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Europe's Crisis: Debt & Damage

Timothy Garton Ash and economist Simon Johnson on the European debt crisis and the future of Europe.

Protestors walk past a billboard which reads 'No to austerity' during a demonstration in Brussels, 2010. (AP)

The last time Timothy Garton Ash was at the heart of European upheaval was the end of the Cold War, with the Berlin Wall coming down, and an explosion of freedom. Europe’s future looked dazzling. The full E.U., and glory days, were yet to come. 

Now, what’s exploded is European debt. Greece has imploded; Ireland, too. Europe’s union is in trouble – and so is its place in the world. And Garton Ash is there again, the journalist-scholar, watching, weighing as the whole world watches. 

We speak with Timothy Garton Ash, and economist Simon Johnson, about the fate and future of Europe.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest:

Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European studies in the University of Oxford, professorial fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He writes a weekly column for Britain’s Guardian and his essays appear regularly in The New York Review of Books. His new book is Facts are Subversive: Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name.

Simon Johnson, professor of global economics and management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. He is author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and The Next Financial Meltdown. Read his recent “Baseline Scenario” blog post: “Imminent European Default: How Likely?”

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  • Flowen

    Maybe Off-Topic?

    Surprise, surprise, Obama caves again on gifts to the wealthy!

    The other piece, never talked about in this context, is the Estate tax. When that expires Dec. 31, it is due to go from virtually no estate tax for 2010 to 55% on the excess of any estate > $1Million. You can be sure the Repubs plan to get that extended too; they’re keeping quiet as long as no one has their eye on that ball.

    All the talking heads this week-end are saying Obama has no leverage. They’re selling him down the river, and he seems to go willingly.

    Obama continues to act like a Corporate Trojan Horse, playing right into Repubs hands with barely a whimper, let alone a fight.

    He could sit tight, let everything expire, blaming Repubs for what they’re doing: holding the middle class hostage just to expand debt and deficit by GIVING the top 1% $70 Billion PER YEAR. BTW, that works out to a gift of $23,000 annually for every man, woman, and child of the 1%.

    Then bargain the estate tax, for unemployment benefits and middle class tax cuts. Make the case that below the median income, $1000 makes a real difference to people’s “standard of living” and quality of life, which they will mostly spend in the US; while for $1 Million incomes, even $100,000 won’t make any real difference in their “standard of living” and quality of life, it’s just a bigger number to them, a higher “score.” And they will likely invest it in gold, oil, or corn (driving those prices up) or Brazil, India, or China anyways. Maybe a few will buy that jet, or new boat, or hire a new pool boy, probably an illegal at that.

    Instead we get barely a whisper of Repub hypocrisy. Chuck Schumer sounded good, but Obama compromised before Schumer got done speaking.

    If Obama can’t make a real deal happen, then sit tight, let all cuts expire. They were temporary anyways, as formulated by the Repubs themselves. At least some of us would be proud to give Obama our vote next time, win or lose. Even big media polls show ~75% against high income extensions.

    Also, making the case that low taxes for the wealthy have already demonstrated itself to be a bankrupt policy, not to mention expanding debt and deficit by $70 Billion PER YEAR.

    He has so many talking points he doesn’t use, I am becoming more and more convinced he, and all Dems, are not just incompetent, but as evil as Repubs, maybe more dishonest.

    BTW, I have never seen Bernanke more dishonest (and scared and nervous) as he was on 60 Minutes tonight. He’s spinning with the best of the Republicans.

  • A fed up American worker…

    Today, the rich are holding up the poor and getting it all signed andd sealed by the government. They don’t care about the needs of the poor, the concerns of the disabled and the over worked and over taxed middle class.

    Just consider the note (letter ) Mitch Mc Connel and his thugs in the Republican leadership sent to Obama and Harry Reid to hand over their tax cuts or they
    and the middle class would get nothing. absolutely nothing. How is that for day light robbery?

    And just consider , how Bush’s chief economist Diana
    Furchgott-Roth who was on Tom’s show last week was so focused on putting “more money in the hands of the private sector?” I would like to know what they have done with the billion in tax cuts they received for 8yrs under Bush and her guidance?

    I saw no job growth . Indeed, I met many people who
    had trouble finding jobs- especially those in con-struction as I found myself rescuing some them myself
    with odd jobs to keep food on their tables and their child support going to their needy families who were
    out of patience with their unemployment situation…

    So I have had enough about making the private sector
    “stronger” and I want the government to stop giving bailouts to such groups and work locally with in-
    dividuals and families in the community instead…

    Fed up….

