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Shaky Five
Perspective on the News
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Ed DeShields

Banks and governments of five shaky economies of Europe owe billions.   That debt directly threatens the whole of Europe and the rest of the world indirectly.  Someone will eventually have to pay.  And, you won’t believe whom.

It is very difficult to get your arms around why Europe’s debt problem is so dangerous.   After all, it’s a very complex web of inter-related obligations between banks and sovereignties.  This debt is supported by the core belief that somehow this problem is going to work itself out because our politicians running the Central Banks say so.

The banks that have accounts to protect aren’t talking in fear any negative comment would be akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

To understand the magnitude of the problem you have to break it down into smaller micro-economies to even start to understand it.

Here’s the first layer of a really big, smelly onion.

Europe’s core problem is the debt owed by Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain – to each other and to banks all over Europe.   The key word here is “banks”.   Worse, they owe banks in other countries more money than is possible to repay; much less repay the debt within the Shaky Club of five.  All of this debt has been pledged by taxes collected from its citizen constituency.

The banks, as it turns out, want their money.

Greece owes the banks of Ireland, Italy, Spain and Portugal about US $100 billion.  But it owes the banks of Germany, France and Britain another US $150 billion.

Ireland owes the banks of Shaky Club US $450 billion.  But it owes the banks of Germany, France and Britain another US $400 billion.

Italy owes the banks of Shaky Club US $600 billion.  But it owes the banks of Germany, France and Britain another US $800 billion.

Spain owes the banks of Shaky Club US $600 billion.  But it owes the banks of Germany, France and Britain another US $500 billion.

Portugal owes the banks of Shaky Club US $100 billion.  But it owes the banks of Germany, France and Britain another US $200 billion.

That’s about US $4 trillion for the Shaky Club (alone).   However, a significant portion of this debt will come due as short term obligations are due to be paid.   Repaying these obligations is not possible.

But, from whom will this money come?

First, it will come from the taxpayers in Germany, France and Britain and all the citizens of Europa.   But, that isn’t near enough to pay the bill.

Even the world’s financier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), can’t touch a bail out of that size.

Consequently, sometime in the near future President Obama will join Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC’s) to commit its taxpayers to “help” save Europe’s banks.   It’s the only place on the planet to find $4 trillion in reserves adequate to refinance the debt and accept the losses and stop a global collapse of defaults and bank runs at home.

You can be assured that the BRIC’s are going to want something in return for their money.

So as is usually the case, the U.S. doesn’t discriminate.   President Obama has stepped in with encouragement to the German Chancellor to raid her nation’s taxpayers for the same purpose in true Keynesian style.

President Barack Obama pledged on Tuesday… “U.S. support to help tackle the [European] debt crisis.”  After a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he stressed the importance of German “leadership” on the issue – a hint that he expects Berlin to help – while expressing sympathy for the political difficulties European Union countries face in helping a struggling its member state. 

Note that the Germans, French and Brits aren’t exactly going to roll over to cooperate with the logic of sending good money after bad to the debt offenders of the Shaky Five.

Granted, the story doesn’t have much detail, but it appears that President Obama is willing to sacrifice American taxpayers directly (which is what he means by “on a bilateral basis”) and indirectly (i.e., the reference to “international and financial institutions like the IMF”).  Wink. Wink. 

Further, Mr. Obama said, ”we have pledged to cooperate fully in working through these issues, both on a bilateral basis but also through international and financial institutions like the IMF.”

Remember, all of this debt has been pledged by taxes collected from the world’s citizen constituency and payable to the banks that irresponsibly loaned it.   Welcome to a day-in-the-life of a global citizen!

About Ed DeShields

Last article: After Fukushima

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