpetuated.

Who is accountable? No one. Politicians get 3-5 year bites at power, they get paid (and get opportunities to get paid far more afterwards), they promise to spend other people's money to get power, and the masses like children vote for it, and then wonder like imbeciles when governments eventually tell them the "good times" are over.

When government has unrestrained power to borrow on your behalf, demand you pay for its spending on its behalf, imprison you if you fail to do so, and the only restraint you have is to vote along with millions of others to change the teams, who by and large do the same with different flavours, this is what happens.

Reality evasion on a grand scale.

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