    Addendum: I believe the same kind of day light robbery and hijacking of the English public has been waged by the Tories against the working people of Britain and Ireland and Spain…

    Why on Earth should people there care about making the private sector “stronger” when they are forced to pay for it and sinking at the same time? It doesn’t add up…

  • cory

    Welcome (back) to the brave new (old) world. Every man for himself, winner take all, bootstrap pullin’, darwinian, global laissez faire capitalism.

    If a villager in Upper Volta will make widgets for less money and benefits than you, that’s where I’ll build the widget factory. I’ll destroy unions and the middle class all the while threatening that I’ll be unable to create jobs without massive tax cuts.

    The “right to work” American south took jobs from the higher paying and unionized rust belt. Those jobs then started moving to Mexico. China began to industrialize and had a billion peasants without refridgeration in their homes who’d be overjoyed to work for slave wages and unions are ILLEGAL. When the Chinese standard of living bagan to rise, India was groomed as their cheap labor replacement. Africa is waiting in the wings should Indians ask for a raise…

    It’s a vicious race to the bottom and the end is nowhere in sight. One thing is certain… the wealthy have gotten wealthier throughout this entire process. Now they are telling us their taxes cannot be raised and the social safety net must be dismantled in the name of austerity.

    Time for us all to wake up, EAT THE RICH!

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Charlie Mc

    • Farewell, Allen Greenspan, Rob Emmanuel, Larry Summers, Theodore Geitner, Arthur Leavitt, et als. I only wish that their places would be taken by persons whose primary quality is NOT that they are persons “Washington and Wall Street will feel comfortable with,” but persons of great insight and the courage to “cow” Senators and Congressmen into voting for what is best for our country, instead of what is best for:
    1. Their reelection
    2. Making their chief benefactors happy enough to make them continue to pour their wealth into their next campaign.
    3. The loudest segment of voters whether or not it is right
    4. My party, my party, my party either:
    a. getting back into power, or
    b. holding on to our majority

    • Four persons who should be back in Washington:
    1. Robert Reich
    2. Colin Powell
    3. Andrew J. Bacevich
    4. Brooksley Born!!!
    I supported President Obama, campaigned for him, and voted for him. I too believe in the miracle of dialog, but in politics, the Republican Party has sold its soul to a policy of defeating Obama, period! There can be no dialogue with John Boehner, and the party of “no”.

  • Beverly 

    CORY,

    That’s it, in a nutshell.

    (I’m afrad they’d be too tough. Let’s just shoot ‘em, beginning with McConnell, & Boehner.) 

  • Beverly


    ELLEN DIBBLE, MICHAEL, FLOWEN:

    Earlier this morning, I left comments for you, on previous topic.

  • Zeno

    As Peter Nelson states words have meaning, and since Obama and the democrats are members of the same plutocracy as the republicans…lets stop calling this the Bush tax cuts and give it a proper term that actually describes it accurately. Any Ideas?

    Forced labor tax?
    Forced plutocracy toll?
    Plutocracy extortion fee?
    Fealty payments?

    One good descriptive ire provoking term will help control the dialog. We must engage in battle with Orwell’s Ministry of Truth ( add DC think tank name here ) that is used by the oligarchy, and find new terms in the war of words and ideas. The term Tax cuts must go! Peter, any suggestions?

  • George Holoch

    From Hinesburg, Vermont:

    What are the prospects for an internationally enforceable agreemnet reining in the abuse of tax havens (Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, the City of London, Delaware, etc.) and securing those funds to at least mitigate the budget problems that seem to be exercising everyone?

  • Beverly

    ZENO,

    Middle class extinction plan?

  • Nick from Massachusetts

    When the Middle Class is gone, so won’t our Freedom
    When the Middle Class is gone, so won’t America.

    You’ll be able to find a Middle Class in India, Southeast Asia, China, and the Middle East. Not here in North America.

    Sad but going that way…..

  • yar From Somerset Ky

    It is across the pond, should we worry? Other than our marketing of CDO’s and CDS’s set up the dominoes so they would fall. The NYTimes set up a parallel story on states that are in similar position. Kentucky’s Lexington Herald Leader added to the story for local digestion. http://www.kentucky.com/2010/12/05/1553309/states-debts-stoke-fears.html

    Simon Johnson is smart and I enjoy hearing him on NPR, but he is a money system insider, I really want to hear from the man on the street, not Wall Street. What does it mean when a population loses faith in its currency? When they no longer save for tomorrow, when savings is not a vehicle to retirement? Does it all go to the pub?
    How close are we to the breaking point? Many people are saying I can never retire, many others are in fear of losing everything, some already have.

