11.01.2011 1

European Treaty Mirrors Dodd-Frank Bailout Mechanism

By Bill Wilson — Europe is once again back to the drawing board to find somebody dumb enough to guarantee the consolidated sovereign debts of the entire continent after China has rejected any bailout of the creditors of embattled nations Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain (PIIGS).

“China can neither take up the role as a saviour to the Europeans, nor provide a ‘cure’ for the European malaise.  Obviously, it is up to European countries themselves to tackle their financial problems,” said the Communist nation’s official news service Xinhua.

The problem for Europe is that the €440 billion European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) is not large enough to back up all of the debts of the PIIGS, which total more than €3 trillion. And while the European Union (EU) has agreed to leverage the fund up to €1.4 trillion, it still has not found a willing party to put up the cash.

It was originally assumed that the European Central Bank (ECB) would do so, but Germany has vetoed that approach, since tethering that nation to potential liabilities not approved by the Bundestag would violate its constitution.

Which meant it would have to be somebody outside Europe.  China perhaps, but now they’ve said no unequivocally.  So have Japan, Russia, and Brazil. That leaves just the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, the bank does not believe it has enough cash on hand to do so — meaning participating nations including the U.S. would have to approve an expansion of the IMF’s capital.

Such a proposal would likely meet stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives — to say nothing of the American people, who would rightly find a taxpayer-funded bailout of Europe at a time when the U.S. is in its own debt crisis to be outrageous.

Further gumming up the works is Greece itself, which unexpectedly has decided to hold a referendum on the deal in January.

“The command of the Greek people will bind us. Do they want to adopt the new deal, or reject it? If the Greek people do not want it, it will not be adopted,” said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

The arrangement requires major cuts and tax increases in Greece — and that is proving to be exceedingly unpopular with the people, who do no want the EU setting domestic fiscal priorities.  A majority opposed it in a recent survey, signaling likely failure of the referendum come January.  But that does not mean the EU will not continue to pursue its true aim — bailing out the international financial institutions.

Remember, this is not a bailout of Greece.  It is a bailout of Greece’s creditors.  Even the supposed 50 percent “haircut” of private investors comes with a caveat: Those financial institutions would still be recapitalized under the leveraged fund to negate any potential losses.

So, even if Greece defaults on 100 percent of its obligations and leaves the Eurozone, banks would not bear any losses under the deal.  Whoever funds the bailout will.  But who will it be?

Should the IMF route fail, the EU would be still be left without somebody to leverage the EFSF.  The Europeans’ only other option might be a proposed new treaty, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which would create a permanent fund to perpetually refinance European sovereign debt, similar to the Dodd-Frank so-called “orderly liquidation fund” established last year in the U.S.

Under that system, 60 bank-holding companies with $50 billion or more in consolidated assets are to be taxed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to fund a permanent resolution authority.  This institutionalized “too big to fail” and took Congress out of the loop for any future bailouts.  No more messy votes like the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008, which was a political loser for all involved.

Now the European powers want to do the same thing — cede their sovereign fiscal responsibilities to an authoritarian, unrepresentative authority, in this case the ESM.  A recent video by German organizations Zivile Koalition, Die Friere Welt, and Abgeordneten Check outlines this danger posed to the German people — and free peoples everywhere.

For down this rabbit-hole are the panels of experts that former Obama budget director Peter Orszag recently pined for in the U.S. to “counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.”

Signatory nations of the ESM would be required to perpetually fund the mechanism with hundreds of billions of euros — all without any vote in their own parliaments.  Which is why the 17 member nations of the Eurozone, or the 16 minus Greece, should be unambiguously opposed its adoption.  Is this the future of Europe?

Worse, is this the end of the few-hundred-years-old experiment in representative government in the West? Let us hope not.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.

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