Arquivo

Imperialismo

O artigo explica como um media de referência, o New York Times, tem consistentemente produzido uma cobertura mediática da crise do euro, que relata a situação exclusivamente da perspectiva alemã e promove a austeridade.

A luta contra as políticas de austeridade é também uma luta pelo controlo do espaço mediático. É preciso combater os meios de comunicação e forçar a entrada de outras análises e perspectivas na arena política. Este blog tenta dar um modesto contributo na cena portuguesa.

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Publicado originalmente no blog Naked Capitalism e no New Economic Perspectives

Bill Black: New York Times Reporters Embrace the Berlin Consensus and Ignore Krugman and Economics

Yves here. Black does yeoman’s work in describing the bias in the New York Times’ Eurocrisis reporting.

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Cross posted from New Economic Perspectives.

The New York Times’ coverage of the euro zone crisis continues to exhibit two related flaws. First, it is overwhelmingly written from the German perspective – the Berlin Consensus that is driving the crisis. Second, it continues to ignore economics. Paul Krugman, the NYT’s Nobel Laureate in economics, has been explaining the economics of the crisis for years in his weekly NYT column. We know that Berlin either doesn’t read or comprehend what Krugman has been trying to explain, but it is remarkable that so many of the NYT reporters covering the euro zone crisis share their failure to read or comprehend.

A recent example of this pattern is the May 8, 2012 article “German Patience with Greece on the Euro Wears Thin.”

The introductory paragraph establishes that the frame for the article is Berlin’s destructive and warped view of the euro zone crisis.

BERLIN — Just weeks ago, the idea that Greece would leave the euro zone was almost unthinkable. Now, with Greece’s newly empowered political parties refusing to abide by the terms of the country’s international loan agreement and Europe’s leaders talking tough, that outcome is looking increasingly likely.

We should begin with the title of the article. Germany has insisted that Greece follow austerity policies (the Berlin Consensus) that were certain to force Greece into depression. The Berlin Consensus has forced Greece into a depression. The German reaction to the economic catastrophe that it has forced on the Greek people is to be enraged that the Greek people in the recent election rebelled against their leaders who had given in to the German demands that the Greeks be forced into a depression. Greek patience with Germany’s destructive policies, its assaults on Greek sovereignty, and its constant, vitriolic insults of the Greek people has more than worn “thin.”

The Greeks are responding to the failed Berlin Consensus in a manner similar to Latin America’s revolt against the Washington Consensus. The Greek reaction, therefore, was not “almost unthinkable” – it was the typical response of a nation whose leaders caved in to a neoliberal assault on their economy and sovereignty. The NYT reporters get their analytics wrong because they studiously ignore the Greek perspective and refuse to even entertain the question of why anyone would expect a nation to accept being forced by a hostile foreign power into a great depression. As I have argued, the “Occupy” movement in the U.S. should stand in awe of Germany’s reoccupation of Greece. The Greeks have a bitter history of Greek quislings aiding Germany’s World War II occupation, so their rage at their recent leaders’ surrender to German demands is understandably intense.

The Greek reaction would be understandable if the NYT reporters bothered to consider the Greek perspective. Unfortunately, the reporters’ adoption of the German perspective leads them to emulate Berlin’s refusal to consider the Greek perspective. Instead, the reporters’ adopt the German framing of the issue. That framing is that the Greeks are inexplicably “refusing to abide by the terms of the country’s international loan agreement.” The idea that the Greek people should continue to take the Berlin elevator that has plunged their nation into a great depression because their disgraced leaders were coerced into agreeing to a deal that is destroying their nation is insane. Democracy is all about throwing out leaders who have disgraced themselves, crushed the nation’s economy, and cravenly taken orders from a hostile foreign power. The Greeks have done just that. Why would anyone expect the Greeks to continue to follow a suicidal economic policy imposed by Germany? Berlin and the NYT reporters share the bizarre belief that if your coerced leaders sign a suicide pact you have a duty to commit suicide because – a deal is a deal.

The reporters fail to ask why the Greeks object to the deal and why the consequences of the deal would be suicidal for Greece. Instead, they simply assume that Greece should continue a deal.

But the frustration with Greece here is undeniable. There is a growing conviction that it is up to Greece to follow through on its commitments, that Europe is done negotiating.

Germans are now predominantly of the opinion that they would be better off if Greece left the euro zone,’ said Carsten Hefeker, a professor of economics and an expert on the euro at the University of Siegen. ‘If the country really is continuing on the path they are taking now, it would be hard to justify keeping them in. How do you deal with a country that says we don’t want to keep any of the commitments we have made?’

Note the lack of any embarrassing questions by the reporters to Hefeker, who they describe as an expert in the euro. His premise is that if the Greeks refuse to continue to follow a suicidal austerity program mandated by Berlin, if instead they take “the path” of rejecting austerity “it would be hard to justify keeping them in [the euro].” We are back at one of the most disturbing aspects of the Berlin Consensus – the dogma that “there is no alternative” (TINA). Austerity during a recession, much less the great depression levels of unemployment Greece is suffering, deepens the depression and tears the nation apart. Berlin insists that its suicidal policies are the only alternative. Krugman (and many others, including UMKC economists) have been explaining for years why that view is economically illiterate.

The Berlin Consensus has forced the euro zone into recession and thrown the periphery into depression level unemployment. If the reporters had listened to economists they would have responded to Hefeker’s query by reformulating his question. His question invites a follow-up by the reporters: “How do you deal with a country that says we don’t want to keep any of the commitments we have made?” If the “commitments” are suicidal, then the way you deal with Greece’s refusal to commit suicide is to praise it and end the German diktats that have devastated Europe. If Chancellor Merkel gave into foreign coercion and signed an agreement that was suicidal for Germany and the German people threw her out of office through a democratic vote and repudiated the agreement, who believes that Hefeker would urge Germans to commit suicide on the grounds that a deal is deal?

The reporters then note the German praise for Spain’s conservative government because of “the government’s efforts to cut deficits in spite of a contracting economy.” Germany praises the quislings who give in to its coercion and cause their national economy to collapse into great depression levels of unemployment. Germany praises suicidal quislings, but it is venomous in its hate for the Greeks because they have thrown the quislings out of office.