    This is a little like watching the police blotter on the local news each night, we watch it to see how close and how bad the crime is to our neighborhood.
    As states begin to default, what happens? Or are we going to try and print our way forward?

    Why do I see Ben Bernanke as John Hammond in Jurassic Park? It all seems so safe, as long as we control the …lysine, interest rates, …

  • jeffe

    Who is that man I voted for and is now the president?
    Obama needs to get some backbone.

    The thing is the Republicans have been moving further towards the right so much so that the middle is now the right and not anywhere near the center.
    The Democrats have caved and in doing so they have helped to elect the extreme right wing of the Republican party and will now put the final nails on the coffin of the middle classes.

    While this show is on Europe, at least they have social safety nets. In Spain this small town is a collective that is mostly communist. Marinaleda, a Communist enclave of 2,700 people is thriving and growing.

    They seem to be having the last laugh at this point in time.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/world/europe/26spain.html

    This would never work here, but I’m inclined to think that smaller self sustaining communities are maybe the answer. Time to turn all those suburban tracts into sustainable homesteads?

  • Zeno

    Moody’s Downgrades Hungary to Near Junk:

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/moodys-downgrades-hungary-to-near-junk/19747724/

    Maybe its really PHIIGS… But I bet this gets longer as the months pass.

  • Flowen

    Zeno

    Millionaire’s Monkey Money

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Beverly, I took your cue last night and did “contact us” at WhiteHouse.gov. I told them BEEN THERE DONE THAT, REGRET IT, etc., that anyone with a business who doesn’t want to pay 3% additional tax on monies earned OVER $200,000 can just find it in their heart to hire someone and create a $20,000/year employee, boost the economy and maybe boost their business, if it’s so great, as well. (By the way, WhiteHouse.gov was VERY slow; i.e., probably flooded.)
    Why is it we, with the Federal Reserve, can be so extremely irresponsible with unfunded wars etc., risking not only ourselves but global financing, whereas Europe, WITHOUT the Federal Reserve, has to balance the budgets. Are we idiots or are they?

  • Pancake- Christmas Town, NC

    jeffe: Fairness and just rewards works anywhere…. anywhere the people are educated to their own interests. If the people owned the bandwidth, the Supreme Court was cleaned up and wealth and salary were capped we’d have a pretty good country after about 6 months. By saying “It can’t happen here!” (either reform of fascism) you’re playing right into the Oligarchy’s hands. We’re having a Weimar moment and it could go either way.

    It’s no surprise that when that Freireian education starts up the American Oligarchy sends in the death squads.

    A cadre of economic hitmen are running our economy now.
    Wait until January to buy the things you absolutely must have. (look out for falling prices, then scarcity by Summer.) (Scare City says Mia.) Listen to the archive of le show (Harry Shearer on KCRW to get a clear picture of the mortgage foreclosure scams being allowed.

    A committee came to my door last night. “Your house is not decorated enough,” they said. “You might get a fine in your Duke Energy bill.” A lit 30″ wreath on the wrapped door and a big star on the roof must not be enough. One guy up in Lowell has “Impeach Obama” in big red letters. I can’t say, “Eat the Rich”, cory, because the people around here are so broke and in debt
    I am the rich.

    Maybe this isn’t Christmas Town. The Stowe Gardens and the Racetrack decorations have dimmed us out. We’re just Scare City.

  • Brandstad

    FX Concepts’ John Taylor Predicts A Euro Breakup, And Another Recession In The US

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/fx-concepts-john-taylor-reuters-2010-12#ixzz17LJuJXey

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Tom is zipping into his broadcast pants and gargling with Lemonade. “Ten minutes Mr. Ashbrook!” It’s almost time for the show. His eyes intently study the forbidden topics he must avoid. Rich underwriters have their underlings listening. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick. She sells seashells at the seashore. She sells seashells at the seashore. McConnell and Obama have compromised for the good of their Masters, er uh, make that Parties.”

