Breaking Bad: Pushing Back Against A Punishing Austerity

In the past, southern European countries have been punished fiscally by northern European states to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the European Union. It has meant grueling austerity measures that tested populations across Europe. Today, as Covid-19 continues its destructive path, for the first time, Southern European nations may not be punished for the fiscal retractions coming after the pandemic. Northern European states may be forced to shoulder the responsibility after the fallout. While Spain, France, and Italy have some of the highest pandemic numbers within the European Union, northern states like Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have a sizeable share.

France’s previous year debt to GDP ratio is currently at a staggering, 98.10—a figure that has continued to rise precipitously since 2010 according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies in France. In that same year, Spain’s ratio stood at 97.6 in contrast Germany which stands at roughly 62 percent. But let’s be clear, even Germany is in violation of EU debt conditions.

France’s previous year debt to GDP ratio is currently at a staggering, 98.10—a figure that has continued to rise precipitously since 2010 according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies in France

Northern EU states continue to falter, as Belgium reached a 100 percent debt to GDP ration in 2019. For the first time southern states were not the only ones underwater. To put this in perspective, Belgium is in default of the Maastrict Treaty Conditions of 1992 which requires it to keep a debt to GDP ration of 60 percent. Ostensibly the Belgian government raises money by selling bonds, much like the United States, but with such a high debt ratio, buyers may likely be purchasing white elephant financial instruments.

It also begins to become increasingly clear why the UK fought so bitterly and viciously to extricate itself from the European Union. Members of the Union have not been able to keep the appropriate debt to GDP required by the EU’s Maastrict Treaty. Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and other states have ratios well above the required 60 percent (Italy’s is at a staggering 134%). A good deal of Europe then, is in as much of a debt quagmire as is purported for “developing economies.” The European Union hasn’t been doing well for a while now—and it has been southern populations who have suffered—but that may change, especially in the face of Covid-19.

 . . . Belgium is in default of the Maastrict Treaty Conditions of 1992 which requires it to keep a debt to GDP ration of 60 percent

Under the shadow of shutdown-protests breaking out across culturally Western states from the US, Australia and Europe; non-EU states like the United States and the UK have been fairing marginally better, with debt ratios at 79 and 85 percent in 2019 respectively. Those numbers have climbed since the pandemic, with economist predicting US debt levels reaching Depression era levels (Incidentally, the US debt to GDP ratio is just for points better than Mozambique!). With a non-gold pegged currency, nations in the West seem to be holding honorary “rich nation” status only–buttressed merely by selling the world valueless fiat and financial instruments (the cause of the 2008 Financial Crisis). The bigger question then becomes will southern states destroy the EU? Particularly when lockdowns end, citizens from poorer European nations hammered by the virus may descend on northern EU member states with ferocity. We had presumed it was Covid-19, but perhaps it is the calamity of surging disgruntled masses hammering lockdown orders to reach northern states that will be slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

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