Greece, on the other hand, is roundly criticized for lying about the true state of its finances again and again, before and after joining the euro zone, and its failure to take any of the numerous steps demanded by its creditors to modernize its economy and — a particularly sore point — its tax collections. Its status as a special case is underscored time and again.

I agree that Greece is a special case and that it has greater internal problems of its own making than other nations of the periphery. What isn’t special about Greece, however, is the insanity of Berlin’s demands for austerity in the midst of a recession or depression. Austerity has produced a crisis throughout the euro zone and it has caused a great depression in many nations of the periphery. Most euro zone nations have made false statements about the true state of the economy and budget deficit projections. The central reason the projections proved false is that Berlin insists that austerity will produce recovery, but it actually produces economic losses or even catastrophe. Berlin wants euro zone nations to create their budget deficit estimates on the assumption that austerity will spur economic growth. Using Berlin’s preferred means of projecting budgets deficits has caused virtually every euro zone nation to greatly underestimate the actual budget deficit.

When a nation such as Greece is forced into a great depression its tax revenues fall sharply and the need for public expenditures, e.g., for unemployment payments, grows. The result is that nations do not control their budget deficit. If they adopt austerity they may make the budget deficit even larger. If they raise taxes they reduce private sector demand and if they cut government programs they reduce public sector demand – both of which make the recession worse. My colleague Stephanie Kelton has been very strong in trying to get this basic fact across to the public and policy makers – nations do not control their budget deficits. Austerity does not lead to balancing the budget – it leads to recession and depression. If you hate budget deficits, you should realize that it is recessions that primarily drive budget deficits and that adopting austerity during a recession or the recovery from a recession is what leads to deeper recessions and severe depressions.

The reporters miss all of this (as does Berlin). The reporters then move to options, but the genius of TINA is that there are no options.

But the options are few and unpalatable. One possibility, analysts said, would be for the troika to pay Greece just enough to keep government services running, withholding the rest until the political situation clears up. In what some consider the most likely possibility, the creditors would agree to renegotiate the terms of the bailout and the new Greek government would go along.

But there is also the possibility that the troika will finally refuse to hand over any money whatsoever, something the I.M.F. did a decade ago in Argentina, when Buenos Aires failed to meet its bailout terms. If this happens, many experts say, Europe will be ready.

“Unpalatable” to who – and how did the purported unattractiveness of policy options come to be a “fact”? The reporters present these two paragraphs as facts – not Berlin’s dogma that is economically illiterate and has been falsified by the facts. If Germany stopped demanding austerity the euro zone would not be in recession and the periphery would not be continuing to descend into depression. If the euro zone followed policies to expand employment through increased public sector demand the results would be extraordinarily “palatable.” The German Consensus is catastrophically “unpalatable” – which is why it has consistently led to voter rejection of the quislings who have been coerced into giving in to Berlin’s austerity diktats.

It is unacceptable for reporters from the nation’s top paper to present statements like this as facts. The reporters’ statements about the alternatives are not simply contestable; they are contrary to observed reality and economics. It is deeply disturbing that the reporters covering the euro crisis have adopted the Berlin Consensus and become devotees of cult of austerity, but the newspaper has a duty to prevent them from presenting their dogma as fact.

If the NYT reporters read Krugman (or most any sentient macroeconomist) they will learn that austerity is not the only alternative – it is the worst alternative of those under consideration. If Germany and the European Central Bank (ECB) were to increase public spending Germany and the entire euro zone, indeed, the entire world would be better off. Pushing the euro zone into recession and the periphery into great depressions is terrible for every euro zone nation and imperils the global economic recovery.

The NYT reporters do note the alternative that Greece could withdraw from the suicide pact that Berlin insisted they sign and default on its debts. The article implies that the IMF taught Argentina a lesson when it refused to continue to adhere to the suicide pact the IMF had coerced disgraced Argentine leaders to accept. The implication is that the Argentine option is unpalatable because the IMF cut off of funding results in a disaster in Germany. The facts, however, are inconvenient. First, it was Argentina that told the IMF to go jump into their choice of the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. Second, Argentina’s rejection of the austerity suicide pact worked brilliantly for Argentina and its people – and Argentina’s government has never been cited as an exemplar of good government.

It would be relevant to know why Argentina fell into a depression so severe that the IMF intervened and prescribed its universal snake oil – austerity. Argentina eventually rejected the IMF suicide pact and defaulted on its debt. Argentina was the purported star performer demonstrating the wisdom of the Washington Consensus. Timothy Geithner, in his IMF incarnation (where he was also a policy failure), approved a report entitled “Lessons from the Crisis in Argentina” dated October 8, 1993:

In 2001-02, Argentina experienced one of the worst economic crises in its history.

Output fell by about 20 percent over 3 years, inflation reignited, the government defaulted on its debt, the banking system was largely paralyzed….

The events of the crisis, which imposed major hardships on the people of Argentina, are all the more troubling in light of the country’s strong past performance. Less than five years earlier, Argentina had been widely hailed as a model of successful economic reform….

Argentina was widely considered a model reformer and was engaged in a succession of IMF-supported programs (some of which were precautionary) through much of the 1990s, when many of the vulnerabilities were building up.

Argentina followed the IMF’s Washington Consensus game plan, which plunged it into depression. The IMF told Argentina that a partial bailout and austerity was the answer to depression and the Argentine leaders were desperate enough to agree. I set out below the IMF’s description of what it sought to impose on Argentina. If you know enough to realize its similarity to the troika’s (EU, ECB, and IMF) demands on Greece you may wonder why the troika would repeat the IMF’s failed policies from a decade ago in Argentina. (Hint: recurrent failure is the IMF’s specialty. Failure, therefore, has never led the IMF to change its insistence one size fits all financial suicide pact. Actually, I am being too kind to the IMF. Geithner concluded that the IMF had made mistakes in dealing with Argentina – it had not been draconian enough in insisting on austerity, reduced national debt-to-GDP ratios, and reduced working class wages. As I said in my first column on this subject, citizens that have experienced the tender mercies of the Washington and Berlin Consensus develop a passionate hate of those policies.)