  • Flowen

    Beverly and Ellen

    Yeah, I tried whitehouse.gov too, for the first time, and for my trouble got this:

    Our Apologies

    We experienced a problem handling your request.
    This issue has been logged and will be resolved by our technical team shortly.
    Please try again at your convenience. Thank you for your patience.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Jeffe and others, my impression (from Charles Dickens and others, and some journeying) is that Europe is not the land of Great Opportunity that the USA is. Hence so many immigrants coming here to Find Riches. However, Europe has Values stuck to traditionalism. The impecunious earl, who has to turn his “castle” into a tourist attraction, the “descendant of the 10th Duke of Such-and-Such,” these are occasions for some bowing and scraping in Europe.
    I don’t know where I got the idea, but that wealth is more likely evil than good. Jesus Christ, easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Then the Protestants got after that ideal and proclaimed that prosperity is virtue, the more wealth, the more to be acclaimed, here and hereafter. But when the prosperity of the few ENDANGERS the prosperity of throngs upon throngs, then that camel does come to mind.

  • http://bruceguindon.com bruce guindon

    Unionize, fight the bastards, boycott, let them know what you think, become active be a counter for the right wing news juggernaut, stop playing fair

  • Beverly

    ELLEN DIBBLE,

    Good for you. If it was flooded, I take that as a good sign.

    Risk? Think we need more naturally risk-adverse, cautious, level-headed women, (like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary, etc.), making important decisions for the Country? We all know that it’s a man’s world . . . but I can’t help but wonder . . .

  • Grady in Edison, NJ

    In America opportunity now requires a criminal mind and/or rich cronies, Ellen. Some people become refugees from overseas because they are “wanted” at home for crimes against humanity. Operation Paperclip never ends.

  • Zeno

    Violence has its roots in poverty, and thorns of revenge are grow from inequality. Where is this ALL going…
    WAR.

  • Beverly

    FLOWEN,

    . . . and just when I was feeling so hopeful. 

    When I went to whitehouse.gov Friday, there wasn’t a problem.

    C’est la vie! (Or, as the French sometimes say, “C’est la merde!”)

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    The deal is going down at the WhiteHouse now, and the last chance to “check” the great sucking of all the presumably “responsible” (??!!) money into the hands to the top few percent before the next Congress is close to kaput. Watch the president at 12:20 at whitehouse.gov give a speech on the economy. I wish I had local Myrep.gov sites where a flood could be ginned up.

  • Steve

    Do not have a TV so had to watch Bernanke on the web.

    Sweating, twitching upper lip…full of excuses.

    Even he can see the game is up but needs to keep the US consumer on the hook until the last bit of US wealth is extracted for the wealthy.

    Peaceful revolution now or heads on pikes coming fast on hard.

    It is not a question of which corporate party is better prepared to lead the US.

  • Brandstad

    Tim,

    Isn’t any group of states doomed to failure when they have a joint currency, and far differing economic systems and objectives? The joint currency locks the interstate financial markets and when one state misbehaves, there is nothing that the rest of the group can do but to pay them off.

  • Brandstad

    Tom,

    Can you ask your guest to compare the debt of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) to the state and local debt of California?

    Des Moines Iowa

  • http://bruceguindon.com bruce guindon

    send fish, fresh or frozen even Mrs Pauls fish sticks will do for your congressman or senator or President you choose but what ever you do don’t delay send them today

  • Pancake

    A haughty Brit accent or two no longer constitutes expertise. That’s out of fashion even in McAdenville.
    I read Rifkin’s “European Dream” a decade ago.

    But maybe it’s better than Alice Rivlin leading Diane Rehm around by the nose on WAMU. (Debt sky is falling)
    Truth: If a nation provides private sector employment for only two thirds or fewer people needing income, something’s gotta give.

    As Rush and Glenn have pointed out, “This is for entertainment purposes only. Poverty and repression are so entertaining! (to sadists)

  • Zeno
  • Brandstad

    Tom,

    No one in Europe wants to give up their national identity and this is required for the EU to be successful (with changes towards more centralized power)

  • Beverly

    BRUCE GUINDON,

    Indeed, sending them today is crucial, as is explaining, to all of them, how we feel. Call them all, if you can, ASAP!

  • Jim in Iowa City

    Will Daimler be able to compete in Asia if the economies of Europe are weakened further?
    Europe has no choice but to band together and bail out member-states. A united Europe has a better chance of developing new revenue sources for the future, and cashing in on the 10-15% growth of China, India, and Brazil. Divided the Europeans will be unable to deal with larger future problems like falling GDP related to a decreasing population which is becoming elderly.

  • Zeno

    People who live in glass houses: US ‘could be going bankrupt’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2943328/US-could-be-going-bankrupt.html

  • Steve

    Get out of the system as much as you are able.
    Take care of as many people as you can for as long as you are able.

