German press and its politicians lose the plot – Europhiles be warned

I am reverting back this Wednesday to a shorter blog post to free up a bit more time to advance other writing projects. Here are some snippets on Germany and Italy that caught my eye this week. And a link to an essential video about Venezuela. And some music in a sad week (musically).

Think things are getting progressive in Germany? Think again

Issue Number 23 of Der Spiegel magazine (June 2, 2018) reached me earlier this week and he is the cover.

We read:

Ciao amore! Italien zerstört sich selbst – und reißt Europa mit

Hello friend! Italy destroys itself – and takes Europe with it

In its – Morning Briefing – on the same day, the chief editor was abusive and racist with respect to Italians and Italy.

It summarised the cover story by claiming that there were two disasters emerging out of Italy (the following paraphrases from my translation of the German):

1. The new populist government would drive up debt and would soon be facing bankruptcy. This would make it impossible to save within the Eurozone.

2. That Italy is significantly contributing to the erosion of common values in Europe by daring to criticise the EU and siding with right-wing populists.

Then you read the editorial comment – Schuldenland Italien: Die Schnorrer von Rom – and you realise that things are really out of control.

The headline was “Debt nation Italy: The scroungers of Rome”.

The sub-title said asked:

What do you call a nation that stops first to let its good life be financed by others – and then threatens its financiers when they ask for debt repayment?

The article has a photo from the Marina in Portofino (just down the coast from Genoa) with luxury motor yachts on display, as if that is representative of modern Italy.

The column goes on to elucidate how rich Milanese are taking over the Swiss mountains and driving agriculture out. And how the new Italian government:

… promises Italians heaven on earth: less taxes, early retirements and a universal basic income.

We are told that the average Italian household is richer than its German counterpart and could easily pay of the national debt if it gave up their “lax tax ethics”.

The article claims that Italy has been living the good life (dolce far niente) with the finance of others and then is threatening to hit the financiers over the head because they want their debts paid back.

The article doesn’t exactly say who these ‘financiers’ that Italy is living off are.

But apparently, this Italian behaviour is worse than begging, because “at least beggars say thank you when you fill their bag”.

They say that the behaviour is better described as “Aggressives Schnorren trifft die Sache schon eher”, which, more or less means, “aggressive scrounging is closer to the mark”.

But moreso, the Italians are blackmailers according to the article – because they are saying to Germany and other Member States – either you relax the austerity rules or we blow the whole store up.

And if they decided to default on the debt then “Germans would lose all the rescue money they have given to Italy”.

The article also links Italian Mario Draghi (ECB boss) as a co-conspirator in this Italian attack on Germany wealth.

It ends by saying the nations take pride in not scrounging on others. But, apparently, Italians have overcome the shame of scrounging on others.

Amazing really that this sort of stuff can be published in this era.

Remember also that Der Spiegel grew out of the Nazi devastation of Europe as a progressive force (founded in 1947).

It has always claimed a higher moral ground through its granular investigative reporting (Source).

It is also considered to be a centre-left publication, sympathetic to the SPD, although the latter is no longer a sign of a centre-left position.

As it stands, this type of commentary renders Der Spiegel a rabble. But because it is highly influential in setting public opinion in Germany, it also demonstrates how far away Germany is from any reform agenda that would make the Eurozone workable.

And on the question of scroungers, a sentiment I have seen expressed regularly in the recent weeks in relation to Italy – you know, Italy is just bleeding the EU dry, stuff – the claimants should consult the data.

According to the EU Expenditure and Revenue data – Italy is a net contributor to the EU Budget.

Italy is a net contributor – in 2016, putting in 3,206.8 EUR million (or 0.19 per cent of its GNI) to Brussels than it received.

Here is a graph of the balances for the 2016 EU fiscal accounts as a per cent of the nation’s Gross National Income (positive means the nation is receiving net funds from the EU, negative means it is a net contributor).

Another Eurozone dead end – Scholtz on unemployment insurance

Next week – I will also be writing about this topic.

In brief, the new German Finance Minister, Olaf “Wolfgang Schäuble” Scholz was given coverage in the last few days by Der Spiegel magazine claiming that he was pushing forward a reform agenda for the Eurozone in the form of a Eurozone-wide unemployment insurance scheme with the aim of “supplementing national systems for unemployment insurance” (Source).

A stack of Europhiles have been tweeting their heads off suggesting this was the thawing of German resistance to Emmanuel Macron’s reform agenda and a reflection that the SPD-element in the GroKo is going to change the German position on Europe.

More delusion, of course.

The scheme is just another ‘fiscally-neutral’, “no debts will be communitized” scam.

Nations who would access the ‘insurance’ fund to cover the consequences of “massive job losses and a heavy burden on its social-security system” would “once the recession is over … pay back the funds it borrowed”.

If that is what represents reform and progress for the Europhiles then it is a pitiful state they are in.

