Monday, June 03, 2013

Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel to the eurozone (short version): we will continue to grind you into the dirt!

Spiegel International just published an English translation of an interview just published in the print edition with German Chancellor Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel, Angela Merkel on Europe: 'We Are All in the Same Boat' 06/03/2013. (This version has additional passages at the end not included in the print edition.)

Short version: We will grind the lesser nations of Europe into the ground for the benefit of German banks and exporters!!

For all her shameless arrogance, though, she's actually riding the tiger with the euro. If the euro falls apart, the prices of Germany's exports suddenly go up by about 30%. And the German central bank through the "Target 2" clearing mechanism has lent several hundred billion euros to other eurozone central banks that evaporate into thin air if the euro goes away.

Here are some highlights. This one is a galling example of her arrogance. She explains her raising of the retirement age in Germany from 65 to 67 - with the support of her then-coalition partners the SPD (!!!) - as downright beneficial to older workers:

SPIEGEL: And how is this supposed to work with an aging population?

Merkel: It can also succeed with an aging population. A person who is 70 today is like a 60-year-old 25 years ago. Aging alone is not a reason for a society to stop being innovative. Fortunately attitudes toward aging are changing. Staying active and life-long learning are becoming increasingly important. Many old people have a great deal of experience to contribute. This was not sufficiently taken into account when early retirement programs came into effect in Germany. Because we want to maintain our standard of living, we decided to extend the retirement age to 67, so that people can work longer than in the past. Many can and want to do so. [my emphasis in italics]
This is a measure that she's actively trying to force onto all the other eurozone countries.

"A person who is 70 today is like a 60-year-old 25 years ago," she says. If the financial companies that want to boost their business in selliing retirement products to people actually believed that, they wouldn't be lobbying for this policy in the US and Europe. And I don't know of any drastic genetic mutations in people now reaching 65 that make them less subject to health problems than 25 years ago. The prospect of secure retirement at 65 and the reduced stress from not having to work if you don't want to after that age is one reason for the increased healthy life span of older people. Although in the US, despite what the opponents of Social Security say, the lifespan of people after 60 hasn'tz radically increased since the 1930s. It's just that Social Security and the now-fading employer retirement programs have meant that being old doesn't mean being poor for most people now.

This passage shows her contempt for democratic government in the rest of Europe:

SPIEGEL: There is a curious circumstance by which you are very popular here in Germany but a controversial figure in other parts of Europe. Do you pay too much attention to German interests and too little to European neighbors?

Merkel: As the German chancellor, I always want [the] best for Germany and for Europe because I am profoundly convinced that Europe's prosperity in 20 years depends on how we set the course today. If we do not view ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses in a global context, if we forget or ignore how hard countries in Asia or South America are working to become more competitive, Europe will fall behind globally. We have to have this discussion, even if it is controversial at times.

SPIEGEL: How long can Brussels continue to impose austerity on countries like Spain and Greece, a policy that the majority in those countries does not support?

Merkel: Democratically elected governments are our partners in all of these countries. My Greek, Spanish and Portuguese counterparts are all democratically authorized to pursue their courageous and arduous course of reforms. In politics, we are repeatedly forced to make decisions that are not popular at first. Take, for example, the retirement age of 67, which we've already addressed. It still has little support in the polls, even if it remains unavoidable. [my emphasis in italics]
That's a classic Merkel-ese passage full of neoliberal buzzwords. She likes to describe her austerity policies as "unavoidable," as though they are dictated by some iron law of The Market instead of being policy choices based on bad economis and the short-sighted greed of the German and European One Percent.

Whenever Frau Fritz talks about competitiveness, she means the usual neoliberal eat-your-gruel-peasants recipe: lower wages and salaries, weaker unions, less job security, fewer government services for the non-superrich, degrading retirement income, deregulating businesses and capital markets. The policies, in other words, that are currently devastating Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Portugal and Spain. With more national economies moving onto the target list, including France.

This is so cynical it's painful to read. (She learned growing up to speak of "democracy" in her native East Germany in a propaganda sense.) This leaves out the tremendous financial pressure she has brought on those countries through the EU mechanisms in cooperation with the IMF and the ECB. She basically forced the elected heads of government in Greece and Italy out of office at different points. And for the most part she's discretly ignored the authoritarian turn in EU member Hungary.

That quote is a real-time example of "façade democracy" in action. The dictates of The Market are "unavoidable," and it's the job of the elected governments to do what The Market through its European spokesperson Frau Fritz says they have to do.

I love it when she says of the other eurozone member countries, "We are all in the same boat." She doesn't mention that some of the passengers have their heads being held under water.

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