    The unemployed, under-employed, cast aside veterans, poor, and middle class should meet on the mall in DC and then march to the FED.

    How about 20 million?

    If this does not happen peacefully it will happen by sending much more than fish.

    The model in the past has been government sponsored war; Iran, North Korea…China?

    I would like to see Americans seperated from their opiate consumerism long enough to see what is going on. I have asked people on this and other NPR sites to consider this for years.

    Is everyone still sleeping?

  • PW in TX

    Ellen, One must-read is Hacker and Pierson’s new book, “The Winner-Take-All Economy”. Really. Couldn’t recommend more highly. Here’s passage for you, re Europe v. US:

    “The American economic engine ran hotter in some years than the European economic engine. But on average, between 1979 an 2006, economic growth per capita was essentially the same in the fifteen core nations of Europe as it was in the US. The US is richer than these nations, but the gap has been surprisingly stable since the late 1970′s. The historical evidence certainly doesn’t suggest an American economic miracle alongside European sclerosis.[...] On average, the economic pie grew at essentially the same rate in the US as it did in nations where the poor and middle class have continued to enjoy a much larger piece.”

  • jeffe

    Ellen this is not the 19th century. By the way in a lot of European countries more people have a way up the economic ladder than in the US. This has been the case for years in France, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, all the Scandinavian countries. Here the middle classes have been struggling and failing dismally for decades. Why do think they have so much debt?

    I dare say that your view is a bit sewed and ill-informed.
    Every country on my list spends half as much on health care than we do and get better results.

  • cory

    If the top 5% of earners in America are responsible for for so much job creation, perhaps we should exempt them from ALL taxation. Shouldn’t this be a panacea resulting in full employment?

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • http://challenginglachesis.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    I agree that hubris is the key word in this issue.

  • ThresherK

    I didn’t hear all the first half of the show, but I think it was left to our host to bring up the idea of non-austerity. Every time the host is the most left-wing person on an NPR show, Grover Norquist wins.

    Oh, and has anyone mentioned Iceland? Per their President, “These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.”

    What do we have to do to keep the guest’s current talk about “smarter welfare states” from infecting the USA? Non-rich people are, by and large, still waiting for the raises that the well-off got during the George W. Bush administration. We can’t talk about the GOP holding unemployment benefits and middle-class tax cuts hostage without someone blurbing on “moral hazard” and how the rich are rich because they are simply better people.

    Why is there no left-wing guest to counter this?

  • john smith

    government radio strikes again!!! Two spin artists, one right of center and the other right of genghis khan.

    By the way, isn’t it getting a little boring to hear the same old spin that the US has to stop providing even a minimum basis of life support for people who are denied an adequate education and any opportunitty to get even a somewhat decent job? This due refers to starving people to death as getting a more efficent welfare system in place?

    By the way, this program keeps pumping that Ash “WAS THERE” covering all the major European events in the last couple of decades. Well, how about describing how wrong he was in his analysis of those events and their consequences.

    GO GOVERNMENT RADIO!!!!! don’t forget to ask for our money!!!!!!!

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    I don’t know if modernism is what we need. I would love to have a conversation with your guest about post-modernism and post-structuralism, but in lieu of that, I will have to suggest the book The Consequences of Modernity by Antony Giddens.

  • jeffe

    The caller from Burlington Vermont mentioned the Bilderberg Group. What a load of BS. Good on Simon Johnson for dismissing this thinly veiled attempt at blaming Jews for the banking crisis. In difficult times this is always the case. Ignorant people look for scapegoats. Demagogues rise up (Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck) and use the ignorance to
    gin up the populace and this is a very dangerous recipe for intolerance and the rise of a extremism.

  • Julie Rohwein

    Whitehouse.gov is back. i just sent in a comment.

  • PW in TX

    Jeffe and Ellen, I spent a lot of my life in European countries so have a somewhat different perspective. One thing which became clear to me when I returned to the US were the costs/poor quality issues in our health care compared to other countries. The costs, according to docs I’ve spoken with, come from absurd administrative costs and inefficiency. Add to this the inflated profits associated with prescription drugs and diagnostic machinery and (let’s face it) the corruption of many doctors themselves and then add to all this the self-induced health problems of average Americans (obesity, smoking, poor health/exercise habits), and we’ve got a big mess.

    Pro Publica recently did a great report on drug companies’ relationships with specific doctors around the country. You can find out if your doc is involved.

