The Clown Prince of Europe

Herman van Rompuy's approach to Europe's fiscal crisis has earned him the title of Clown Prince of Europe.

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Look away: things could get much worse
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Daniel J. Mitchell
On 5 August 2011 10:16

If Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are neck-and-neck competitors in the contest to be the public face of incompetent statism in America, then the competition in Europe is between Herman van Rompuy and Olga Stefou.

But since I’ve already crowned Ms. Stefou as the Queen of Greece, then Mr Rompuy (a.k.a., President of the Euorpean Council) is the winner by default.

And “winner by default” is a pretty good description of this statist paper pusher. I’ve previously mocked this über-bureaucrat for:

a) whining about markets downgrading Europe’s welfare states,

b) crying about whether he gets prestigious seating at bureaucratic meetings,

c) seeking to impose one-size-fits-all big government on EU nations with “economic governance,” and

d) publishing an anthology of haiku poems (this last has nothing to do with economic policy, but I can’t resist including it on the list).

Even though he has this impressive list of accomplishments,  Mr. Rompuy is not taking any chances. To cement his place in history, he is overseeing a series of disastrous bailouts and then ineffectually complaining that markets are unimpressed by his willingness to throw good money after bad. Here’s a blurb from an article in the EU Observer.

Van Rompuy, who brokered the eurozone deal on Greece, precipitated by the very same rising costs as for the Italian government, has tried to allay market fears in an op-ed published in several European newspapers. “Astonishingly,” he writes, “since our summit the cost of borrowing has increased again for a number of euro area countries. I say astonishingly, because all macro economic fundamentals point in the opposite direction.” The Greek bailout conditions are “exceptional” and mark no precedent for other countries, he added. Citing the austerity measures adopted in Italy and Spain, as well as Madrid’s low debt, Van Rompuy accused the markets of making risk assessments “totally out of line with the fundamentals.” Ratings agencies which downgraded the two countries also acted in a “ludicrous” way when putting them in the top tier of default risk countries, he claimed.

Let’s recap: The fiscal collapse of Europe is proceeding in a predictable fashion, as excessive spending and high tax rates are strangling growth and pushing red ink to unsustainable levels.

And Mr. Rompuy thinks the answer is more spending, higher taxes, and additional debt. And then this clown has the nerve to complain that markets are giving a thumbs-down. Amazing.

Even more astounding, or perhaps even more discouraging, President Obama wants America to travel down the same path.

But that’s a story for another day. Let’s close this post by looking at a couple of amusing videos, featuring the head of the UK Independence Party raking Mr. Rompuy over the coals.

 

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, the free-market, Washington D.C. think tank. His articles are cross-posted on his blog, by agreement.

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