I am sure the British will be thankful at some point that they are at least placing the future in their own hands once Brexit is completed.


At some point, when I have done more research I will write about the Venezuelan situation in some detail. I have been amassing data and official documents for the last few years now and it is taking some time to sort through them all, not the least reason being is that my Spanish is poor and so it takes me a long while to read official government documents.

But, this 46:37 minute video from the Empire Files group (published June 7, 2018) is worth watching and conforms with a lot of the information I have been accumulating about Venezuela.

The video provides a strong evidence base to refute many of the lies that conservatives and misguided progressives have been spreading about the situation in Venezuela.

Well researched and exposes how progressives become tools and mouthpieces for right-wing, neoliberal propaganda.

Sadness – Danny Kirwan died last week

Last week, the former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan (when they were actually Fleetwood Mac and not the Fleetwood Mac pop band) died in London.

This story from Rolling Stone Magazine – (June 10, 2018) – Former Fleetwood Mac Guitarist Danny Kirwan Dead at 68 – reported his death.

This story (June 11, 2018) – Flashback: Fleetwood Mac Play the Blues With the Late Danny Kirwan – provided further elaboration.

On October 16, 1993, the British Independent newspaper published an interview with Danny Kirwan – He went his own way to oblivion: Fleetwood Mac’s former guitarist is found, a little the worse for wear, in a hostel for London’s homeless – which partially documented the way that he was lost to the music world and ended up homeless.

He was clearly not well and was pushed into the limelight as part of one of the hottest bands around in the late 1960s (before the pop version) and couldn’t hack the pace.

But his playing was exceptional and his song writing and composition equal to the task.

Here are some tracks to reminisce by.

The first is Jigsaw Puzzle Blues (a Django influenced track) which appeared as track 2 on the 1969 album – English Rose – and was written by Danny Kirwan.

1 minute 36 seconds of pure delight.

On Side Two, of the same album, track 6 is the incomparable piece written by fellow Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green (who is my favourite player among several).

Peter Green, a guitar genius, generously said that Danny Kirwan had made Albatross the song it was by his beautiful melodic parts. The reality is that two great players combined beautifully to produce this masterpiece of electric guitar music.

They were ably assisted by the very sweet slide guitar of Jeremy Spencer.

Sadly this version of the band fell into disarray – first Peter Green took too much acid in Germany and was never the same. Then Jeremy Spencer ran away to a religious cult (Children of God) while on tour in the US.

Then Danny Kirwan collapsed in an alcoholic heap and was forced out of the band.

And just before he did, he wrote this beautiful song – Dragon Fly – which was released in March 1971 (after Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer had left).

The song died quickly in the charts.

Peter Green reflected on the song later and said:

The best thing he ever wrote… that should have been a hit.”

“He” being Danny Kirwan.

That quote comes from Mike Vernon’s 1999 booklet that accompanied the magnificent six-CD release – The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969 – which has all the released tracks, outtakes and unreleased tracks from this period of the band.

Suffice to say, I have all the material that Fleetwood Mac released with Peter Green and Danny Kirwan.

It is very sad that Danny Kirwan has gone. But he was lost years ago, which is also a great sadness. They were magical players – melodic, full of original tones, and very skilled.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Bill in the video the voice talked about the ” caracazo” that was the bloody repression done by the government of Venezuela , there is a mistake there because the president of that government was in fact the vicepresident of the International Socialist , so at least in name the government was “leftist”, the same kind of “leftist” that were in power in Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Greece, etc.

  2. Rather cunning strategy the neoliberal masters of the universe implement these years:

    First they infiltrate all the Western political ‘left’, ‘middle’ and ‘labour’ parties with neoliberal ideology. Bill Clinton was probably most influential in this with his election strategy of ‘Third Way’ politics with the motto ‘To end welfare as we know it’. Then Tony Blair (with the help of UK sociologist Anthony Giddens) further rationalized and made the strategy explicit with his ‘Third Way’. This was picked up by German social democrat Schröder, who won the leadership in Germany. It was even picked up by the Danish right wing ‘liberal’ party leader (the well known liar for Bush on Iraq and later NATO secretary) Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The ‘success’ of the Third Way made most politicians into ‘blairites’ no matter what country, we are talking about. And most countries have done nothing but neoliberal ‘reforms’ for decades now – AGAINST the people.

    So, as the people are being suppressed, arrogantly dismissed and made still poorer with still less welfare etc., what can the people do? Now, there are almost only ‘sane’ messages serving the people’s interests on the right wing, you know, critique of the EU, messages that we cannot afford all the immigrants and refugees etc. So, as many people realize that there is absolutely for sure no good future with the neoliberal parties, they put in their two pence and their vote for Brexit, Trump, populists in Italy etc. Very, very understandable – from a sociological point of view.

    Now, the entire neoliberal establishments with all their well clothed politicians and fine words in their corporate controlled media go on and on shaming the people, when they try to protest against the neoliberal suppression.