“The program sought to bolster the prospects for economic growth through gradual fiscal consolidation—an increase in the public sector primary surplus to 1½ percent of GDP from about ½ percent of GDP in 2000— with an overall deficit of about 3 percent of GDP—and various structural measures. The consolidation plan was formulated against the backdrop of a new fiscal pact with the provinces and envisaged improvements in tax enforcement. On the structural side, the program aimed at promoting private investment and competition in domestic markets through (inter alia) elimination of tax disincentives, continued implementation of already approved labor market reforms, and deregulation of key sectors….”

The alert reader will not be surprised that austerity did not produce an economic recovery in Argentina.

The attempts at strengthening the public finances failed, however, to break the cycle of rising interest rates, falling growth, and fiscal underperformance. Financial markets initially responded positively to the revised program, but already by mid-February, it became evident that the fiscal deficit was about to exceed the agreed ceiling for the first quarter. Moreover, following the resignation of the finance minister, his successor was forced out of office in less than two weeks as his planned budgetary cuts and reform measures failed to find the necessary political backing.

As always, austerity failed to deliver its promised economic benefits and produced a political backlash among the citizenry that realized that austerity was a suicide pact imposed by a hostile neo-colonial power.

Geithner predicted that Argentina’s default and anti-austerity response would make it extraordinarily difficult for Argentina to recover.

Looking forward, the country faces enormous challenges not only in restoring macroeconomic stability but also in re-establishing the pre-eminence of contracts, property rights and economic security that has been damaged by the government’s defaulting on its debt and reneging on its convertibility commitment. Damage both to the balance sheets and to the credibility of the banking system also needs to be repaired. While the devaluation has addressed immediate concerns about competitiveness, one troubling aspect of the performance of the Argentine economy was that, even during its boom years, 1991-98, unemployment remained persistently high, underscoring the need for reforms of the labor market and for other improvements in economic institutions and structures that foster a more dynamic private sector.

[T]here needs to be a fundamental rethinking of the role of the state—not least, in the relations between the federal government and the provinces, and the size and cost of the civil service—if expenditure is to be commensurate with revenues.

The IMF was writing about an Argentina in a severe recession, but Geithner’s report stressed that the IMF’s primary concern was the need to re-establish: “the pre-eminence of contracts, property rights and economic security….” “Reforms of the labor market” is code for cutting working class wages. The IMF answer to severe unemployment is to add to it by firing public workers. The needs of the Argentine people were not even tertiary to the IMF. The IMF, Washington, D.C., and Berlin are always amazed that the citizens of the nations they assault figure out that their welfare is irrelevant and become enraged at those that inflict the suicide pact.

Actually, the Geithner report did reach one sound conclusion. Unfortunately, Berlin has ignored it.

With regard to crisis resolution, the Argentine crisis illustrates the importance of timely debt restructuring in cases in which the debt dynamics have become irreversible. Once a debt restructuring has become unavoidable, measures to delay it are likely to raise the costs of the crisis and further complicate its resolution.

Berlin has mastered the art of forcing the periphery to twist slowly in the wind while being subjected to constant insults. Everyone suffers from Berlin’s passive aggressive assault on the periphery. Berlin, however, finds it politically and personally desirable to put a boot on the throat of the nations of the periphery and squeeze until quislings emerge to do Berlin’s bidding.

The 1993 Geithner report about Argentina reached another interesting conclusion that the IMF and Berlin failed to follow when dealing with the current crisis.

An important consideration that has to guide the Fund’s decision-making process and that was clearly underscored by the Argentine experience is that, in a situation in which the debt dynamics are clearly unsustainable, the IMF should not provide its financing. To the extent that such financing helps stave off a needed debt restructuring, it only compounds the ultimate cost of such a restructuring.

Greece’s “debt dynamics are clearly unsustainable” but the devotees of the cult of austerity are late to see this fact because they believe that austerity spurs economic growth. If austerity spurs economic growth then debt dynamics are rarely unsustainable. As the nation reduces spending the economy expands, which increases tax revenues, which allows the nation to achieve a budgetary surplus. Similarly, the IMF and Berlin assume that if a nation cuts working class wages during a recession it will increase exports and run a trade surplus that will provide funds it can use to pay down its sovereign debt. The IMF and Berlin do not understand that sharply reducing working class wages during a recession can cause already inadequate private sector demand to fall and deepen the recession. The result of believing in what Krugman aptly labels the “Confidence Fairy” is that it leads you to believe financial fairy tales in which austerity allows nations to recover from even severe debt crises – even when (like Argentina and the euro zone) they lack a true sovereign currency. This causes Berlin and the IMF to continuously fail to realize that debt has become unsustainable in nations that lack a sovereign currency. The Geithner report admits aspects of this problem.

Growth projections were a central element in the failure of many interested parties—including the authorities, the Fund, and market participants—to identify the vulnerabilities that were building up during the boom years of the 1990s. During that period, Argentina’s growth projections were based on what was, in hindsight, an overly favorable reading of the benefits of the structural reforms that had taken place and prospects that further reforms would be implemented. This experience calls for a careful and critical assessment of the links between structural reforms and growth, both in the context of work on individual countries and in cross-country analysis.

Sadly, it is impossible for the IMF or Berlin to undertake “a careful and critical assessment” of a core dogma. That is the nature of dogma. The result is recurrent error.

The IMF was relying on austerity to summon the “confidence fairy” and produce a miraculous Argentine recovery. David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) authored an excellent report on Argentina (Political Forecasting? The IMF’s Flawed Growth Projections for Argentina and Venezuela) in April 2007.

‘The Argentine authorities were committed to fiscal tightening, including ‘a freeze on nominal primary spending at all levels of government, and by deepening the proposed reform of the social security system’ and the Fund staff expressed satisfaction. According to their report in the Second Review the staff insisted, ‘this strategy is appropriate, and deserves the increased financial support of the international community.’

On the basis of the optimistic projections for economic growth, the Fund pushed for deeper reforms including more fiscal tightening, privatization, and deregulation aimed at restoring market confidence. In January of 2001, First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer stated, ‘Market reactions to the program and recent external developments have been positive: spreads on Argentine bonds and domestic interest rates have declined significantly in recent weeks and the stock market has rebounded strongly. These developments bode well for a recovery of confidence and economic activity in the period ahead.’

Even the IMF’s internal review found that the IMF took actions that could succeed only if confidence played a magic role. The confidence fairy, of course, never appeared.

