Tag Archives: Italy

Italy’s Debt Crisis Flares Up, Banks Get Hit, as Showdown with the EU Intensifies, by Don Quijones

Remember how painful the Greek debt was, and how hard it was to resolve. Italy’s unfolding debt crisis will be many times larger and more difficult to resolve. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

A serious showdown is brewing in the Eurozone as Italy’s anti-establishment coalition government takes on the EU establishment in a struggle that could have major ramifications for Europe’s monetary union. The cause of the discord is the Italian government’s plan to expand Italy’s budget for 2019, in contravention of previous budget agreements with Brussels.

The government has set a public deficit target for next year of 2.4% of GDP, three times higher than the previous government’s pledge. It’s a big ask for a country that already boasts a debt-to-GDP ratio of 131%, the second highest in Europe behind Greece. To justify its ambitious “anti-poverty” spending plans, proposed tax cuts, and pension reforms, the government claims that Italy’s economic growth will outperform EU forecasts.

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Merkel’s End Could Spark EU Breakdown, by Tom Luongo

It’s hard to see how the EU won’t fracture if the true hand on the wheel, Angela Merkel, was to lose her position as Chancellor of Germany. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

The pieces have been moving into place for months now.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen her power within German political circles wane for more than a year.  Italy’s opposition to the European Union’s budget rules is stiffening.

Bond yields are beginning to not just rise, but blow out uncontrollably.

The Fed keeps raising rates to arrest inflation not supported by increased wages.

Brexit talks are at a standstill.

Last week Merkel suffered what could easily be her most important political defeat over the past two years.  She lost a parliamentary vote for her candidate in an internal vote of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.

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Naked Emperors Don’t Get Much Respect, by Robert Gore

What happens when most of your military infrastructure is suddenly obsolete?

The emperor was the last to realize he was naked. This is not unusual, emperors are the last to find out anything. Who has the fortitude to tell them the truth, especially an upsetting truth? And so it is with the US’s empire, the existence of which most of its citizens, media organs, and officials are unaware or won’t acknowledge. The truth is, the American empire, acknowledged or not, is over. It will be years before that’s accepted by the governing class. They’ll never officially inform their subjects, who are stuck with the tab for its immensely wasteful spending.

Empires are built on military strength. The American empire was no exception. Many Americans still think the US military enjoys the dominance it had back in 1946, a notion Vladimir Putin buried March 1. On that date he announced new weaponry which will render our naval surface fleet, ground forces, worldwide bases, and antiballistic systems obsolete (see here, here, and here). The US military leadership has grudgingly acknowledged many of Putin’s claims.

The unmistakable conclusion: most US military spending is the welfare state with epaulets. It pays for weapons, bases, and personnel whose uselessness would be revealed within half an hour after a non-nuclear war with Russia began. We have no conventional defenses against Russia’s new weaponry.

It’s cold comfort that US land installation, submarine, and airborne nuclear deterrents are still relevant. If Russia or anyone else launched a conventional or nuclear attack against us, we can annihilate the aggressor. The destruction we bore would be matched in kind, but the planet might be rendered uninhabitable.

Fortunately, it can be said with 99 percent certainty that Russia has no desire to launch a war, nuclear or conventional, against the US. That nation wants what many nations and US citizens want: for the US government to leave it alone. Although spending only 10 percent of what the US does on its military and intelligence, Russia now has the muscle to back it up. The Chinese are right behind.

The story doesn’t say what happened to the emperor and his courtiers after the lad revealed his nudity, but we can assume the emperor’s smarter toadies started heading for the exits. Why stay on a vessel that can’t navigate the shoals of reality?

Welfare states—giving money to people who haven’t earned it—so inevitably lead to corruption that they might as well be synonyms. For years the US has bought compliance with its dictates within its confederated empire, picking up the lion’s share of the defense tab. Nations hosting US military bases welcome the jobs and spending just like congressional districts back home.

Even before Putin’s March 1 announcement, asking how non-nuclear bases, domestic and abroad, actually made anyone in the US safer occasioned awkward silence. Russia’s military spending and economy are dwarfed by the US’s and its EU protectorate’s; a Russian invasion of Europe, even with its new weapons, would be suicidal. The chances of Russia or any other nation invading the US are even more remote. Russia has been invaded far more often than it has invaded, and other than securing its own neighborhood, exhibits no desire to launch offensive warfare. Putin stressed the new weapons’ role defensive role.

After the announcement, US bases will be targets, the personnel they house hostages. That includes the mobile bases known as the US surface fleet, from aircraft carriers on down. They have no defense against the Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile, aircraft-launched with a range of 2000 kilometers, capable of reaching Mach 10.

Defending on sea or land against the Russians’ new nuclear powered cruise missiles—which have essentially unlimited range—is possible but problematic, especially if they’re launched in a swarm. Location has become irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if the US outpost is in Germany, Texas, or floating in the middle of the Pacific, they’re all vulnerable.

