German Of The Day: Strafzins

That means “punitive interest rate” and refers to a rates below zero.

Strafzins

It’s an accurate word invention. The ECB has cut rates again and those who save are punished.

The German term “Strafzins”, or “punishment rate” is widely used in the country’s media to refer to interest rates below zero. And a day after the ECB cut rates for the first time since the spring of 2016, it is back in the news.

This is despite the fact there is an alternative German word for negative rates: negativzins (as Michael Steen, formerly of the FT and ECB global media chief, pointed out on Twitter).

Admittedly negativ also has . . . negative connotations. But the use of “straf”, or “punitive”, reflects a widespread perception across Germany that the ECB is penalising savers through its monetary policy.

“They want to pump us up with the credit drug.”

German Of The Day: Graf Draghila

That means Count Draghila.

Draghila

You know, as in Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank President?

Mass-selling German newspaper Bild on Friday accused European Central Bank President Mario Draghi of “sucking dry” the bank accounts of Germany’s savers, a day after the ECB cut interest rates deeper into negative territory.

Next to a photomontage of Draghi with fangs and dressed as a vampire, Bild’s headline read: “Count Draghila is sucking our accounts dry.”

Hoping to kick-start economic activity nearly a decade after the euro zone’s debt crisis, the ECB on Thursday cut interest rates deeper into negative territory and promised bond purchases with no end-date to push borrowing costs even lower.

“The horror for German savers goes on and on.”

An Inconvenient Truth

Germany hides the awkward truth about the euro.

Germany

Mr Kohl’s offence — the original sin, I would say, at the launch of the single currency — was to shy away from spelling out to German voters the inescapable meaning of the bargain. It still goes unsaid. In short, Germany is the biggest beneficiary of European integration. The EU supplies the democratic stability and economic certainty on which its prosperity has been built. No country has more to lose from a break-up.

These benefits, understandably, carry a price tag. As the EU’s most powerful economy, Germany bears a proportionate responsibility for the stability of the enterprise.

The mantra in Berlin continues to obfuscate. Germany, it says, will never accept a “transfer union”. In real life, of course, that horse has already bolted. The true choice is between the shadow transfer union represented by the mountain of national central bank liabilities that have built up at the ECB — so-called Target balances — and the creation of an economic union that admits the role of fiscal policy in managing economic demand.

The present catch-22 is that those with room to operate the fiscal levers — Germany and its northern neighbours — refuse to do so. Those pressing for a more expansionary stance — led by France — lack the budgetary headroom.

Grossly Undervalued?

Grossly overvalued? The main thing is, gross.

Navarro

When it comes to the advantage that Germany has taken of the euro, Navarro is right about effect, if not motive.

The euro has been bad for German democracy and for German savers and may well ultimately prove to be a disaster for its taxpayers too, but it has been a boon for the country’s exporters. The euro is far weaker than the Deutsche Mark would have been (as was always likely to have been the case). This means that Germany’s decision to abandon its old currency in favor of the euro has acted as a disguised devaluation, a devaluation that has only deepened as the structural imbalances within the common currency have dragged the euro down still further.

Navarro sagte der “Financial Times”, Deutschland profitiere in seinen Handelsbeziehungen von einer “extrem unterbewerteten ‘impliziten Deutschen Mark'”.

You Gotta Have Rules

In order for the EU to work properly, I mean. Take deficit spending (please). The infamous Maastricht “deficit criterion” from 1992 is one of my personal favorites. It’s limited to 3 (three) percent.

Rules

The euro convergence criteria (also known as the Maastricht criteria) are the criteria which European Union member states are required to meet to enter the third stage of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and adopt the euro as their currency…

2. Government budget deficit: The ratio of the annual general government deficit relative to gross domestic product (GDP) at market prices, must not exceed 3% at the end of the preceding fiscal year (based on notified measured data) and neither for any of the two subsequent years (based on the European Commission’s published forecast data). Deficits being “slightly above the limit” (previously outlined by the evaluation practice to mean deficits in the range from 3.0–3.5%[9]), will as a standard rule not be accepted, unless it can be established that either: “1) The deficit ratio has declined substantially and continuously before reaching the level close to the 3% limit” or “2) The small deficit ratio excess above the 3% limit has been caused by exceptional circumstances and has a temporary nature (i.e. expenditure one-offs triggered by a significant economic downturn, or expenditure one-offs triggered by the implementation of economic reforms with a positive mid/long-term effect)”.[5][6][10] If a state is found by the Commission to have breached the deficit criteria, they will recommend the Council of the European Union to open up a deficit-breached EDP against the state in accordance with Article 126(6), which only will be abrogated again when the state simultaneously comply with both the deficit and debt criteria.