In 2004, the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) would report on the Second Review declaring that the ‘[p]rogram design was highly optimistic’ based in large part on overly optimistic assumptions and inconsistent program projections. The IEO even pointed to a lack of ‘serious analysis of exchange rate sustainability.’ Subsequent decisions by the IMF to provide further loans in May and then September 2001, despite ‘increasing recognition that Argentina had an unsustainable debt profile, an unsustainable exchange rate peg, or both’ were made ‘on the basis of largely noneconomic considerations and in hopes of seeing a turnaround in market confidence and buying time.’

Once Argentina defaulted, the IMF expressed its desire to see the nation “suffer.”

In January, Stanley Fischer’s replacement, Anne Krueger, wrote in El Pais, ‘Defaults are always painful, for debtors and creditors alike. And so they should be. Countries – just like companies and individuals – should honor their debts and suffer when they fail to do so.’

What is clear is that the IMF did not approve of Argentina’s actions. Dawson expressly linked the lack of financial assistance to specific policy actions on the part of the Argentine government.

Before lending resumes, it is expected that Argentina will move to establish an internationally recognized insolvency regime and deal with the economic subversion law, which allows for arbitrary official actions against business. The authorities also must address the provincial governments’ spending and issuance of alternate “currencies.” To date, these and other necessary reforms have not been put in place, and so… no financial assistance has been offered.

‘The Fund is also concerned about the rule of law in Argentina,’ Dawson wrote. However, the very next day, the democratically elected President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela was overthrown in a military coup. On April 12, the day after the coup, Dawson noted that the IMF was already in Caracas to conduct an annual review. ‘And we hope that these discussions could continue with the new administration, and we stand ready to assist the new administration in whatever manner they find suitable.’ Chávez was returned to power a day later, after most Latin American governments refused to recognize the dictatorship, and after massive street protests by Venezuelans.

So what happened to Argentina after it defaulted, the IMF withdrew all aid, and Argentina adopted policies that Geithner claimed made its recovery extraordinarily unlikely? For the reasons I have explained, the IMF consistently overestimated how well the Argentine economy would perform under its Washington Consensus policies. “In Argentina, the IMF overestimated GDP growth for 2000, 2001, and 2002 by 2.3, 8.1, and 13.5 percentage points respectively.”

Once Argentina decided to default on its debt and break with the suicide pact demanded by the IMF, the IMF’s economic projection errors continued – but reversed their direction.

The direction of International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasting errors was reversed after Argentina rejected the IMF suicide pact.

Argentina’s default on its public debt at the end of 2001, and the subsequent collapse of its currency. Then the IMF began underestimating the strength of Argentina’s economic recovery. As shown in Table 1, the WEO estimates for the four years 2003 through 2006 came in low by 7.8, 5.0, 5.2, and 4.3 percentage points respectively.

Argentina’s recovery, which Geithner had dismissed as next to impossible given its break with the policies mandated by the IMF suicide pact, proved extraordinary.

In December 2002, with the economy eight months into an economic recovery, the IMF staff wrote that “[f]inalizing an economic program that could be supported by the international community is an essential first step to putting Argentina on a path to recovery.” Even later, in April 2003, the IMF’s Director of Research called Argentina’s growth “a hiatus at the moment from its long economic fall.” Argentina has now completed a five year economic expansion with the fastest growth in the Western Hemisphere, with real GDP (adjusted for inflation) growth of 47 percent.

To sum it up, Argentina’s experience demonstrates one of the most palatable alternatives to Berlin’s insistence that the periphery accept a suicide pact of austerity-driven severe depression. The NYT reporters wrote about Argentina in a manner that deliberately gave the opposite impression.

The reporters end their article by channeling Berlin at is most arrogant.

Mr. Dieter said: “The mood in German government circles has become a little less enthusiastic, to put it mildly. Just last Friday, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on the record that membership in the European Union is not compulsory, it’s voluntary, and Greek society has a choice.” He added, “I think this is a good reflection of the changing mood of German policy makers.”

“You can’t be a member of the club and disregard the rules,” he said.

Berlin’s way or the autobahn! The nations of the periphery cannot follow “the rules.” Berlin’s insistence that they do so has forced them into depression. No nation in the periphery should be trying to follow Berlin’s suicide pact. Euro zone nations cannot insure that they follow “the rules” and their attempt to do so is what has thrown the euro zone back into recession, has casued revenues to fall and expenses to rise, which has caused almost every euro zone nation to violate “the rules.” Again, a nation does not have the ability to simply make a “choice” as to whether it runs a budget surplus. Attempting to run a surplus can trigger and intensify recessions and cause enormous budget deficits. Germany and France have violated the oxymoronic “Growth and Stability Pact.” The Pact produces shrinking economies and economic crises. As the Pact threw the euro zone back into recession Berlin insisted on making the Pact more suicidal. Greece should withdraw from the euro, but the euro zone must abandon its worship of the failed austerity dogma and its endless wait for the confidence fairy.

Another team of NYT reporters wrote a slightly better article on May 8, 2012 about the financial crisis, but they too began from the TINA premise, as their title reveals: “Few Options if Europe Turns Away From Austerity.”

The authors acknowledge that austerity is counter-productive.

The situation in Europe represents a conundrum for investors who generally recognize that the cuts that have been made in recent months by countries like Italy, Spain and Greece have caused their economies to shrink.

That is a good start to an article and, logically, the admission should call for an urgent rejection of austerity. The reporters, however, do not seem to understand that a counter-productive policy cannot be the preferable policy. Instead, the reporters seem to imply that a counter-productive policy might be desirable.

‘It’s very easy to abandon austerity measures because they are painful things to do,’ said Otis Casey, the head of fixed-income research at Markit. ‘It is much tougher to figure out how to grow economies.’

Those statements are incoherent. It should in fact be “easy to abandon” a counter-productive policy like austerity. The use of the word “painful” causes the incoherence. Lancing a boil is painful, but essential to healing. The problem with austerity for nations that are in recession or seeking to recover from recessions is not that it is “painful”, but that it is counter-productive. That is why it represents the same kind of disastrous treatment as bleeding patients. The first thing to do when one finds oneself in a hole is to stop digging. So the first answer to the problem of recessions is to not make it worse by adopting austerity. It is not “much tougher to figure out” that counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary policies are superior. Economists have understood for over a half-century the desirability of creating automatic stabilizers. The Berlin Consensus has created automatic destabilizers via austerity.

