Are politicians playing chicken with central bankers? More to the point, if the U.S. Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank step up, yet again, to protect their economies from the global slowdown, will it take U.S., German, Spanish, Italian, Greek and other governments off the hook?
Despite all the flashing yellow signs in the global economy, banking sector forecasters are sticking – if a bit uneasily – to their modestly optimistic outlook. Still, a group of economists from the American Bankers Association, a banking lobby that presented its latest economic projections to Federal Reserve officials this week, highlighted plenty of risks. Chief among them were financial contagion from Europe and sharp fiscal adjustments in the United States.
If anything positive can be said to have come out of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, it may be that the theory arguing major economies could “decouple” from one another in times of stress was roundly disproved. Now that Europe is the world’s troublesome epicenter, economists are already on the lookout for how ructions there will reverberate elsewhere.
Many market analysts consider a deeper fiscal union the only way to hold together a troubled euro zone. And while Germany continues to loudly reaffirm its long-standing opposition to shared euro zone bonds, the region is in many ways already headed towards implicit mutual responsibility for national debts. Berlin will likely come under increasing pressure to succumb, especially now that “core” European countries are entering the crosshairs of speculators .
Incumbency, it is often said, confers many advantages.
Sitting U.S. presidents certainly have reaped its benefits – in the past 80 years, only three have been unseated.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg slammed the federal government for following the same fiscal path that has cost European governments so dearly, perhaps offering Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney hints about what policies he would like to see from them to win his endorsement as a moderate independent. Bloomberg’s seal of approval carries added weight because he is a billionaire businessman with close ties to Wall Street, a source of donations as well as a powerful force in the economy.
The inventors of democracy and its greatest 18th century champions both go to the polls this weekend. Greek and French voters will try to elect governments they hope will help release their economies from the grips of the euro zone debt crisis.