The Extortion Racket Shifts To Italy

Saturday, June 23, 2012
By Paul Martin

Wolf Richter

One thing Greek politicians have taught other European leaders: fear mongering for the purpose of extortion is the way to go. It might not work, and it might be counterproductive, and it might destroy confidence in the economy and give investors goose bumps and blow up markets, and it might cause spooked consumers to hold back on purchases and worried businesses to freeze hiring plans, thus exacerbating the situation, but it’s nevertheless the way to go.

Greek politicians learned it from Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who’d walked into the Capitol in September 2008, threatening that the whole world would collapse if his demands weren’t met. Soon, they expertly issued a series of escalating threats to extort the maximum amount in bailout euros from the Troika. It didn’t work very well as the Greek economy continued to spiral out of control, and as the frustrated Troika halted bailout payments from time to time, and as tempers flared, and as the people in Greece became increasingly edgy. But it was the way to go. Then came Spain. And now Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

As always, timing is everything. And there was no better time than Thursday, the day before the meeting in Rome of the big four—Germany, France, Italy, and Spain—and a week before the European summit, which isn’t a run-of-the-mill summit, but the summit, the one that would have to save the Eurozone. And the world. Again.

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