The article then descends into total incoherence by embracing TINA.

Foreign investors, who are still an important source of funding for the French bond market, are closely watching to see whether Mr. Hollande hews more closely to his more strident campaign rhetoric or to an official platform that actually called for cuts to France’s deficit, just more slowly than had been planned.

‘He needs to realize that he has very limited room to maneuver,’ said Jurgen Odenius, the chief economist at the fixed-income division of Prudential. ‘If he goes out of his room to maneuver, the markets will push back.’

The NYT journalists characterize Hollande’s statements criticizing the Berlin Consensus because it prescribes austerity for recessions as “strident campaign rhetoric.” That is a phrase that implies that the policy is extreme, unsound, and advanced solely for base political reasons. But the reporters know better, or at least they did four paragraphs earlier when they conceded that austerity was counter-productive. Hollande’s statements opposing Berlin’s counter-productive insistence on austerity that threw the euro zone back into recession and the periphery into depression were correct. In those statements, Hollande was speaking sound economics and policy. The proponents of austerity are the folks who rely on “strident campaign rhetoric” and ignores the facts that that their predictions that austerity will lead to recovery have repeatedly proven false and that they offer no coherent theory of why austerity would lead to recovery. “Strident” accurately captures the virulent nature of the Berlin Consensus’ rhetoric.

It is true that Hollande’s statements about austerity are incoherent. He has called for balancing the budget – eventually. That position is not sound economics, but it is a vastly less counter-productive policy than Berlin’s. Hollande (and the entire euro zone) “needs to realize” that it is the Stability and Growth Pact, the structure of the euro, and the limited role of the ECB combine to expose euro zone nations to the bond vigilantes. None of those exposures support adopting counter-productive policies that cause economic catastrophe. The exposures to the bond vigilantes tell us where the design flaws are in the euro zone are that the euro zone should be fixing. If Berlin is telling us that the euro, the Stability and Growth Pact, and the ECB are designed so badly that TINA arises and forces the euro zone to adopt the counter-productive policies that have forced the euro zone back into recession and the periphery into depression, then Berlin is telling us that the system must be immediately reformed or ended.

The reporters who wrote this second article also fail to realize that they are making purported statements of fact that are anti-facts. This sentence assumes that that imposing austerity on nations in recession leads to balanced budgets and reduced debt. “Beyond France, Mr. Hollande has advocated for a revision to the European fiscal compact, which would move the countries toward balanced budgets and less debt.” I hope that by now the reader spots the error in that sentence. The reporters present as fact the false claim that the Pact “would move the countries toward balanced budgets and less debt.” The Pact’s mandated austerity, as the reporters said in the seventh paragraph, “caused their economies to shrink.” It is a dangerous illusion to believe that a nation controls its budget deficit. The Pact mandates a pro-cyclical fiscal policy that makes recessions and depressions more likely and more severe. The Pact does not “move the countries toward balanced budgets and less debt.” It does the opposite.

Another example of this most basic of economic errors was presented uncritically by the reporters.

Dennis Snower, president of the Institute for World Economics in Kiel, Germany, argues that Spain and most European countries could still tap financial markets for more money if they adopted constitutional pledges to run budget surpluses in good times.

The pledge would have to be written in stone, he said. Mr. Snower argued that one reason German borrowing costs are near record lows is because the country has already adopted such a constitutional amendment.

With the exception of Greece, it would work for everyone,’ Mr. Snower argued.

No, it would not work for everyone. Indeed, it would not work reliably for anyone. Running material budget surpluses “in good times” is an excellent means of producing “bad times” (recessions). There is nothing virtuous about running budget surpluses. Governments are not like households. My colleague Randy Wray has a number of articles explaining this point. The United States and Japan “borrowing costs are near record lows.” Neither mandates budget surpluses and both have debt-to-GDP ratios far in excess of Germany’s.

Para quem tiver tempo, deixamos aqui uma conferência sobre a desculpa de “intervenções humanitárias” para lançar guerras de agressão e extracção de recursos não consensual em países estrangeiros pelas potências ocidentais.

O vídeo tem 2h30m em total. Aconselhamos em particular a secção de Glenn Greenwald, que começa ao minuto 57 e 40 segundos.

Resumo (em inglês):

the discourse over humanitarian intervention has often overlooked the more unsavory aspects of liberal thought and Western power politics. This panel will explore the fundamental problems concerning Neo-Liberalism and its connections to the development of Neo-Orientalist thought. The panel will begin with Professor Pitts providing the historical foundations of liberal thought and its relationship with the colonialist ventures of Western European nations; Professor Bassiouni will then discuss the development of international law in the post-World War era and its use as an instrument to advance the strategic goals of great powers of the Cold War Era; Mr. Greenwald will then contextualize the use of international law and humanitarian intervention to justify U.S. involvement in foreign countries, especially in the Middle East, as well as advance U.S. geo-political strategy in the post-Cold War Era; and it will conclude with a discussion by Professor Ramadan on the academic study of Orientalism, the rise of Neo-Orientalism in conjunction with Neo-Liberalism, and influence of Neo-Orientalist thought in the formation of Neo-Liberalism and political policies towards the Middle East and beyond.

 

Neste artigo limitar-me-ei a dar o palco ao Sr. Michael Hudson, professor de economia na Universidade do Missouri (Kansas City), um dos poucos centros académicos nos Estados Unidos a tentar incluir no debate sobre a crise actual a Modern Monetary Theory, cujos princípios são em muito contrários à banha de cobra que o neoliberalismo, através do FMI, da Comissão Europeia e  do BCE, quer impôr na Europa.

Michael Hudson está também associado ao Levy Institute of Economics (já referenciado neste blog) da Universidade Bard (2 horas a norte de Nova Iorque), e que se distingue por um pensamento económico ligeiramente mais progressivo do que as correntes que dominam os discursos oficiais.

Temos então dois vídeos sobre o tema da escravatura da dívida e expropriação:

1. Nesta entrevista, Michael Hudson explica como as políticas da troika se destinam a proteger a posição dos dententores de capital (sector bancário de investimento) em relação ao resto da população, resultando numa redistribuição de riqueza de baixo para cima da pirâmide social. Analisa os particulares da situação europeia e dos PIIGS e compara-a com anexação territorial e ocupação militar, já para não dizer roubo. Uma das ideias chaves é que a austeridade resulta num falhanço inevitável nas metas de consolidação fiscal e orçamental, o que “obrigará” os Estados a alienar património a preços de pechincha (TAP, EDP, Águas e Saneamento, etc etc etc).