  • Joseph

    First the European problem is really a problem with healthy European economies dealing with the severe problems of a few countries, Greece and Ireland mainly, that were almost third world economies when admitted to the European Union. That and all European countries were forced to deal with the whole deregulated banking crisis that originated in the U.S.

    There is absolutely no danger of the U.S. going the way of Greece, Ireland, or Spain. As far as European countries such as England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and the Scandinavian countries, I wish we had it so good. Minor austerity cuts to their extensive social welfare programs will still leave them with much better and extensive programs than in the U.S. and much more equitable income and wealthy distribution. The problem with the U.S. is different in that we have spent 30 years going overboard in economic favoritism for the wealthy.

  • cory

    If the democrats extend tax cuts to the wealthy regardless of the compromise, it will prove that conservatives are already in power. Tax breaks for top earners when we are broke may prove that our democratic republic is hopelessly broken.

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Zeno

    Maybe one of the reasons Bernanke was sweating so much on 60 Minutes was he new this story was coming out today:

    Badly Printed $100 Bills Are a Multibillion Dollar Problem:

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/company-news/badly-printed-bills-are-a-multi-billion-dollar-problem/19747727/?icid=main%7Cclassic%7Cdl1%7Csec4_lnk1%7C188392&icid=sphere_copyright

    LOL – The oligarchs wouldn’t even hire a $4/hour immigrant to stand there and say Whoa!…You gots a problem ere.

  • Beverly

    Thanks, JULIE!

  • Grady in NJ

    Two words: Authoritarian Capitalism. As in, “You lovely Americans better kiss the big bank butts, or you’re in for some authoritarian capitalism (from bad old China).”

    What is the difference. American authoritarian capitalism and Chinese authoritarian capitalism are really the same thing, and owned by the same Oligarchy, that borrows tax money to feed bank scams and lets us pay it back with interest.

    Tim Ash needs to understand that European austerity is another step TOWARD Authoritarian Capitalism. High Rollers are robbing bystanders to make their next ante. (Mo’ money without riskin’ yo’ money!)

  • jeffe

    PW I lived in Scotland for 8 years, so I have some perspective on this. I agree with you so I’m not sure what your point is. I already know our health care market based system is dysfunctional. I’m going through the BS of the Mass Health care system now which seems to be run by incompetent fools. They wasted 3 months of my time and now I am back to having buy the lousy insurance from my part time employer. Why? Because Commonwealth care demands I pay a $2167 deductible. If I knew this from the get go I would have not missed the deadline for my work. For me it was a matter of what I could afford. The people I was dealing with over this period were ill-informed, lost my paper work twice, then misread my financial statements.
    The system is broken. It does not work. The very idea of deductibles is a complete shame and way of ripping people off. However this is a different topic.

    Give me the German, French or Candadian health care system any day of the week.

    Boston, MA

  • jeffe

    Sorry I meant Canadian. I don’t want to piss of the good people of Canada.

  • Beverly

    CORY,

    You’ve got that right.

    . . . and regardless of election results, Republicans are ALWAYS in charge.

  • Flowen

    @ PW in TX, on December 6th, 2010 at 11:00 AM

    You and the Docs are only seeing part of the medical inflation picture. What you say is right, but the need for more testing, equipment, and cost generally comes from the fact that the Financial Industry makes a lot more money when national healthcare costs are $2 Trillion instead of $1 Trillion.

    This is effected through the financial industry’s Healthcare Insurance [casino for payers], which is inextricably tied into medical equipment and device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, hospital organizations, health management organizations, investment banks and their (not our) political representatives.

    Why else would Single Payer be off-limits even for discussion?

    Healthcare insurance serves financial needs much more than patient needs; patients are valuable as sources of income as long as they are healthy, and as guinea pigs when they are sick. Patient needs are low on their priority lists.

    The quality of your healthcare is dependent on the quality of your healthcare insurance, which is determined by 1) the size of your income, and 2) the size of your employer. This is a good system!?!?!?!? NOT!!!!

  • Zeno

    @ Grady – I had the same thought. Perhaps there are flavors of Authoritarian Capitalism?

    Hear the task masters use a softer whip.

  • Beverly


    JEFFE,

    Don’t forget to include England.

  • Julie Rohwein

    “…has anyone mentioned Iceland? Per their President, ‘These were private banks and we didn’t pump money into them in order to keep them going; the state did not shoulder the responsibility of the failed private banks.’”

