Headless financial watchdogs needn’t be toothless

December 8, 2011

Senate Republicans blocked another Obama nominee to lead a key agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Politics is making it tough to solidify leadership at a handful of top regulators. But as the FDIC is proving, acting directors can still get things done.

Draghi pours cold water on euro zone grand bargain

December 9, 2011

The European Central Bank has cut interest rates and taken steps to help banks in order to fend off a looming recession. But by insisting on the “spirit” of the EU’s founding treaties, its president has signalled that governments can’t count on him to be the euro zone’s saviour.

Euro zone gets tighter as Europe splits further

December 12, 2011

Leaders have agreed strong fiscal reforms in spite of the UK refusing to go along with changes to EU treaties. The hope is that the long-term plans will reassure investors. For now, the best way to regain credibility would be for governments to swiftly implement their decisions.

Fiscal sovereignty largely overrated in euro zone

December 13, 2011

EU politicians are reluctant to give a higher authority veto power over euro members’ budgets. They don’t get it. They should be grateful for the discipline, which bond markets failed to provide for years. Besides, more valuable types of sovereignty are already gone.

France is serial loser in unfolding euro drama

December 13, 2011

In spite of appearances, France has lost out to Germany on all the important arguments about how to manage the euro crisis. Nicolas Sarkozy’s theatrics have created diversions. But they can’t hide the fact that what Berlin wants, Berlin gets.

U.S. energy bill beneficiary redefines going green

December 13, 2011

Oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens and U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi are oddly aligned. A fuel subsidy proposal, if passed, would make them both richer because of their stakes in a “green” firm that would benefit. Congressional trading rules need an overhaul now more than ever.

Prokhorov no torch-bearer for Russia’s reformers

December 14, 2011

The Russian oligarch’s motives are unclear and he has no political experience. Prokhorov just isn’t a serious alternative to Vladimir Putin. The protests against the president are growing, but the educated middle class still lacks a political party to articulate its demands.

Publicans could help Greece with tax woes

December 15, 2011

Before the age of tax bureaucracies, governments auctioned off the right to gather taxes. They got their money up front and the collectors worked hard – they kept any excess. In Greece, a new kind of publican could be more effective than tax inspectors demoralised by pay cuts.

EEA could be right place for UK in Europe

December 16, 2011

After the Cameron veto, Britain’s status in the EU is precarious. It won’t move forward into the euro zone and cannot really turn its back on Europe. Some losses are inevitable, but the UK could gain by beefing up the European Economic Area – a fairly happy half-way zone.

Dear Leader’s death may prize open hermit state

December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-il managed to keep North Korea cut off from the world. Trade flows barely exist, Chinese energy and French cognac aside. The intellectual seclusion is at least as great. Autarky has brought economic hardship, a heavy burden Kim’s successor will struggle to lift.