Guest Post: EU Leaders Throw Europe a Plutonium Life Preserver

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

EU Leaders Throw Europe a Plutonium Life Preserver

The euro system was doomed from inception for fundamental reasons; trying to conjure up "something for nothing" solutions will fail catastrophically, and soon.

As Europe flails helplessly in the waves of insolvency, its leadership has tossed it a life preserver. Too bad it's plutonium, and will take Europe straight to the bottom. Plutonium is of course one of the most toxic materials on the planet, and the "rescue" cooked up by the EU leadership is the financial equivalent of plutonium.

Stripped of propaganda and disinformation, the "rescue" boils down to this: something for nothing. Sound familiar? Isn't "something for nothing" what inflated the bubbles which have popped so violently? The EU "rescue" conjures something for nothing in two ways:

1. The financial alchemist's favorite magic: leverage. Take a couple hundred billion euros in cash, leverage it up with various magic (unlimited power is now at your fingertips!) and voila, you can suddenly backstop 1 trillion euros of banking-sector losses, all with illusory money. Something for nothing.

2. "Guarantees" to cover the first 20% of loan losses. This is being presented as the equivalent of 100% guarantees, because it is inconceivable that losses could exceed 20%. In other words, the credulous buyer of at-risk Euroland bonds is supposed to be reassured enough to load the wagon because 20% of the bond is backstopped.

This is something for nothing because the EU leadership is explicitly claiming the at-risk portion--80% of every bond--is somehow "safer" because the first 20% will be paid by EU taxpayers.

In essence, the EU is claiming that its illusory "something for nothing" magic will turn lead into gold. Abracadabra....oh well, close; it's heavy, it's metallic--oops, it's plutonium.

The leadership is resorting to Cargo Cult incantations and legerdemain because the alternative is to raise the 1 trillion euros in cold hard cash needed to bail out the first wave of failed banks and underwater bondholders by raising taxes and cutting budgets, i.e. austerity. (Recall that the total bill will be at least 3 trillion euros, so 1 trillion is just a down payment.)

Raising cash the hard way is politically unacceptable in both France and Germany, not to mention every other nation in the EU, so the political lackeys of the banking sector and bondholders are cravenly substituting a "something for nothing" magic show which they hope will fool the global bond market.

Note to EU lackeys: there is no free lunch. Leverage is plutonium, not gold, and guaranteeing the first 20% of bonds that are doomed to lose 40%-75% is not terribly appealing to anyone not influenced by the ECB's mind tricks. ("These are not the euros you're looking for; move along.")

No wonder France was so anxious for the ECB to crank up the euro printing press: they wanted-- just like everyone else involved--something for nothing.

The best way to understand the EU's current situation is to imagine an astoundingly dysfunctional family of deep-in-denial-addicts, screaming co-dependent parents, and grown-up grifters acting like spoiled brats, all trapped in a rat-infested, flooded flat that's had the gas turned off for lack of payment--and there's a plutonium life preserver glowing in the knee-high water. Admittedly, this analogy is imperfect, but it does capture the essential psychology of the end-game being played out.

A slightly more formal model for understanding the increasingly unstable dynamics of the EU is the post-colonial "plantation" model I've described here before. The key characteristics of the Colonial Model of Capitalism are:

1. Low cost labor and low-value materials flow from the periphery (colonies) to the Empire (center), which then ships high-value, high-profit finished goods back to the colonies.

2. The colonies must buy the high-value finished goods on credit that is issued and controlled by the Imperial center.

Hmm--doesn't this sound like the relationship of Germany to the European periphery? The euro cemented this co-dependency: Germany had the most efficient production, and once the euro raised the cost of production in the periphery nations, then of course nobody could beat Germany's cost advantages. The euro actually lowered Germany's cost of production in terms of foreign exchange rates while raising the costs in periphery nations that were previously able to lower their cost of production via currency devaluations.