    – Thresher

    Thanks for raising this. I have also been wondering why Iceland is not part of the discussion. Somehow letting failing enterprises fail, so central to the ideology of free market capitalism, remains literally unspeakable. Not an acceptable part of the narrative. Of course, if large enterprises were allowed to fail, there must be means to deal with the aftermath. There is another unspeakable word — new regulations. As we are assured that out current system cannot withstand such failures. So I guess the free market is actually very like taxes — only for the little people, at least on the downside.

    Julie from Concord, MA

  • Julie Rohwein

    appologies for misspelling ThresherK (actually an overactive delete key:-)

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    It seems, looking with a very broad lens, that the middle class are going to HAVE TO be the job creators because the elites find it more profitable to create them overseas. The banks aren’t into helping the middle class, even if (maybe especially “if” from the point of “established” competitors) they are in a highly energized mode (like the settlers heading west in Little House on the Prairie, most of us have in our genes a “we fail!!!!” mode that knows when to slough off the threats of red-coated tax-extractors (corporate rule-makers) and go it alone.
    When we ask for “jobs,” we’re asking to stay in line for this profit-factory that is Wall Street.
    If we’d say “employment” and concentrate on “doing what needs to be done,” we might get a layer of productivity back again. Europe seems to have no difficulty getting people educated for the jobs that need to be done. About a decade ago I met a Danish young woman downtown who even was touring the USA while getting her training, during a break. She was so confident about her path, some technical field. Here we can’t even get the right proportion of primary care doctors. The cost of that medical education means new physicians think they then can’t afford to be primary care MDs, offering the kind of care that is cheapest for the system and most basic to our health.

  • Flowen

    @ Zeno, on December 6th, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    Maybe so. I got that he was sweating because of numerous lies (spin is generous) he was forced to make:
    1) QE2 is not printing money (no, they just have to push button-presto!)
    2) it does not add to money supply (no, they are just swapping bank held public debt with virtual dollars)
    3) it is not inflationary (no, the greater deflation in labor and houses will offset the inflation in stocks, financial instruments, and commodities: food, energy,materials)
    4) QE2 is the only way, and is sure to work, and more may be required (this is most truthful as long as he is vague as to who it works for)
    5) the Fed acts are apolitical (he didn’t say they were “acorporate” or “awealthy.”)
    6) 10-15 years out he is confident the future is bright (as Simon points out, PARTICULARLY ECONOMISTS cannot predict the future.)

    Reminds me of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or “Zombies from Planet 9.”

    BTW, I thought Simon and Ash were good and balanced. Everyone has their own nuances; I thought they portrayed a pretty balanced, dismal prognosis, considering how plugged into the Academic Industrial Complex they are.

  • Flowen

    The only thing free about our “Free Markets” is what the wealthy corporate owners/managers freely take for themselves.

    Authoritarian Capitalism, Laissez-Faire Capitalism are way too generous descriptions for the Crony Capitalism Run Amok in the USA.

    Good point Julie, “moral hazard” exited the lexicon between Bear Stearns and Lehman.

  • Julie Rohwein

    Indeed, Flowen. “moral hazard” is only for the hoi polloi. Not for the moneyed elite.

  • Zeno

    @ Flowen – Yeah, I was just kidding there. But I think the money printing story is ironically funny.

    I thought the biggest lie he told last night was that he was 100% certain that it would work. But just like his predecessor, he is playing the all knowing Wizard of OZ.

    I would like to visit the FED and stand before the fireballs and multicolored plumes of smoke and ask a few questions.

    JOBS!…The great OZ has no intention of granting your request! ..Now Go Away!

  • Flowen

    I’m not making up the Bush > Monkey thing, there is scientific basis, check it out:

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/images/blbushchimplookalikes.htm

  • http://www.venturacommenter.org F.William Bracy

    It was fun-loving, gas-guzzling, hard-drinking America, don’t forget, who invited everyone to the party. Now bleary-eyed the next day, Uncle Sam (and some others on this page) are standing in the middle of the room roaring, “Pansies! Wha’sa’matter? … can’t hol’ yer likker? Y’see — y’thought y’could drink me under the table, but y’can’t, can yuh”? (Like Joseph here, who says that there is absolutely no danger of the U.S. going the way of Greece.)

    Well Sam, (and Joe) you’re wavering pre-e-ety good there. And there’s something else you might want to keep in mind. It’s the old saw — “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

    Joseph, up a pace or two — just between you and me, you’re not so much of a party animal after all, are yuh.

  • Beverly

    Did you see, (N.Y.Times), that Goldman Sachs, (& others could follow), is thinking of giving bonuses in December, instead of in January, as usual? They want to save on taxes, in case the Middle Class Extinction Plan is stifled, even though some predict that their profits for this year could top last year’s record-breaker.