I don’t understand everything there under item 2, of course, but apparently neither did most of the countries that signed the treaty (at least I get the 3 percent part). See the graph above about the EU’s top “deficit offenders.” It’s been going on like this for years and years, too. Any questions?

In Italien droht ein Bankenkollaps, in Spanien, Portugal und Frankreich herrscht der Schuldenstaat: Die Eurozone driftet auseinander, Regeln werden kaum noch eingehalten.

Secret European Army Being Planned By The Same Folks Who Brought Us The Euro And Refugee Crises

So like what force in the universe could possibly stand in its way? Or even want to. Honey, where’s our white flag?

Army

British Brexit campaigners have been boosted with news from Berlin that Germany is once more pushing for an EU army encompassing all 28 member states with a joint HQ and shared military planning.

Along with judicial, tax and immigration issues, a Euro army has for long been one of the main irritants of anti-EU campaigners.  

“German security policy has relevance — also for beyond our country. Germany is willing to join early, decisively and substantially as a driving force in international debates … to take responsibility and assume leadership.”

Last Man Standing

Only she’s a girl.

Merkel

You have called Angela Merkel the modern-day empress of the eurozone. What do you mean?

The title empress reflects, in my view, two realities of present-day Europe. First, the Germans look so strong because the others look so weak. The British are withdrawing from Europe. The French are down but not out. They’re unable to rev up their economy – same thing for the Italians, same thing for the Spaniards. So, when you add it all up, who is the last man – or in this case, the last woman – standing?

The second reason is more concrete – the Germans have been in the vanguard of driving home fealty to the eurozone’s foundational treaties. These conventions enjoined member states, like Greece, not to overspend and over-borrow and, at the same time, to make their economies more efficient. Merkel and her finance minister are not austerity mongers as everybody is harping on about. They are committed to the original treaties’ stated rules that require eurozone members to reform their economies and become more competitive.

Zum ersten Mal seit 2005 könnte die Union einer Umfrage zufolge die absolute Mehrheit erreichen. Die Partei wäre mit 43 Prozent der Stimmen stärker als all anderen Parteien zusammen.

More German “Universalization,” Please

German policy-makers genuinely believe the harsh medicine for Greece and others is the right thing to do, he added. In some ways, Germany is “trying to universalize its own history,” Mr. Kundnani noted. That history includes an extreme leeriness of inflation and debt, plus more recent experience about a decade ago with a series of successful economic reforms, including an overhaul of its labour market.

Germany

“I don’t see Germany as being an outlier. I see it rather as someone who is in the middle ground and seeking a balance. Germany is taking a lead by managing the debate.”

Germany Defeated Yet Again

No, it wasn’t World War III. It was the Endkampf (final battle) for Bailout III. Like, don’t these people ever get tired of surrendering?

Defeat

Europe woke up on Monday to a lot of headlines about the humiliation of Greece, the triumph of an all-powerful Germany and the subversion of democracy in Europe.

What nonsense. If anybody has capitulated, it is Germany. The German government has just agreed, in principle, to another multibillion-euro bailout of Greece — the third so far. In return, it has received promises of economic reform from a Greek government that makes it clear that it profoundly disagrees with everything that it has just agreed to.

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”

Little Oskar Thinking Out Of The Box Again

Well known for his refreshing viewpoints, Mr. ex-SPD, ex-Left, ex-Bolshevist, ex-you-name-it Oskar Lafontaine himself has come up with a brilliant new idea to save Greece from its upcoming euro Grexit exit: Get rid of the euro first.

Oskar

Being the true radical thinker that he is, he seems to have devised a radical new European economic system by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without having to use a medium of exchange like dirty, filthy, old (or in his case new) money. And the way things look right now, Greece will be the first country to get the chance to test this out in a big way.

“Der Euro ist ein Rückschritt im historischen Projekt der europäischen Integration. Der Euro ist schon gescheitert, wir dürfen uns da keinen Illusionen hingeben.”