2. Este vídeo é a palestra que Michael Hudson deu recentemente em Berlim. Nos primeiros dez minutos faz uma resenha da actual resposta política e económica que tende a piorar a situação (expropriação da população para pagar aos bancos) e dá 3 possíveis e simples soluções para travar o sistema oligárquico sob o qual vivemos hojem em dia no mundo ocidental.

Finalmente, para os mais interessados, podem ler o paper que está na base desta palestra neste link.

Como exemplo da vida real do que as palestras em cima explicam, vejam este vídeo do despejo de um casal de idosos na Irlanda pelo Anglo Irish Bank, por falta de pagamento do empréstimo à habitação. Agora, levem em consideração que o Anglo Irish Bank foi resgatado pelo governo irlandês usando o dinheiro dos contribuintes, mais precisamente 34 biliões de euros. De uma forma sádica, e no que é praticamente um assalto à mão armada (pela polícia, pelo Estado e pelo banco), este casal de idosos é expropriado da sua casa por um banco que ajudaram a salvar com os seus impostos!

O Romântico Euro
O Romântico Euro

A Situação

A Austeridade é uma política pública desastrosa. A taxa de desemprego europeia (na zona euro) está em 10.8%. O que corresponde a um recorde de 13 anos e a um total de 17.1 milhões de desempregados. Nas economias germânicas, Austria e Alemanha, a taxa anda nos valores mais baixos (4% e 6% respectivamente), enquanto que nos países PIIGS, que estão activamente a implementer medidas de repressão financeira, a taxa de desemprego está dos 15% para cima. Leve-se ainda em consideração que há muitos sinais suspeitos que fraude nos números de desemprego é generalizada e existe até na Alemanha (ver este artigo).

Desemprego na Zona Euro

Os doutores da austeridade irão argumentar que isso se deve à falta de competitividade das economias do sul. E até pode ser, em termos de indicadores económicos. Mas as razões vão mais fundo. Como Richard Seymour argumentou no artigo que aqui re-publicámos, a situação actual de produtividade revela um canibalismo intraeuropeu em que a Alemanha (e potências associadas) cresce à custa das economias mais fracas, numa tendência que começou mais visivelmente nos anos 90 quando a Alemanha tomou medidas para suprimir salários (baixar os custos) e a procura interna (mantendo a inflação em baixo, logo os custos macroecómicos) e reorientar a produção, não para consumo interno, mas para os mercados de exportação.

Isto são precisamente o tipo de políticas económicas que o Passos defende e que a Merkel dita. O objectivo da Austeridade é reprimir as economias. O problema é que não há necessariamente crescimento, nem a longo prazo. Porque a Alemanha precisa de usar o instrumento da dívida de países como Portugal para financiar a procura externa dos seus mercados de exportação. E usar a dívida permanente como instrumento de controlo político significa que Portugal não se consegue livrar da escravatura da dívida que lhe é imposta, assegurando um futuro brilhante e expansionário à economia alemã (â custa de Portugal e outros PIIGS).

E a curto prazo, como já temos batido constantemente na tecla, a austeridade conduz à contracção acelerada da economia com contracção imediata do PIB e aumento dos níveis de privação da maioria da população, porque o Estado está basicamente a tirar riqueza de circulação e distribuição (ou melhor, a tirar riqueza e a distribuir para cima, em vez de para baixo, da pirâmide social).

E se prova querem de que esta crise austeritária se trata realmente da Alemanha a tomar controlo da zona euro e respectivas economias para seu benefício, só há que ver, por exemplo, o que aconteceu recentemente. O primeiro ministro grego já pôs na mesa a hipótese de um 3º resgate, porque as eleições estão aí à porta, e é preciso que os alemães façam chover dinheiro para garantir que um governo amigável e pró-colonial seja eleito. Entretanto, possivelmente, as exigências austeritárias sobre a Grécia vão diminuir e o dinheiro (ou parte dele) do resgate será colocado numa conta segregada, à qual o governo grego não terá acesso, e que servirá para pagar imediatamente aos credores (leia-se bancos alemães que financiam a procura externa à indústria alemã, bancos franceses e o BCE).

Germany, after ‘trapping’ many countries in the e-Zone ignored their situation while Germany continues to post increasingly lower-than-required rates of inflation as many in EMU ahve run higher rates. As a result of this, there is a huge competitiveness conundrum in the Zone. It seems to have been engineered by Germany-and they are great engineers. (…)

What allows the US to to maintain a union that has areas of vastly different real income, property values, etc, is its fiscal transfer system. Germany instead of dealing with today’s issues, and assisting with development (instead of just bail-out bucks) wants to roll the clock back and set up what I have called a Bento-box view of Europe in which GERMANS will be made safe as each member of EMU will have its own mandated balanced budget and will be put in a Germanic-like straight jacket of fiscal responsibility. Hey that sounds like fun!

The Euro zone is NOT the German Zone. It was not formed and does not exist for the benefits of Germans. But as Germany is in a position of power it is now trying to bend every EMU nation to its way of doing things. This widespread use of austerity is foolishness. You may denigrate ‘Keynesianism’ a term that is such a cartoon and straw-man that it has no meaning, but austerity in the midst of recession is tomfoolery!

If policy were geared for the average EMU country the Zone would be quite different. But it is not; it is geared for Germany making everyone else much worse off relative to Germany. Instead of having a zone with most members tightly clustered around the average with Germany and Greece as outliers we have a policy that is being run for one extreme of the Zone – Germany! (Zero Hedge)

Eis o mesmo tema abordado em entrevista ao Francisco Louçã na Real News Network, fazendo a ligação também aos interesses financeiros-banqueiros e de como a dívida é uma forma de escravatura moderna (em Inglês):

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Uma possível solução usando a Modern Monetary Theory

O Instituto Levy de Economia da Universidade de Bard (EUA) publicou um pequeno paper publicitanto uma ideia nova: Títulos de dívida pública que, caso o Estado não possa pagar de volta, se transformam automaticamente em créditos fiscais. Ou seja, se eu tiver  100 euros em títulos de dívida pública e tenho que pagar 150 euros de imposto este ano, posso usar os meus títulos para amortizar essa dívida, ficando apenas a dever 50 euros ao Estado a ser pagos de forma tradicional (via transferência monetária).