Having surrendered that mechanism to access the deep credit markets of the center, then they had no choice but to buy the high-margin finished goods from Germany, as nobody else could make the same goods for the low German price.

These booming high-profit German exports of finished goods to the European periphery generated vast surpluses of capital that were then loaned to the periphery to enable their further purchases of German goods. Why risk the heavy investment costs of production in the periphery when Germany had the lowest costs of production and was willing to loan the buyers the cash needed to keep buying?

It's the classic mercantilist-consumer co-dependency on a gigantic scale, with low-cost credit fueling both increased consumption and production. As long as the credit flowed in vast torrents of low-cost, easy to borrow money, the co-dependency looked like a "virtuous cycle." Debt junkies eventually have to start servicing their debts, of course, and that's when the ugly realities of colonial dominance become visible.

Germany casts itself in this melodrama as the wronged party, the industrious craftsfolk churning out high-quality goods who have somehow been lured into pouring hard-earned cash down various ratholes to save nefarious EU banks--including their own.

But setting aside the melodrama for a moment, let's ask: how many German goods would have been imported by the EU periphery if those nations had been forced to pay cash for everything from the start? Precious little is the answer; the cash--in the form of actual surpluses available to spend on imports--would have run out immediately after the euro was launched.

In other words, the debt orgy enabled not just carefree consumption, it also enabled vast German exports to the Eurozone. Now we start seeing how the once-mutually beneficial co-dependency has become toxic: now that the periphery's debtors have become debt-serfs, German exports to the periphery are contracting.

This helps explain why even the supposedly prudent Germans are seeking something for nothing as the painless answer to an intrinsically unstable and self-destructive system. When it all implodes, German exports to the periphery will be a shadow of their past glory, and the surpluses which enabled the leveraged orgy of credit will dwindle. (Germany's other big export markets, China and the U.S., are also contracting.)

Sovereign currencies are the only mechanism for discounting differences in credit worthiness and production costs. The euro was established as the currency equivalent of gold, holding the same value in every member country. But the mercantilist/quasi-colonial model requires credit to flow from the center to the periphery, and that is precisely what has happened in the EU.

In the colonial model, the colonists are indebted and poor. The net value of their labor flows to the Imperial center as interest payments, and the banks at the center set the cost of money and the terms--naturally.

This co-dependency based on credit flowing from the mercantilist center to the periphery is both exploitative and systemically unstable. Now that the ontological instability of the euro is being revealed, the dysfunctional family members are blaming each other and desperately trying to conjure up something for nothing to bail themselves out of a system which was doomed to implode from its very inception.

All the complexity and confusion distills down to this: the EU leadership needs something for nothing to save the EU, but there is no free lunch. There is only one solution to the exploitation, the illusory leverage, the crushing debts: massive write-offs of all the bad debt everywhere in the EU. And since debt is someone else's asset, then that means writing down the assets, too. The only way to clear the insolvency is to write off 3 trillion euros of debt-based assets and re-enable sovereign currencies. Anything else is simply more tiresome melodrama.

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Long-John-Silver's picture

First you see the flash, then you get the shock wave. If you survive the shock wave you must survive the wave of heat that rolls over you. If you somehow survive all that the radiation gets you.

Let them eat iPads's picture

And if you survive the radiation you get  some cool new appendages in a few years.

SWRichmond's picture

there's a plutonium life preserver glowing in the knee-high water

We had one of these in school:

trav7777's picture

plutonium is an alpha emitter.  Short-lived reaction byproducts emitting beta cause Cerenkov.

Read the article again, boys...can you hear that Mr. Anderson?  It is the sound of contraction; it is the sound...of the 400-year global growth economy's death.

Aggregate contraction is upon us.  It DOES NOT MATTER what accounting bullshit they pull.  Debts can't be repaid.  None of them can.  Anywhere.

SWRichmond's picture

239 is, but 241 decays through beta emission.

machineh's picture

'And if you survive the radiation you get some cool new appendages in a few years.'

Can't wait! We'll be luckier than a two-dicked dog!

