Monday, November 28, 2011

The Economist's Denial Concerning The Euro & Europe's Entitlements Crisis

The current issue of The Economist entitled it's lead staff editorial "Is This Really The End?" Of the Euro, of course.

The piece then goes on to examine various ways Euros may be printed or borrowed, or back yet another instrument in hopes of fooling investors into overlooking the EU's real problem.

While usually on target, the Economist is hopelessly in denial on this issue. They concentrate mostly on the topic of Germany and Merkel simply bailing out Europe, about which I wrote recently. But that's almost a sideshow.

What the editorial never mentions is that this isn't simply a financial or sovereign debt crisis, per se.

It's a European entitlements crisis.

The Economist can blather on all it wants about the ECB, the EFSF, the Euro, and various means to move the same old monetary pieces around the same board, sometimes with new labels on them. But none of that will solve the problem.

The United States and Europe's nations all share a common, heretofore not experienced problem. Their lush government defined-benefit obligations have finally outstripped their abilities to fund said obligations. They are all gigantic Ponzi schemes, in which 1.5-2 generations have legislated extravagant benefits for themselves, to be paid by borrowing now and taxing later generations, or simply taxing later generations. Thus, there's no possibility of resolving the loss of confidence by global investors, because the money to solve the problems doesn't exist yet.

And with the suffocating tax and regulatory burdens besetting all these nations, it's looking like economic growth won't be helping anytime soon.

Face it, the developed nations are in for a rough economic ride for probably at least one decade- maybe more. Since WWII, governments have voted their older citizens benefits never before enjoyed in the history of civilization. And clearly won't be again, either. It's been a massive acceleration of spending fueled by wealth borrowed from future generations. Thus, GDPs since the war have also probably been artificially pumped up on this monetary equivalent of steroids.

Only a return by all large economies and nations to defined-contribution social welfare and corporate pensions and health care schemes will bring this unsustainable financial joy ride to an end.

And forget what you hear about any of these oldsters having "earned" their promised benefits. That's a lie. Those benefits were legislated without a clear explanation of their funding, while economists stood by and remained silent on the senselessness of promising such large-scale fixed and escalating benefits to be funded by dynamic, competing, uncertain economies throughout the world.

In America, beneficiaries of Ponzi schemes are forced to return their payouts by virtue of the scheme being a fraud and, thus, no real gains being available for anyone to realize. As an example, witness the ongoing recoveries of the Madoff fraud's payouts.

Why should the payouts of similar government-run Ponzi schemes for retirement and medical care be any different? Nobody 'earned' those benefits. They were never really affordable in the first place.

It may take years, but eventually, voters will have to accept that they elected governments which promised benefits many voters knew weren't really affordable. And they'll all have to take haircuts on those benefits.

Which brings me back to my starting point.

Germany can't fix the Euro problems because they aren't, strictly speaking, just about sovereign debt, the Euro and defaults. They are about totally unsustainable government benefit programs which can't be financially finessed back into solvency.

It's not a liquidity or currency issue. It's a social welfare state issue around the globe.

The Economist should know better than to go into denial about this truth.

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