Poland’s recent proposal for the US to establish a military base there, at Poland’s expense, possibly to be named Fort Trump, is a strong contender for the year’s, perhaps the decade’s, most insane idea. Fort Courage, from the zany F Troop TV show, would be a more appropriate name. It’s one thing to hop on the US military spending gravy train, that’s just venal and corrupt. To install a useless military base and pay for it as well is incalculably stupid. The goal of politics is to get someone else to pay for your stupid ideas, but perhaps they do politics differently in Poland.

If you’re running one of the US’s protectorates, why should you accept the empire’s dictates when it can no longer defend your country? The question has added piquancy in Europe. Setting aside Russia’s new weapons, how would a country that’s botched military engagements in second string nations like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria defend Europe short of nuclear war? If the answer is that it can’t, where does US leverage come from? The US demands more useless defense spending and presses Europe to curtail or cease profitable trade relations with Russia and Iran, both of which pose a minimal threat to Europe’s safety. Why should Europe comply?

President Trump has questioned the US subsidization of Europe’s defense. How much effort would the US make to defend Macedonia or Latvia? If the answer is not much, or if it can’t actually protect those or any other European country, then subsidies are the only “glue” for the American Empire, European division. It’s unclear if Trump realizes he can’t have his cake and eat it too. He may be happy to see Europe come unglued. Bankruptcy looms; the US has to start cutting spending somewhere.

It should come as no surprise that some countries aren’t toeing the US line, faithfully parroted by the EU. Turkey, straddling Europe and Asia, is edging toward Russia and China, and the goodies promised by their Belt and Road Initiative.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the League party that shares power there, are seeking better relations with Russia, notwithstanding the US and Europe’s long running demonization of Vladimir Putin. Those two are also challenging received wisdom on the desirability of open borders and unlimited immigration. They and other nationalist leaders are finding an increasingly receptive audience among Europe’s voters.

The two Koreas are also writing their own script, one that diverges from the one the US has written for them since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Among those who favor the status quo, the line is that impoverished albeit nuclear-armed North Korea poses an offensive threat to South Korea, Japan, and the US. Kim Jong Un is singing a beguiling song of denuclearization, rapprochement, trade, and peace, but he’s not to be trusted. Only if he agrees beforehand to the complete subjugation of his country can negotiations proceed.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has other ideas. The people of both Koreas want reconciliation and an end to the war (there’s an armistice but no official peace). Moon appears willing to entertain the possibility that Kim would rather bring his country into the 21st century than launch nuclear strikes. The impetus for negotiations has come from these two leaders and Trump has jumped on the bandwagon, much to the consternation of a motley collection of swamp denizens who profit from current arrangements. Peace may come in spite of their efforts to prevent it.

As the US government continues to spend money for weapons, bases, and personnel our putative enemy can obliterate, defend countries that are under no threat, and intervene in conflicts that promise only interminable stalemate and lost blood and treasure, the question presents itself: are those running the empire and its satrapies stupid, rapaciously corrupt, evil, or all of the above? We’ll take the obvious: all of the above.

Those who have placed their safety in the hands of the US’s would-be emperors can no longer afford to ignore the emperors’ nudity…and insanity. The empire is fraying at the edges and it won’t be long before fraying becomes unraveling. Nobody respects a naked emperor, certainly not one who doesn’t even realize he’s naked.

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Italy and Hungary Create ‘Anti-Immigration Axis’ by Soeren Kern

There is a growing pan-European anti-immigration movement, and disparate political actors are finding common cause. From Soeren Kern at gatestoneinstitute.org:

  • “We are close to a historic turning point at the continental level. I am astonished at the stupor of a political left that now exists only to challenge others and believes that Milan should not host the president of a European country, as if the left has the authority to decide who has the right to speak and who does not — and then they wonder why no one votes for them anymore.” — Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
  • “This is the first of a long series of meetings to change destinies, not only of Italy and of Hungary, but of the whole European continent.” — Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
  • “We need a new European Commission that is committed to the defense of Europe’s borders. We need a Commission after the European elections that does not punish those countries — like Hungary — that protect their borders.” — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini have pledged to create an “anti-immigration axis” aimed at countering the pro-migration policies of the European Union.

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If You Read Between The Lines, Global Economic Leaders Are Telling Us Exactly What Is Coming, by Michael Snyder

Very few come right out and say what they mean anymore, but if you pay close attention, sometimes you can figure it out anyway. From Michael Snyder at theconomiccollapseblog.com:

Sometimes, a strongly-worded denial is the most damning evidence of all that something is seriously wrong.  And when things start to really get crazy, “the spin” is often the exact opposite of the truth.  In recent days we have seen a lot of troubling headlines and a lot of chaos in the global financial marketplace, but authorities continue to assure us that everything is going to be just fine.  Of course we witnessed precisely the same thing just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008.  Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke insisted that a recession was not coming, and we proceeded to plunge into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  Is our society experiencing a similar state of denial about what is ahead of us here in 2018?

