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Posts Tagged ‘Merkel’

The German Chancellor and French President have put together a plan to boost growth. Sounds like a good goal, but what specifically are they proposing?

Some of the obvious ideas include:

But those are only obvious ideas if you want a growth plan that actually leads to…(drum roll, please)…more growth.

Merkel and Sarkozy must have some other objective in mind, because they’ve proposed a plan comprised of new taxes, higher taxes, and tax harmonization.

This is beyond satire. Even if I was trying to make fun of the French and Germans (perish the thought), I wouldn’t be able to make up something this absurd.

Here’s some of what the EU Observer reported.

A six-point plan drafted by France and Germany has suggested corporate tax “co-ordination,” an EU financial transactions tax and the re-deployment of EU funds in troubled countries as ways to spur growth and jobs. …Paris and Berlin have teamed up once more and drafted a six-page paper called “Ways out of the crisis – strengthen growth now!” …The financial transactions tax – a pet project of French President Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of his re-election bid in April – features among the six proposals under “efforts to reinforce the framework of financial market.” …plans for “tax co-ordination” and another Franco-German proposal to be put forward by end of February on the “convergence of their corporate tax.” “European institutions and member states should accelerate the process of tax coordination in order to foster growth” …Apart from the Tobin tax, both leaders want to speed up EU legislation on an energy tax and a “common consolidated corporate tax base.”

Even Obama is not this blind to reality. He’s a big fan of higher taxes, of course, but at least the President realizes you don’t pass the laugh test if you tell people that higher taxes will “spur jobs and growth.”

Returning to Merkel and Sarkozy, the dynamic duo of statism also have some bizarre ideas on the spending side of the fiscal ledger. Here are a couple of additional passages from the story.

…proposal would have 25 percent of unspent EU regional funds in countries under a bail-out program or under serious economic difficulties redirected to a special “fund for growth and competitiveness.”  …As for employment-boosting measures, one of Sarkozy’s make-or-break campaign themes, the document asks governments to instruct employment agencies to make an offer to every unemployed person – be it for a job, an apprenticeship or further training.

The notion that bureaucrats and politicians can boost prosperity with some sort of “fund for growth and competitiveness” is hardly worth a rebuttal. I’ll just wish them luck as they create European versions of Solyndra.

The other idea, though, is worth a bit more analysis. If the article is correct, the Merkozy twins are going to wave a magic wand and direct employment agencies to make an offer to everybody.

Gee, isn’t that wonderful. While they’re at it, why don’t they turbo-charge the wand and insist that all the offers be for jobs making twice the national wage. With this kind of magical thinking, it’s just a matter of time before 90 percent of the population is part of the top-10 percent.

You may be thinking the previous sentence doesn’t make sense, but that’s probably because you’re one of those crazy libertarians who doesn’t understand how higher taxes boost economic performance.

In previous posts, I’ve expressed some pessimism about the future of Europe. After considerable reflection, I want to retract those statements and instead say that the outlook is hopeless. If you’re reading this from Europe, get out while you still can.

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P.S. I’ve been reminded that Merkel and Sarkozy are not alone in their crazy theory that higher taxes are good for growth. The geniuses at the Congressional Budget Office have written that higher taxes are good for long-run growth, even to the point of implying that 100 percent tax rates would maximize economic performance.

P.P.S. I’m further reminded that the Congressional Research Service also seems to think that higher taxes increase economic growth. Perhaps German and French spies have taken over Washington?

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By choosing not to use the economic downturn as an excuse for more wasteful spending, Germany may have avoided Obama’s big mistake, but that does not mean German conservatives and Angela Merkel are supporters of economic liberty and individual freedom. Not even close. A good (or should I say “bad”) example of Merkel’s statist mindset is her push for a tax on financial transactions. And not just a German tax. She wants a global tax. And not just for the typical political reason of wanting more of other people’s money. Merkel has a megalomaniacal view that “every product, every actor, every financial market participant should be regulated.” Ludwig Erhard must be spinning in his grave.