Este conceito está alicerçado no facto de que o que dá valor ao dinheiro de papel hoje em dia, em que já não existe o padrão-ouro, é:

  1. a capacidade do Estado em recolher impostos. Ou seja, o valor de uma nota está garantido pela capacidade de taxação e não por directa associação a nenhum recurso raro e preciso (o ouro).
  2. A possibilidade de pagar esses mesmos impostos usando a moeda de papel reforça o seu valor monetário (uma lógica ligeiramente circular, mas é tema para outra discussão)

Assim, os títulos de dívida publica transformar-se-iam numa forma parelela de moeda, permitindo basicamente aos PIIGS emitir moeda de novo sem sair da zona euro e dando-lhes mais instrumentos para se financiarem a curto prazo. Os problemas estruturais continuariam, mas pelo menos haveria espaço para considerar políticas alternativas e atenuar o impacto da crise na população. A questão é se a Alemanha permitirá este esquema. Se este sistema funcionasse, a Alemanha perderia de imediato muito do seu poder, se bem que a curto prazo isso permitir-lhe-ia continuar a usufruir de um mercado de exportação rechonchudo.

O artigo explicando os pormenores desta proposta pode ser lido aqui.

Links

Para quem ache que a Grécia está a roubar demasiada atenção a Portugal nesta crise de dívida externa, alegre-se! Chegou a altura de Portugal

 As taxas de juto exigidas por potenciais compradores a de dívida pública portuguesa a 10 anos estão em quase 13%, mais ou menos o dobro a que estavam faz agora um ano (Março 2011). A Espanha, por comparação, tem agora as ditas taxas a mais ou menos 3,5%. E é suposto ser também um país em crise.

Ora, o que isto significa é que a malta que tem dinheiro (principalmente os bancos europeus que receberam dinheiro à borliu do Banco Central Europeu) recusam-se a investir em títulos de dívida portuguesa porque acham que o país vai cair na banca rota mais cedo que tarde. E não há medida nenhuma de austeridade que ajude o Passinhos a fingir que está a resolver seja o que for. Só está a piorar a situação. Deve ser uma estratégia para reduzir o valor nominal dos bens a privatizar – fazer a alienação de Portugal a preços de pechincha na feira da ladra.

 Segundo Edward Hugh, autor de frequentes análises macroenómicas bem fundamentadas em dados númericos e economista de referência no mundo internauta, Portugal tem basicamente uma dívida pública e privada astronómica que não consegue pagar com o crescimento de caracol que tem (e que a austeridade transformou em recessão e crescimento negativo). Se não há crescimento não há criação de riqueza suficiente para pagar as dívidas acumuladas tanto no sector privado (através de lucros) como no sector público (através de impostos).

 Tal como 1+1=2, o que resulta do acima dito é que portugal vai à bancarrota. A data prevista de momento é setembro de 2013, altura em que o país tem pagar de volta 9.3 biliões de euros (9.3 mil milhões, ou 930 000 000 000) aos seus credores de uma só assentada.

 A situação em 2011 só foi salva pela transferência dos fundos de pensão do sector bancário para as contas públicas, mas isso foi um truque que não se poderá repetir. Sem isso, a performance austeritária do Passinhos teria sido bastante pior, e o FMI está bem ciente disso. 

That is to say the Fund has a double role here – to talk the efforts of the Portuguese administration up before the world’s press, and to try and keep the politicians in line in the background.

 O que se está a passar, muito provavelmente, é que a depressão causada pela austeridade vai afectar a criação de lucro e receita fiscal, tornando-se impossível atingir os níveis de receita previstos para um certo défice, levando por isso o Governo a implementar mais cortes (austeridade), numa espiral suicida da economia e do país. E mesmo assim os tais alvos de défices não serão atingidos. Portugal irá à falência.

 Mas a sitação não se trata apenas através do lado da receita. O nosso querido Estado de mercados livres conseguiu em 2011 gastar mais do que o previsto em empresas estatais e nas famosas parcerias público privadas. Ou seja, pode-se cortar na pensão dos reformados, mas mantêm-se os subsídios à grande e à francesa para os amigos empresariais e para coisas como a Lusoponte, que recebeu “dupla creditação” pelas portagens de Agosto de 2011. Como indicação Hughes calcula que o Estado português tem uma exposição à dívida das PPP de 14% do PIB e que todos os anos gasta 1% do PIB a pagar as taxas de juros das dívidas das PPP. Junta-se o insulto à injúria! Obrigado, Passinhos!

 Assim, a situação não está mesmo nada boa para 2012. Estimativas apontam que a economia privada em Portugal em 2011 gerou uma dívida privada de 3.5% do PIB (possivelmente semelhante em 2012) ao que se deverá acrescentar o estimado bailout do sector financeiro português (chamado de recapitalização) para 2012 de 4.7% do PIB!!!

 Que grande forrobodó!

 As perspectivas a longo prazo também não são melhores. A economia portuguesa tem estado em decadência faz 10 anos, as previsões do FMI não são melhores a longo prazo com médias de 2% de crescimento, temos uma população a envelhecer e os jovens a emigrar por causa da crise. De uma forma inesperada, Hughes mostra como a Hungria já implementou todas as medidas de supressão salarial no sector público que Portugal está agora a implementar e que isso teve impacto zero no crescimento (possivelmente porque reduzir os salários dos empregados públicos em nada melhora a “produtividade” da indústria e exportações portuguesas, ao mesmo tempo que reduz procura interna). De qualquer forma, da nossa perspectiva é errado baixar salários para aumentar competitividade, numa corrida para o fosso entre nações em crise, enquanto se preservam lucros de grandes empresas e mafias partidárias.

