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Sarkozy's Economic Austerity Gamble: The Failure Of Neoliberal Snakeoil

Politics / Economic Austerity Apr 30, 2012 - 12:20 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop

Politics Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleOutgoing president Sarkozy of France has only a few days to go before his come-uppance. Barring a miracle, pollsters say he is beaten by Parti Soialiste candidate Francois Hollande, but much more than a personal humiliation and a disaster for Sarkozy's fragile UMP party, a victory for Hollande will signal huge challenges for the "only possible policy" of austerity and mass unemployment, forced on the rest of Europe by German chancellor Merkel. In Greece and Spain, and other PIIGS countries this has already had disastrous economic and fiscal impacts - let alone the social damage. For sure and certain failure - either in growth or in recesssion - neoliberalism is above all reliable. Discussing and dissecting this flabby set of laisser-faire slogans and economic horse medecine has become daily fare in French media, throughout the long presidential compaign, almost certainly radicalizing the voting public and intensifying hostility to "Mrs Thatcher's purulent fantasies of 30 years ago", as one leading anti-Sarkozy candidate, Jean-Luc Melanchon has put it.

The French-led attack by Hollande, his PS party, and a string of left, extreme left and communist parties and movements - and by the ever more powerful extreme right in France - on neoliberal austerity cure is already triggering revolt through every branch of the EU's institutions. The wallowing absurdity of the "euro crisis", where a country with 2.2% of the EU's total population, Greece, is sacrificed at an open air festival of casino capitalism, and whose debts have spiralled to insane extremes even as the country is sacrificed, has often figured as the major topic in anti-Sarkozy meetings. As many as 25% of French now simply want to quit the euro, nothing less or more.

 "It’s not for Germany to decide for the rest of Europe," says François Hollande, but that is putting it mildly compared with how extreme right Marine Le Pen, or extreme left Melanchon put it. While Hollande is committed to "changing Europe's construction", around 35% of French voters in the first round of presidential voting, on 22 April, supported candidates who want to take much more nuscular action than that. When or if France goes down the Spanish road - to neoliberal collapse driven by a suicidal austerity programme - Hollande will be facing a lot of opposition.

Hollande was of course obliged to say it, and therefore can be challenged to do it, by claiming that France is not just any country and "we can change the situation". Similar sized Italy did not. Austerity cure was rammed down the throats of the British, also, without even the pretence of this being needed "to save the euro" or to bail out Greece to the profit of bond traders huddled at their playstation screens playing futures and options, greed is good, only.

Much closer to the meat and explaining Merkel's personal and shameless interference in French national politics - by doing a long election time TV interview side by side with "her friend Sarko" and by refusing to meet Hollande - Europeans are waking up to the possibility of fighting neoliberalism's "middle class policies". Even Austria has distanced itself from giving total and supine support to Germany’s austerity drive - - to be applied in all non-German member states.

Francois Hollande also has little choice, given the extreme polarization of French politics that sorceror's apprentice Sarkozy wanted, and got. Hollande plans an EU-wide process of renegotiating Europe’s "failed treaties", starting with the Nice and Lisbon treaties, and the crop of punitive pacts more often made in secret and never fully disclosed, by the Merkel-Sarkozy duo, with chosen European Commission powerbrokers and the ECB's hardline neoliberal shocktroopers - committed not only to destroying the euro, but also all hopes of a normal life for several hundred million Europeans. Long-term austerity is their Final Solution. Europe-wide political revolt will be the first result.

 Merkel has once again stuck her nose in French politics, so close to the final run-off in which her man, or delirious dwarf can only win by miracle. Markel has formally told Hollande "the treaty" cannot be renegotiated, a handy way to frighten some French voters while also not saying exactly which pact or treaty is in question. Much more critical to Europe's economic survival than the Nice treaty for application through 2003-2014 and Lisbon treaty (after 2014), the host of "secret pacts" since 2008 which only seek to bail out bond traders and hedge funds, and the banks which own them, must be struck down. One of Hollande's potential candidates for finance minister, even prime minister, Arnaud Montebourg has made this theme his 'cheval de bataille', his warhorse.

Prising the greedy hands of casino capitalism off Europe's jugular vein was among the more moderate calls of the straight majority of French presidential candidates in the 22nd April first round of voting: these candidates will be in the new French parliament that is voted in June. Some will be in government, too.   This then is the birth of a new anti-neoliberal Euroland growth bloc with well over 200 million people and a commanding majority vote in the European Council. Showing which way the wind blows, Mario Draghi at the ECB is quickly bending to the new political momentum in Europe, and like the ECB, the Commission will also find ways to "extend deadlines" on fiscal targets.