“We will continue to work for a tax on the financial markets,” Merkel said in a stormy debate in parliament on her government’s 2011 budget. “The finance minister is doing this in several discussions and we are going to try to persuade as many countries as possible. Unfortunately, the world is not always as we would wish … but we are not going to give up,” she added. At a meeting of European Union finance ministers earlier this month, members of the 27-country bloc clashed over the idea of imposing a tax of financial market transactions in Europe. The proposal, driven by France and Germany…, has run into stiff resistance from several countries, notably Sweden and Britain. At the level of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations, there is still more discord, with Canada and emerging market economies leading the battle against it. A G20 summit takes place in South Korea in November. “We are sticking to the principle that every product, every actor, every financial market participant should be regulated so that we have an overview of what is happening on the financial markets,” Merkel said.

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I’ve been very dismissive of supposed European “austerity” initiatives, in part because the term seems to describe politicians who want tax-financed government spending rather than Keynesian-style deficit-financed government spending. But what really matters is reducing the burden of government spending, regardless of how those outlays are financed. But if this Financial Times report is true and Germany reduces total government spending next year by 3.8 percent, that would be a significant achievement. Indeed, the United States has not seen a one-year-to-the-next reduction in the burden of spending since the mid-1960s. I hope this is true and my pessimism is unwarranted, but I’m still a skeptic. I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the 3.8 percent cut is based on phony US-style budget accounting (a spending increase magically becomes a spending cut if the increase is not as big as politicians want) or some sort of budget shell game (like Obama’s budget freeze, which exempted the vast majority of the budget).
Germany’s cabinet is poised this week to approve a 2011 budget as part of a four-year programme of public spending cuts meant to serve as an example to other European governments without jeopardising the country’s increasingly robust economic recovery. Briefing papers for Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, released by Berlin on Sunday, argue that by curbing spending – rather than increasing taxes – the €80bn ($100.3bn, £66bn) savings programme would differ “fundamentally” from previous fiscal squeezes and offer “noticeable, better growth possibilities”. …Germany’s economy is enjoying an industry-led growth spurt, with engineers rehiring workers and returning production almost to pre-crisis levels. The stronger-than-expected growth and falls in unemployment were making it significantly easier for Germany to reduce its public sector deficit. …the package “would differ fundamentally from earlier consolidation efforts”, avoiding “growth-hindering tax increases”. …Overall government spending is seen as falling 3.8 per cent next year, with smaller reductions in subsequent years before federal elections in 2013.

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I spoke today in Prague at the second installment of the Free Market Road Show. I gave a standard presentation about fiscal policy, including strong warnings that all industrialized nations run the risk of Greek-style fiscal collapse because of entitlement programs and demographic changes. What’s remarkable, though, is that nobody pretends anymore that this isn’t happening. The question and answer session saw many people ask when the world was coming to an end (from a fiscal perspective) and whether certain nations would be good places to escape when welfare states descend into lawlessness and chaos. Meanwhile, in the Nero-fiddles-while-Rome-burns category, Europe’s statist Chancellor, Angela Merkel, confirmed to the world that she is a blithering idiot and/or a shallow and reprehensible political hack by imposing a ban on “short selling,” which occurs when investors make decisions based on an assumption that an asset (such as a Greek government bond) will fall in value. In the real world, short sellers perform a valuable role by helping to limit speculative bubbles. In the political world, however, short sellers are targeted by demagogues. If Merkel is right and short sellers are guilty of causing assets to fall, then thermometers are guilty of causing fevers. Bloomberg reports on Germany’s national embarrassment:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out proposals to gain control over “destructive” financial markets, after she imposed a unilateral ban on naked short- selling that sent stocks sliding. …“The lack of rules and limits can make behavior in financial markets driven purely by the profit motive destructive and lead to an existential threat to financial stability in Europe and even the world,” Merkel told lawmakers in Berlin today.

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