A conclusão é que o país está agora no ínicio de uma década deflacionária, com queda de rendimentos e níveis de vida. Quando Portugal emergir da crise daqui a 10 anos será em geral um país consideravelmente mais pobre e provavelmente com possibilidades de crescimento limitadas. E se hoje em dia já não é rico…

 Entretanto, na Grécia, continua a ocupação Alemã:

Lucas Papademos in place and have him “request” that Germany reoccupy Greece. Papademos is not elected. He is in power because his elected predecessor, George Papandreou, announced that Greece would hold a plebiscite on whether to agree to the terms of a deal on Greece’s sovereign debt that would have the effect of surrendering Greece’s remaining sovereignty and consigning the Greek people to an even deeper depression. The inevitable German reaction to the plebiscite was: Democracy in Greece – inconceivable! Germany threatened to destroy Greece’s economy if there were a plebiscite. Germany’s extortion led to the collapse of Papanderou’s elected government and Papademos’ appointment as Greece’s de facto prime minister.

 Vale a pena ler o artigo inteiro que analise a crise europeia a partir da Modern Monetary Theory (uma espécie de neo-keynesianismo), que é neste momento a maior e melhor alternativa aos dogmas económicos de Bruxelas e Berlim e uma possível arma de libertação nacional.

Fontes e Links EconoMonitor & Zero Hedge & Naked Capitalism

PS: Outro PIIG a sair-se mal com a austeridade e com a autosabotagem económica é a Irlanda.

PPS (Conselho): Esta é uma boa altura de correr ao vosso banco e perguntar aos servos-da-finança que aí trabalham como podem aplicar o vosso dinheiro (se tiverem algum) em ouro de investimento. É isso que os bancos centrais do mundo estão a fazer, porque já ninguém acredita muito em dinheiro feito de papel. E agora é uma boa altura porque os preços do ouro caíram ligeiramente. Parece ser uma das poucas formas existentes de preservar as poupanças, se as tiverem!

Crisis of Capitalism

Este pequeno artigo é uma tradução-paráfrase-resumo do original em inglês, publicado no blog Pink Scare. O original é uma discussão da definição do conceito de imperialismo, baseado nas ideias de Lenine, e pretende servir como um quadro de análise, ou como ponto de refência teórica, para perceber o que se passa no mundo: usando este conceito, o leitor poderá aventurar-se na interpretação de acontecimentos recentes (austeridade, guerra no iraque, guerra em qualquer lado) munido de uma base de análise que lhe permitirá ver a dimensão macro de diversos fenómenos político-económicos. Aconselha-se a leitura do original para não perder nenhuma nuance da definição.

  • O imperialismo é uma relação de dominação de um Estado mais forte sobre um Estado mais fraco, que involve exploração (extracção de mais valias sem justa recompensa), e que resulta numa constante luta pela divisão do globo em “zonas de influência”.
  • O imperialismo resulta da estrutura e organização capitalista da economia mundial e não pode deixar de existir enquanto essas condições se mantenham. Esta dinâmica está relacionada com o facto de a actividade económica tender para a acumulação de riqueza em alguns centros sistémicos (mundo actual, USA+Europa, com potências satélite como a Rússia). Esses centros de acumulação de riqueza entram em fricção mútua pelo controlo sobre pessoas e recursos e, consequentemente, de mais acumulação e meios de acumulação. Neste sistema, quem perde o poder de acumular sai da corrida e perde influência. Daí que a luta pelo maior PIB é hoje em dia uma obsessão e um valor de um país é medido na percentagem de quanto consegue fazer o dito crescer.
  • Esta relação simbiótica de capitalismo e imperialismo pode ser descrita com o seguinte esquema:  1) A concentração do capital e da produção dão origem a grandes conglomerados (monopólios, cartéis, oligopólios, etc) que se tornam pedras angulares da vida económica. 2) A expansão exponencial do sector financeiro através da fusão funcional entre bancos e companhias de produção industrial o que conduz ao 3) crescimento acentudo na exportação e globalização do capital (por oposição a simples produtos industrias prontos a consumir). Esta internacionalização conduz à 4) criação de conglomerados internacionais, que se 5) empenham na divisão territorial do mundo, através da competição, de forma a controlar os meios de acumulação.
  • A expansão exponencial do sector financeiro através da fusão funcional entre bancos e companhias de produção industrial/conglomerados é um dos factores chave do capitalismo moderno. Esta junção resulta numa tal acumulação acelerada de capital, que não existem oportunidades suficientes para absorver esses lucros de forma lucrativa (investimento+lucro). Isto é o que David Harvey chama de “capital absorption surplus problem” (ver vídeo em baixo) e que conduziu, desde os anos 70, a uma expansão geométrica do sector financeiro: a criatividade dos mercados “permite” multiplicar exponencialmente ad infinitum a aculumação de capital através da criação de ficções económicas tais como “securitazation”, “CDS”, re-hipotecação de colateral, etc. O problema está que esta expansão só existe em bits e bytes e quando rebentam as bolhas, levam a economia real pela água abaixo.  A segunda dinâmica a acompanhar o “capital absorption surplus problem” é que os conglemarados, à procura de mais sítios ainda mais lucrativos para pôr dinheiro, se lançam pelo globo fora à cata de ouro, petróleo, salários miseráveis, emprestimos e subsídios, etc etc etc.
  • Neste seguimento, o conflito armado resulta do interesse das elites de sociedades baseadas em sistemas de classe classe (onde uma minoria rica governa sobre a maioria sem nada exceptuando a sua força de trabalho) e que são também centros de conglomeração em manter a sua esfera de influência e as respectivos instrumentos de extracção de rendas e lucros. Contudo, não se pense que o imperialismo se expressa apenas em guerra. Ele existe permanentemente, já que faz parte integrante do sistema global, e em tempos de paz as suas expressões são talvez menos violentas e menos grandiosas em escala, mas continuam a existir de facto.
  • O imperialismo, como consequência da forma de organização e produção capitalista, tem inevitavelmente uma dimensão de classe. A competição pelo trabalho e capital que permitirão criar mais lucro é o motor que alimenta a ocupação colonial e outras formas de exploração, por exemplo, estrangulamento financeiro, supressão salarial, apropriação de bens públicos (ou seja, privatização), etc.

Aconselhamos mais uma vez a que se leia o posto original e, como forma de esclarecer o “capital absorption surplus problem” deixamos este vídeo com excertos de uma palestra de David Harvey, ilustrada pela RSA Animate. A palestra cobre um tema mais largo: a natureza da crise actual, as suas origens e relaciona ambos com a natureza do capitalismo.

Fonte/Link Pink Scare