UP Forester's picture

.... right up until you get dick cancer....

JohnG's picture

This is not the artillery you are looking for.




(all this will end in a shooting war, unfortunately.  very.)


It's ALWAYS about the money,

Let them eat iPads's picture

Physical plutonium, bitchez!

The4thStooge's picture

What's plutonium trading at these days?

agent default's picture

Is there a physical ETF on that?  Does it have a settlement by airmail option?

ArkansasAngie's picture

The thing is ... we can't actually allow these bozos to further entrench themselves as too big to fail. 

They are in fact not too big.

It's sorta, kinda the right thing to do.  Every generation is challenged by shatheads that have to be put in their place

FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

Wasn't this exactly the 'bailout' that the market has been expecting for weeks? Should be no surprise... where's the 'sell the news'?

ArkansasAngie's picture

Did you rush into the market today saying yeeee haaaa!!!!

Frankly none of my acquaintences did.  I certainly didn't.

It's only the central banksters and their cohorts that are making merry.  They live another day.  They held off insolvency with another plop of liquidity and, of course, lies. 

slewie the pi-rat's picture

but...but...the euro lost the 1.42 handle!

DoctoRx's picture

Don't know about the exactitude of the 3 trillion euros, but this is one of your best pieces, CHS.

i-dog's picture

Agreed. Back in top form after a dry spell.

DormRoom's picture

The EFSF will be the mechanism in which Europeans start viewing Germany as a new tyrant, since she will be responsible for the 'surveillance' of the member states to comply with any bailout fund.  When the EZ eventually fails, it will once again pit Germany against the rest.


It's 1912 all over again.


Segestan's picture

except there is a loooong line of dreamers outside the front door who have been told they to can have the fix and even for free... now these poor mis treated they are struck with a nightmare.... ooops!!

Racer's picture

This is all really obscene...

there is a never ending pot of money given to the banksters who made very bad mistakes

yet at the same time these very people giving this vast amount of money are telling the people they are really supposed to serve that they have to put up with austerity measures so they can give these criminals more money out of their hard earned savings and money!

I wonder how long they can keep this up before the people stand up and say Viva la Revolution as is always the case in history when the rich just get that bit too greedy for their own good and lives

rosiescenario's picture

"Revolution as is always the case in history when the rich just get that bit too greedy"


They always seem to catch the greed disease....enough is never enough....if I own 10 houses I will only be happy when I get to 12....etc. It is an addiction among a certain class of people...even when they have 100X more than enough, they will still risk going to jail by law breaking to get even more...we see it everyday.

i-dog's picture

"how long they can keep this up before the people stand up and say Viva la Revolution"

Won't happen. Never before in history have "the people" been so heavily drugged (in the water, in the air, in the vaccines, in the food, in the food containers,....), so heavily propagandised (in the MSM and TV programming), and so irrecoverably indebted and dependent on government handouts -- that they'll sheepishly follow any orders from above. Baaaaah!

ElvisDog's picture

The thing that will ultimately cause the revolution will be commodity price inflation, particularly food and energy cost. Food cost inflation was the trigger for the French Revolution.

SystemsGuy's picture

Yup - re: commodities.

So long as you can keep supplying the bread and circuses, indignation alone will won't be enough for people to take to the streets, save for those few who will protest at the drop of a hat. Eventually, though, the bread and circuses DO run out, and that's when things get ugly.

As resources dry up, national governments in particular respond in one of two ways. One is just to give up, to hand the reign of powers to the wealthy bastards that have been trying to buy influence for years and one by one take a vacation in some other part of the world. The other is to reduce welfare spending while methodically ratcheting up military spending, not so much for adventures abroad but for protection of the wealthy at home. Of course, by the time that the pitchforks and torches come out, the monsters have long since fled the castle with the region's gold in a handy chest.