Let me give you a few examples of some recent things that global economic leaders have said, and what they really meant…

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk: “We are definitely not going bankrupt.”

Translation: “We are definitely going bankrupt.”

Tesla is a company that is supposedly worth 51 billion dollars, but the reality is that they are going to zero.  They have been bleeding massive amounts of cash for years, and now a day of reckoning has finally arrived.  A severe liquidity crunch has forced the company to delay payments or to ask for enormous discounts from suppliers, and many of those suppliers are now concerned that Tesla is on the verge of collapse

Specifically, a recent survey sent privately by a well-regarded automotive supplier association to top executives, and seen by the WS , found that 18 of 22 respondents believe that Tesla is now a financial risk to their companies.

Meanwhile, confirming last month’s report that Tesla is increasingly relying on net working capital, and specifically accounts payable to window dress its liquidity, several suppliers said Tesla has tried to stretch out payments or asked for significant cash back. And in some cases, public records show, small suppliers over the past several months have claimed they failed to get paid for services supplied to Tesla.

Shark Tank billionaire Mark Cuban: “I’ve got a whole lot of cash on the sidelines.”

Translation: “I believe that the stock market is about to crash.”

To continue reading: If You Read Between The Lines, Global Economic Leaders Are Telling Us Exactly What Is Coming

Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu, by Tom Luongo

Will southern European debt or emerging market debt kick off the next financial crisis? They’re both strong contenders, running neck-and-neck. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was right to call out the EU over the failure of the bridge in Genoa this week.  It was an act of cheap political grandstanding but one that ultimately rings very true.

It’s a perfect moment to shake people out of their complacency as to the real costs of giving up one’s financial sovereignty to someone else, in this case the Troika — European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Italy is slowly strangling to death thanks to the euro.  There is no other way to describe what is happening.  It’s populist coalition government understands the fundamental problems but, politically, is hamstrung to address them head on.

The political will simply isn’t there to make the break needed to put Italy truly back on the right path, i.e. leave the euro.  But, as the government is set to clash with Brussels over their proposed budget the issues with the euro may come into sharper focus.

Looking at the budget it is two or three steps in the right direction — lower, flat income tax rate, not raising the VAT — but also a step or two in the wrong direction — universal income.

Opening up Italy’s markets and lowering taxpayers’ burdens is the path to sustainable, organic growth, but that is not the purpose of IMF-style austerity.  It’s purpose is to do exactly what it is doing, strangling Italy to death and extracting the wealth and spirit out of the local population, c.f. Greece and before that Russia in the 1990’s.

So, looking at the situation today as the spat between Turkey and the U.S. escalates, it is obvious that Italy is in the crosshairs of any contagion effects into Europe’s banking system.

To continue reading: Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Merkel’s Troubles Began in Syria and End in Italy, by Tom Luongo

Angela Merkel is immolating herself on the pyre of open immigration. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.com:

It looks like we are entering the end of Merkel-ism in Europe.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel is approaching her final days in that position.

Be it next week or the end of this year, we are looking at unprecedented change in European politics thanks to Merkel’s insistence on taking in millions of Syrian and North African refugees from chaos unleashed by aggressive and insane foreign policy actions by the U.S. and supported by the EU.

From the destruction of Libya to the manufactured ‘civil war’ in Syria the displacement of millions of people was created from the desired to destabilize the entire region for the betterment of the U.S. and its allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Jordan, Turkey and Qatar were originally involved but have since jumped ship in the wake of Russia’s intervention there.

Merkel’s current plight politically stems from her intractability in accepting the chain of events that led us to this point. All of the problems of Europe now stem from the collision of these foreign policy disasters and the economic degradation of the euro-zone from the flawed structure of the euro itself.

And the insistence of the U.S./Saudi/Israeli alliance to continue trying to manufacture a win in Syria that is clearly beyond their control at this point only tightens the noose around Merkel’s neck.

Let me explain.

Simply put, there is a perfect storm now arising in Europe as the consequences of a number of policies converge into this period of time.  They are as follows:

  1. Having each country maintain a separate central bank to issue sovereign debt denominated in euros is the main culprit for enriching Germany and the northern bloc like the Netherlands and Holland and impoverishing much of the rest of Europe — Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, to name a few.
  2. This mispriced the risk of these loans by implying a German backstop to them via the ECB and the Bundesbank.
  3. As the euro rose in the 2000’s the value of the debt these countries issued skyrocketed in real value, destroying their fiscal situation and forcing debt restructuring which kicked the can down the road.

To continue reading: Merkel’s Troubles Began in Syria and End in Italy