The unratified pacts and unapplied treaties that force neoliberal horse medicine down the throats of the vast majority of Europeans, chase them into the unemployment lines, and the gutter, most certainly can be renegotiated, or simply struck down. Binning the BS of unelected Financial Europe is one of Holland's themes - for him, the real enemy is casino finance - and is becoming easier.  Merkel's "christian democratic" wheedling scantily covers the rabid neoliberal greed that is enthroned by these rotten treaties - which Mrs Merkel cannot push through the Bundestag without the Social Democrats, who are warming rapidly to Mr Hollande. Her almost certain, but never disclosed goal, cooked up with Sarkozy, was to force all EU states, not only the Eurozone-17 to pay for the total failure of euro-based "monetary union".

Making the worst possible combinations of all kinds - political, ideological, economic - Merkel and Sarkozy fondly imagined there could be some kind of Bismark Europe. There would be complete and total economic hegemony by Germany - because it has a trade surplus - but each nationala economy would be 'ruled' by neoliberal chaos and anarchy, injustice, waste and greed. This would the best possible solution in the best possible of all worlds ! Dream on !

In the real world, it is worth remembering that German taxpayers have not bailed out anybody, so far. Berlin has rejected all forms of debt pooling, Eurobonds, or fiscal transfers made even easier because full budgetary union would violate Germany’s constitution and eviscerate their democracy. By way of secret pacts therefore, the Merkel-Sarkozy duo thought they could get around this. Europe's surreal economic situation, after decades of neoliberal downsizing and outplacement, casino capitalism and rank social injustice, has created or bequeathed a perfect array of No Win outcomes.
As a result, nothing happens - but it will. To be sure, for German croney capitalists the ruin of nearly all of Europe, and their enrichment are Good Things. The euro has put Germany in a near perfect position, even if close to 60% of Germans want to return to the D-Mark now; without the euro, the DM would have spiraled up in value, as interest rates spiraled up in the Club Med countries, making it impossible for them to buy shiny Mercs, BMWs, Audis and VWs on funny-money credit. German economic success, and European economic ruin are simple to explain - and are not cast in stone.

Neoliberal horse medecine - kill the patient and then assassinate the doctor - had remarkable staying power in Europe, proving this supposed economic policy really is laisser-faire, laisser-aller politics. When the people are out to lunch at McDonalds or KFC, the rats can play in the chancelleries. It is remarkable that Berlin met so little resistance - until now - in powering a fiscal union treaty where only the poor inside each country, and the poorer member states in the EU pay for it. Even more remarkable, nobody wants this, proven by the "pressing need" to abandon democracy and put so-called technocrats at the head of state in Greece and Italy, as the deadly debt-deflation spiral sucked them into the void.

Throughout this process, Nicolas Sarkozy was a traitor to France. He went along with it at every stage. He never once used France’s swing power in either the Eurozone or the EU system to call a halt. He sacrificed everthing to his personal greed for power and the illusion of Franco-German parity.

Now, at the bitter end of this process for Sarkozy the likelihood for abandoning the euro, and reasserting "states rights" in a looser EU system, with all its failed treaties and rotten pacts thrown overboard, is vastly stronger than previous. Even 18 months ago it was unthinkable. Every day, in the agonizing economic sacrifice of Spain and Greece, the results of neoliberal snakeoil politics - greed and chaos thrown together and worshipped by the braindead - can be seen by all Europeans. French also saw this and were not kind to Sarko l'Arnaque, the snakeoil salesman.

Now it is obvious what must be done. The corrupt and incompetent hands-off politicians who elevated Thatcherism, despite its creaking imbecility to their Only Possible Policy, must be halted immediately. They must be dumped, like Sarkozy, while the country's consitution is defended and the people vote for entirly different policies. Employment must be restored.  The ECB must be given the power to lend to all EU states, able to intervene with sufficient force to smash any attermpt by the casino capitalist plaboys at their playstation consoles to push countries into sovereign default.

Mr Hollande is in many ways the last of the line, of Parti Socialiste authoritarians in the Mitterand mould. Personally but not politically, he could be fobbed off with an enlarged and recapitalized European Investment Bank, greater powers for some DGs at the Commission, and similar faraway things for elite deciders. But time is not with him. His allies in parliament, even his ministers will be the most radical ever. The time is long gone when EU elites could muddle through, because a quarter-century of neoliberalism has done so much damage. While Europe is set to change in many ways - becoming looser rather than the opposite - the political changes coming will have massive feedback effects in the economy almost certainly shifting the Germany itself.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2012 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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