European Central Bank
Tracing Europe’s Long Road to Economic Catastrophe
March 09, 2012
The economic crisis in Europe reached its latest crescendo last night, as Greece managed, through furious last-minute negotiations, to convince its creditors to give it some more breathing room. But if the Greeks have managed to stave off ruin for a few more minutes, nothing has essentially changed in their situation: Their economy is still in shambles. The burning question on most observers’ minds, and rightfully so, is whether the Greeks will ever manage to pay back their debts. But at this stage, it’s also worth considering how we ended up on the precipice of such catastrophe at all.
It’s not yet certain whether European leaders will arrive at an agreement at today’s summit in Brussels, but what’s already clear is that Europe is running out of time. After two years of kicking the can down the road, contagion from the continent’s debt crisis has begun to infect Europe’s core. Indeed, the credit rating agency S&P recently threatened to downgrade the credit ratings of the entire Eurozone due to the increased risk of financial cataclysm.
Why Mario Draghi Has the Hardest Job In the World
November 10, 2011
Running a major central bank is never a particularly easy job. An enormous amount of pressure—the weight of an entire economy—is riding on you. Among your major responsibilities is the job of stomping on an economy when it begins to run too hot, generating economic weakness to defang inflation. You’re rarely given credit for your successes and often blamed for problems of others’ making. Yet most central bankers have it easy compared to Mario Draghi, who last week assumed the job of President of the European Central Bank. Draghi’s situation could scarcely be more difficult.
Italy’s Going Under, But Don’t Blame Berlusconi
November 09, 2011
The eurozone debt crisis simply refuses to go away. Last month’s latest and greatest plan put forward by European leaders has already been judged by financial markets to be insufficient. And while it is political uncertainty in Greece that has thrown the whole process into question, the main victim has actually been Italy; in the days since the rescue package was announced, Italy has found its borrowing costs rising to record levels as investors continue to expect the worst. But why are investors picking on Italy?
As they have with the Great Depression, economic historians will argue for decades about the origins of our current crisis. But, surely, we can agree that the failure of international economic cooperation in the early 1930s—and worse, the sequential adoption of beggar-thy-neighbor domestic policies—made matters worse at a time when enlightened statesmanship could have made them better for everyone. Similarly, the current crisis is not just a U.S. problem or a European problem; it is a global problem that requires a coordinated global response.
Is Italy the Next Greece?
August 09, 2011
While the United States resolved its own (manufactured) brush with default last week, global stocks have continued to slide on the more legitimate threat posed by the sorry fiscal state of several European countries. Greece was the recipient of a major euro zone bailout at the tail end of July—but concerns over its financial stability remain. Spain and Portugal are also facing serious questions, as are Ireland and Iceland.
Goodbye to Berlin
August 30, 2010
In early February, the top financial officials of seven major industrialized countries gathered in Canada to mull the state of the world economy. To grease their interactions, the Canadians had created an intimate setting in Iqaluit, an Inuit town near the Arctic Circle. A planning document waxed on about fireside chats at a cozy inn and decreed that the attire would be casual.
A Reply to Jonathan Chait on Stimulus
August 23, 2010
Jonathan Chait has responded to my post about our lack of knowledge about the practical effects of stimulus spending. He seems to be taking on opinions that aren’t mine. Chait begins his reply by claiming that I “oppose any stimulus at all.” This is a position which I did not present in the post, and which I do not hold. In fact, I have consistently advocated stimulus in the face of the current crisis, and generally in venues that are not as hospitable to this idea as The New Republic.
Greeks Accept Their Newfound Austerity
July 30, 2010
The long, hot Greek summer just got hotter. A strike by fuel tanker drivers has paralyzed the country, stranding tourists, causing food shortages, and leaving 70 percent of gas stations without any gas to pump. In the simplest terms, this is about new austerity measures, in this case, higher fees for truck licenses. But more broadly, it is about the government’s assault on a lifestyle Greeks, rich and poor, have come to take for granted. As one Greek businessman put it to me, "the party’s over." Greece is broke. The signs are big and small.
Krugman’s Tales from the Crypt
July 10, 2010
If repetition doesn’t improve the argument, try escalation. Paul Krugman, Princeton’s Nobel laureate-turned-columnist, has been haranguing the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, to drop their fiscal tightwad act: Don’t cut government spending, keep the deficits rolling.