My guess is that rolling estates in non-extradition-treaty countries are probably selling like hot cakes right now.

homersimpson's picture

Now if this story can just translate into FAZ profits, I'd be ecstatic..

tmosley's picture

I don't think there is anything that could do that, save perhaps for a return to free markets without a financial force majure, which I don't think is going to happen.

FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

Didn't FAZ hit all time lows today...? What a piece of s**t... seriously, what are you doing?

FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

Looks like a fraudulant piece of crap to me... looks mathematically certain to go to zero at some point no matter what financials do.

Bill Lumbergh's picture

Homer my advice would be just to day-trade them if you want to use these types of instruments...besides you may wake-up one morning and find out shorting the financials has been banned...the poster above me is correct they will go to zero in a theoretical sense as many have already done reverse splits during the QE2 market melt-up.

mynhair's picture

Sour grapes for Chuck in the short term.  Who knows when it goes BOOM?

Trade what you see, fuk the future.

Rainman's picture

Debt repudiation sure smells funny when it is buried in a pile of horse shit. This will be a titanic disaster within 3 months when all the other weak hands pile in. Assholes.

Donlast's picture

I think the best place to feel comfortable and secure these days is in an aslyum

Ghordius's picture

Hmmmm... How is it that we have here a tyrant Germany that can't force the UK to join the EuroZone while Greece can't be trown out?

Can Texas leave the US? Can Kansas leave the DollarZone? Is Nebraska exploiting Delaware?

What would Cameron's reaction to a Scottish Pound be?

You gotta be kidding me or perhaps you just watched too many WW2 movies.

DoctoRx's picture

Which country's exports were most stimulated by today's currency action?

Ghordius's picture

Is Today's market action the whole horizon?
Are you that shallow?

Your soldiers don't think this way and would understand me when I say that we have a common border, common market, common currency (optional), a common flag, a common anthem, a common future and a common dream, including solidarity...


By the way, you forgot to bash the French, the Luxis, the Dutch, the Austrians, the Danes, the Finns, the...

And what if the entire world would go gold-backed? Would then the evil Germans dominate the planet?

Is honest money a colonialistic instrument of exploitation?

The4thStooge's picture

Actually according to the annexation treaty they signed, Texas can secede whenever they want.

Ghordius's picture

And are Texans exploited or exploiters?
By the credit market debt as explained above by CHS?

s2man's picture

Yes, Texas can leave the Union.  The only state which reserved that right when joining. 

pods's picture

I am sure that is exactly what they were saying in Richmond too.

The USA is like the Hotel California.


Lednbrass's picture

And will be followed by the rest of the south, in a few more years there wont be any other choice and both sides will be much happier.

JohnG's picture



Yep.  The South shall rise again! As has been said for us gun totin' rednecks for better than 150 years. (re. gun ownership article yesterday)


Yet somehow, I do not think it will be a happy parting.  Things like shooting, and death come to mind. 

Never mind the War of Northern Agression.......


But I'm just a simple redneck after all.  Rebel Yell....

pods's picture

No worries, I am with y'all in mind, and body!

Just wanted to make it clear that momma USA does not accept secession well, whether it is in the contract that you signed or not.



Lednbrass's picture

Agreed, but there are substantial differences today I think.

1) The military is disproportionately southern, particularly in combat troops. If push really came to shove and it got ugly, most would stick with their families and states.

2) Cultural advantage is with the south, where I live I see 7 year olds at the range with Dad and their first .22.  In large northern cities, they play Halo and think a pistol is firepower. It is a rare boy in my sons high school that doesnt own their own rifles and shotguns.

3) The midwestern farmboys that made up the best of the Union troops last time arent going to sign up in large numbers to maintain it, most are more sympathetic to the other side at this point in history.  Last time the Union had many brigades formed from Unionists from southern states, this would be inverted if it happened again.

4) International recognition would be swift. How long before the Russians and Chinese recognize a breakaway region? Near immediate I think, considering how the US backed new nations in Eastern Europe there would be immediate recognition from many nations. The Russians would do it in a heartbeat if for no other reason then payback.