Today's howls of despair over EU policy come courtesy of Paul Krugman...
Consider the state of affairs in Spain, which is now the epicenter of the crisis. Never mind talk of recession; Spain is in full-on depression, with the overall unemployment rate at 23.6 percent, comparable to America at the depths of the Great Depression, and the youth unemployment rate over 50 percent. This can’t go on — and the realization that it can’t go on is what is sending Spanish borrowing costs ever higher.
In a way, it doesn’t really matter how Spain got to this point — but for what it’s worth, the Spanish story bears no resemblance to the morality tales so popular among European officials, especially in Germany. Spain wasn’t fiscally profligate — on the eve of the crisis it had low debt and a budget surplus. Unfortunately, it also had an enormous housing bubble, a bubble made possible in large part by huge loans from German banks to their Spanish counterparts. When the bubble burst, the Spanish economy was left high and dry; Spain’s fiscal problems are a consequence of its depression, not its cause.
Nonetheless, the prescription coming from Berlin and Frankfurt is, you guessed it, even more fiscal austerity.
This is, not to mince words, just insane. Europe has had several years of experience with harsh austerity programs, and the results are exactly what students of history told you would happen: such programs push depressed economies even deeper into depression. And because investors look at the state of a nation’s economy when assessing its ability to repay debt, austerity programs haven’t even worked as a way to reduce borrowing costs.
...[I]t’s hard to avoid a sense of despair. Rather than admit that they’ve been wrong, European leaders seem determined to drive their economy — and their society — off a cliff. And the whole world will pay the price.
...and Nouriel Roubini:
The trouble is that the eurozone has an austerity strategy but no growth strategy. And, without that, all it has is a recession strategy that makes austerity and reform self-defeating, because, if output continues to contract, deficit and debt ratios will continue to rise to unsustainable levels. Moreover, the social and political backlash eventually will become overwhelming.
Without a much easier monetary policy and a less front-loaded mode of fiscal austerity, the euro will not weaken, external competitiveness will not be restored, and the recession will deepen. And, without resumption of growth—not years down the line, but in 2012—the stock and flow imbalances will become even more unsustainable. More eurozone countries will be forced to restructure their debts, and eventually some will decide to exit the monetary union