Why I Don't Support Europe's Bailouts
Our political leaders borrow ever more money to pay off the banks, which return the favor by lending ever more money back to our governments.
By TIMO SOINI
When I had the honor of leading the True Finn Party to electoral victory in April, we made a solemn promise to oppose the bailouts of euro-zone member states. Europe is suffering from the economic gangrene of insolvency—both public and private. Unless we amputate that which cannot be saved, we risk poisoning the whole body.
To understand the real nature and purpose of the bailouts, we first have to understand who really benefits from them.
At the risk of being accused of populism, we'll begin with the obvious: It is not the little guy who benefits. He is being milked and lied to in order to keep the insolvent system running. He is paid less and taxed more to provide the money needed to keep this Ponzi scheme going. Meanwhile, a symbiosis has developed between politicians and banks: Our political leaders borrow ever more money to pay off the banks, which return the favor by lending ever more money back to our governments.
In a true market economy, bad choices get penalized. Instead of accepting losses on unsound investments—which would have led to the probable collapse of some banks—it was decided to transfer the losses to taxpayers via loans, guarantees and opaque constructs such as the European Financial Stability Fund.
The money did not go to help indebted economies. It flowed through the European Central Bank and recipient states to the coffers of big banks and investment funds.
Further contrary to the official wisdom, the recipient states did not want such "help," not this way. The natural option for them was to admit insolvency and let failed private lenders, wherever they were based, eat their losses.
That was not to be. Ireland was forced to take the money. The same happened to Portugal.
Why did the Brussels-Frankfurt extortion racket force these countries to accept the money along with "recovery" plans that would inevitably fail? Because they needed to please the tax-guzzling banks, which might otherwise refuse to turn up at the next Spanish, Belgian, Italian or even French bond auction.
Unfortunately for this financial and political cartel, their plan isn't working. Already under this scheme, Greece, Ireland and Portugal are ruined. They will never be able to save and grow fast enough to pay back the debts with which Brussels has saddled them in the name of saving them.
Setting up the European Stability Mechanism is no solution. It would institutionalize the system of wealth transfers from private citizens to compromised politicians and failed bankers, creating a huge moral hazard and destroying what remains of Europe's competitive banking landscape.
Fortunately, it is not too late to stop the rot. For the banks, we need honest, serious stress tests. Stop the current politically inspired farce. Instead, have parallel assessments done by regulators and independent groups including stakeholders and academics. Trust, but verify.
Insolvent banks and financial institutions must be shut down, purging insolvency from the system. We must restore the market principle of freedom to fail.
If some banks are recapitalized with taxpayer money, taxpayers should get ownership stakes in return, and the entire board should be kicked out. But before any such taxpayer participation can be contemplated, it is essential to first apply big haircuts to bondholders.
For sovereign debt, the freedom to fail is again key. Significant restructuring is needed for genuine recovery. Yes, markets will punish defaulting states, but they are also quick to forgive. Current plans are destroying the real economies of Europe through elevated taxes and transfers of wealth from ordinary families to the coffers of insolvent states and banks. A restructuring that left a country's debt burden at a manageable level and encouraged a return to growth-oriented policies could lead to a swift return to international debt markets.
This is not just about economics. People feel betrayed. In Ireland, the incoming parties to the new government promised to hold senior bondholders responsible, but under pressure they succumbed, leaving their voters with a sense of disenfranchisement. The elites in Brussels have said that Finland must honor its commitments to its European partners, but Brussels is silent on whether national politicians should honor their commitments to their own voters.
I was raised to know that genocidal war must never again be visited on our continent and I came to understand the values and principles that originally motivated the establishment of what became the European Union. This Europe, this vision, was one that offered the people of Finland and all of Europe the gift of peace founded on democracy, freedom and justice. This is a Europe worth having, so it is with great distress that I see this project being put in jeopardy by a political elite who would sacrifice the interests of Europe's ordinary people in order to protect certain corporate interests.
Mr. Soini is chairman of the True Finn Party in Finland.