    So, the basic idea that is aired all around is that the peoples are the biggest problem today.

  3. “Ciao Amore!” I read rather as “‘Bye, darling..”, but Italian’s not my first language, so could be wrong..?

  4. Dear Bill

    Since you mentioned Venezuela, let me briefly refer to Argentina. After the neoliberal Macron was elected President, Argentina went back to borrowing in international markets. Now it is in a debt crisis again asking the IMF for help. More austerity on the way for Argentina.

    The new Italian government will probably fail, just as Tsipras failed completely, because they are not determined to abandon the euro. At least they are nationalists, unlike Tsipras.

    Regards. James

  5. Empire Files is Venezuelan state run media.

    I would be skeptical of using that as a source. It is hard to get real balance.

    The only voices I am hearing on the country is from US empire or Venezuelan state run media.

    Nothing else sadly :/

  6. Used to watch Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac in the back room of The Star Pub in Thornton Heath. South London, in 1968. Chicken Shack, too, when Christine Perfect was on piano.

    Magic stuff. Prof, as well as being a good economist, you have impeccable musical taste.

  7. Thanks so much for the links to the Peter Green version of Fleetwood Mac. They led to a treasure trove of great music.

  8. The face of Empire Files is Abby Martin, an American investigative journalist along the lines of Seymour Hersh and Chris Hedges. We need more like her (and them).

    John Oliver outs himself as a faux progressive in that segment. Sad.

  9. Bill, on another site I got into an argument with a Neo-liberal over “Is the interest on the US national debt paid from tax revenues or is it paid with newly borrowed money?
    Can you or anyone please shed some light on this?

  10. Bill, come to think of it, MMT says that it is neither. Because IOUs are destroyed as soon as they reach the issuer.

    OK, fine but humor me please. Is there any good reason to pick taxes over borrowed?
    I don’t see any. The Neo-liberals just asserted it. I had arguments but then they quit claiming work issues. But, it has been a week now and still no reply so I think it is just typical internet behavior #2. #1 being start ad hominum attacks.

  11. Steve,
    Look up Abba Lerner and Functional Finance. The functional effect of tax is to reduce reduce the circulating money supply and prevent inflation. AFAIK, borrowing reduces reserves but still leaves the private sector with assets (e.g. bonds) that can be used as collateral, and tempts the private sector to borrow/spend and bid for goods anyway.

  12. Steve,
    Sovereign currency used to pay taxes is essentially erased on collection, other than as an accounting function.

    AFAIK, as you deduced, it is neither. The interest paid on sovereign currency bonds is newly created currency, and any borrowing to balance the books comes after the fact.

    The only reason to say ‘taxes pay for xxx’ is because it’s a useful lie for Neolibs to use against any government spending they find it useful to oppose. Taxes don’t pay for anything; the government does, and the current status quo is they borrow the difference between revenue and spending. But, that is not necessary for a government with a sovereign fiat currency to do.

  13. OK with the imposition of tariffs we are done with the liberal global order, now what? “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”.

  14. OK, thanks.
    I got 2 replies. The 2nd didn’t humor me and the 1st I didn’t understand or found it unresponsive.
    So, I’ll try to ask again. When arguing with a Neo-liberal student, he/she is not going to grant the assumption that all IOUs are destroyed when the reach the issuer so that answer is not going to get you anywhere. The have just diverted you from the original question and are now talking about IOUs.

    I want to argue on their terms. The one I was arguing with online, simply asserted that it is taxes that pay the interest and found a shit ton of sources that backed that up. I didn’t find his appeal to authority to be convincing.

    So, I ask you-all here. Why is interest on the debt paid with tax revenue. He/she did also say that it acts as a brake on excess borrowing. I said, well that sounds like you have a choice and I heard crickets. He/she backed off and went away rather than continue.

  15. Steve

    It isn’t. Interest on the debt is no different from all other sovereign spending, and the sovereign never needs to collect a currency of its own creation in order to spend it. The sovereign first spends its currency into the economy in order to provision itself (rather than by corvee, conscription and/or impressment) and then demands taxes denominated solely in this currency in order to compel the citizenry to accumulate it. In a well regulated economy, the state seeks to extinguish sufficient currency through taxation to suppress demand driven inflation.

    You will have difficulty convincing your online neoliberals until they understand the origins and nature of currency.

    I hope that you have an immense amount of patience. You will need it.

  16. eg,
    I understand all that.
    I’m just trying to understand why Neo-liberal and MSE demand tht we accept that it is taxes that pay the interest when that doesn’t seem necessary even in their own system except to make the taxpayers worry more.

    In the 90s and 2000s my family had to borrow against our house. I never thought of using earnings to pay interest or principal when I had 10s of thousands in my bank account because I just got another loan. And Neo-liberals want us to think the US Gov. is just like a family. Makes no sense.

  17. Steve,
    You may as well be asking us to explain why flat earthers think the earth is flat, in the face of all the evidence that it is not.

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