  • Mark from Salt Lake City

    Are there no Italians, Irish, Germans, Greeks, French or Finns who speak English fluently and have opinions on the future of Europe?

    The answer is obvious. The second question, therefore, must be why does Tom Ashbrook’s Rolodex not contain the names of these people?

    Does he not believe that any opinion beyond those of the English is worth hearing? Is he or his producer just lazy?

    Simon Johnson is great. I enjoy hearing his opinion, but there are plenty of other thinkers worth hearing in places other than London and Oxford.

  • PW in TX

    @Flowen, you got that right! Bottom line: we don’t ascribe “worth” to anything that doesn’t promise financial profit…

    @Jeffe: I was responding to your “Every country on my list spends half as much on health care than we do and get better results.” Because they don’t associate health with corporate profit. We’re so profit-oriented we’d tear apart every line of the Constitution, every square mile of healthy land, and any thoughtful people standing in the way of making a profit.

    I was toggling between three NPR shows this morning — On Point, Diane Rehm, Radio Times. Most highly recommended (download!) was an Auerbach/Leonhardt discussion on deficit reduction: clear, informative, grown-up, and (wow!) civil. Oh, and minus the usual sound of axes grinding. Recommended.

    http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2010/12/06/reducing-the-deficit/

  • Beverly

    Just heard, again, that Republicans said they want the upper crust tax travesty to be made permanent, but they will only allow unemployment compensation for another year, because we can’t afford it. “It’s not paid for.”

    All right, guys. Enough is enough. Where’s the logic here? What’s the truth? Do they know where the body is buried?

    We’re sick of “deals”, lies, bargaining, compromising, bullying, & threats.

    There’s a Democrat in the White House, for God’s sake! You don’t need their cooperation. Get it done. Read Republicans the Riot Act. It’s time for Reconciliation, not MILQUETOASTS!

    Don’t forget who you work for, (but only until the next election).

    

  • jeffe

    Don’t forget to include England You mean Great Britain, which includes Wales, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland.

  • Beverly

    JEFFE,

    That’s right. I was in too much of a hurry earlier. My mistake.

    Well, it looks like none of those downtrodden billionaires will lose any of their yachts, or be made homeless.

    What a relief! For a while, I was really worried about them.

    I guess our president really has moved from the center to the right.

    Excuse me while I cry in my beer.


  • Robert R

    The conversation might more appropriately interesting if the reflections were more intellectually balanced as opposed to reflexively banal and emotionally based.

    But I guess that is all that can be expected from islands of knowledge trapped in early stage development.

    What do you think? Oops!

  • Flowen

    @ Robert R

    I think corporate money, power, lies and criminality trumps wisdom and humanity.

    Just look in the mirror!

  • Elizabeth B.

    It’s obvious in Europe that the governments are being slowly forced into bankruptcy (on purpose!!!) so they wouldn’t have to be obliged to pay benefits to the millions of individuals who have been contributing to the system. The funds that have been collected are funnelled into private hands while those who have paid into the system are being left high and dry.
    It’s catastrophic scam for the taxpayers – the majority of the population who are becoming poorer and poorer every day.
    People! The social contract has been changed, right in front of our eyes in every Western country!
    The state no longer wants to serve as a provider of social net, although it still collects gigantic amounts of money from tax sources.
    John Locke needs to be revisited.
    It is shameful how the 21st century has begun for the majority of humanity: wars, hunger, poverty, lack of health care, lack of social benefits.

  • http://www.nineshift.com William Draves

    This program and Timothy Garton Ash was excellent. Top rate journalism. Americans do not get enough perspective from experts in other countries on critical issues (yes, this issue is about America as much as it is about Europe). Good show!

    Having said that, I would respectfully disagree with one minor comment Mr. Ash made and submit that I CAN predict the future, and have done so correctly for the past decade. My prediction, for example, of the recession and stock market plunge was printed in NYTimes Jan 6, 2006. Our prediction about car sales declining was published in our book. So here you go: by 2015 the Euro will be worth about $2 US.

  • http://NPR Mark Allard

    I’m listening to this pre-recorded show. What about the role of “Eastern Europe”? I have traveled within Poland over a dozen times since 1989, the changes are incredible and I believe their future is loaded with incredible promise. They are not Protestant, they have been robbed by their neighbors yet Poland’s economy is growing. Poles are young and well educated and have this “Northern European” work ethic!

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