Unfortunately, longer-lasting solutions require coordinated agreement among many euro-zone nations and, possibly, the broader European Union. That would include significant debt write-offs (as the International Monetary Fund is suggesting), quick moves toward better-integrated European banking institutions, and a general agreement that the European Central Bank unconditionally support troubled debt securities without trying to manipulate home governments’ policies.
I would say that a longer-lasting solution has to include adopting sustainable fiscal policies. Read the whole column. Another excerpt:
Unfortunately, the relevant governments — and their citizens — still don’t seem close to accepting the onerous financial burdens they need to face. And when those burdens are unjust to mostly innocent voters, no matter whose particular story you endorse, acceptance becomes that much tougher.
Still, we shouldn’t forget that a solution exists.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, Jonah Goldberg writes,
You could confiscate 100 percent of income over $1 million, and it would cover about a third of the deficit (and crush the economy in the process). You’d still have to deal with spending, particularly entitlement spending.
But the Democrats want to do . . . nothing. Or at least that’s the position they seemed to be taking this week.
I want to caution readers not to commit the Fundamental Attribution Error. That is, do not attribute the current political strife and apparent short-termism to the personalities of politicians. Instead, these characteristics are structural defects of a system without a hard constitutional brake against deficit spending. Absent an effective constitutional brake, deficit spending is like smoking. In theory, the politicians can quit at any time. In practice, in many cases we end up with cancer.
That is the import of Lenders and Spenders, an essay that I expect I will be linking to regularly. The point of that essay is that debt crises are easy to slide into and very difficult to get out of.
At the end of the second World War, the United States was fortunate in that (a) running deficits in peacetime was still taboo and (b) Social Security was running surpluses that the politicians had not yet put their hands on, because it was considered a separate account. Unfortunately, both of those taboos went away in the 1960s, when Keynesianism became orthodox and President Lyndon Johnson got his hands on the Social Security surpluses by changing to a “unified budget”.
Eventually, some smokers get cancer. And some deficit-spending countries succumb to the fiscal equivalent. I used to think that Europe was going to get there before the United States, because I thought that in this country we had a stronger political will to restrain deficit spending.
I am starting to change my position. The mainstream views in the United States on deficit spending now lie somewhere in between, “We can quit at any time, but now is not the time” and “We never have to quit.”
Have a nice day.