(Source: YouTube, caption and editing by the Author)
Stepping back from the action, one can discern a civil war breaking out in the Eurozone; as it marches on from a confederacy of nation states to one unified nation. The struggle is becoming much more bitter and impassioned. The ECB and Mario Draghi are playing much more than just cameo roles. As usual, in fighting the last war, the ECB is losing the next one. It does however understand that this funny thing called NIRP is the center of gravity of the conflict. Unfortunately, on the battlefield, the fog of war obscures the real threat of NIRP from view. All that the ECB sees is the finger of NIRP. It hasnt yet seen what the finger is pointing at, although this is becoming clearer through the fog.
(Source: Bloomberg, caption by the Author)
The last report noted the growing resistance, from a core of monetarist fanatics, to the MMT agenda in the Eurozone. It would appear that they have already had their Bay of Pigs moment. If these true believers had hoped that their spiritual homeland would come to their support, then they were sorely mistaken. The Central Bank of Central Banks aka the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has recently disabused and then abandoned them on the beach.
(Source: BIS, caption by the Author)
(Source: BIS, caption by the Author)
The BIS recently deployed its global resources to publish two significant reports in support of Unconventional Monetary Policy Tools (UMPT). The reports find that UMPT is justified and has worked. They also find that the risks from it are worthwhile and can be managed. Finally, the reports conclude that UMPT can only work effectively when supported by fiscal policy and structural reform. These final caveats are the perfect synthesis of UMPT thesis into MMT.
The symbolism of the adoption of the acronym UMPT is also a sublime support of and nudge toward MMT. In Mr Markets and global Joe Publics eyes and minds, the two acronyms will become synonymous and interchangeable over time. It is notable that the BIS authors of this black propaganda are from the Fed and the ECB. The conspiracy can therefore be seen as global, and the Fed will get there (to NIRP and MMT that is) in the end also. The BIS has been captured.
With the global forces of central banking allied against them, the European monetarist dissenters will be overwhelmed. Christine Lagarde can avail herself of the timely reinforcement by the BIS and repel the invaders on the beaches of the Eurozone. She can also rely upon the sustained support of her old firm. Her replacement at the IMF was swift to join the reinforcement exercise; opining that the global economy now faces synchronized slowdown in the major economies that drive it.
It was also noticeable that the IMF blames China and not its principal founding members, from Europe and North America, for the trade frictions that have triggered the slowdown. The symmetry in the blame attributing, resonates strongly with BISs authors of the MMT supporting documents. The Old Order is pulling together on this one.
Stepping back, one wonders if the BIS and IMF, along with Lagarde, had not been planning this synchronized verbal intervention all along. If the Eurozones Crypto-Monetarists are now in trouble, then China is really in for it!
To sharpen the sense of threat, in order to justify its continued monetary stimulus, the ECBs staffers focused attention on the banking sector, with the results of their latest Sensitivity Analysis of Liquidity Risk. According to the central bank, half of the regions banks would fail in the event of another financial crisis. This would be triggered by their loss of access to commercial funding.
Former ECB Chief Economist Peter Praet tried to broker peace negotiations between the warring internal factions, with some talk of reconciliation. He sees the harm being done to the ECBs image and credible commitment as being more important than who is right and wrong about NIRP and QE.
(Source: ECB, caption by the Author)
ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos is feeling conciliatory. He created some common ground for discussion and reconciliation; with his view that although inflation expectations are not de-anchoring, there is an elevated risk that they might do. He sees evidence of the negative externality impacts of further easing. He also states that there is no agreement to continue easing automatically at this point in time. His tactics allow his Dovish faction to pause and consolidate their gains, whilst the data and the global environment create opportunities for them to advance further in the future.
Governing Council member Pablo Hernandez de Cos is less conciliatory than his fellow Spaniard. This probably reflects the fact that Spain has an economy that is deteriorating swiftly. For him, the rebels interpretation of the events of the last Governing Council meeting amounts to a total misrepresentation. He sees no sign that the ECB has reached the reversal rate, where monetary policy easing is doing more harm than good.
Rather more ominously, de Cos looks beyond the death of the banking system from further NIRP. He notes that the banks are losing their utility and importance, in the struggle to transmit monetary policy from the ECB to the real Eurozone economy. Whilst lamenting this fact, from a monetary policy perspective, he sees no reason or need to save them, however. Evidently, the banks will join the abandoned monetarist rebels on the beach if de Cos has his way.
Rehnfeld has gone into crisis fire-fighting mode. The monetarist rebels placed a leak with the FT, which alleges that Draghi went rogue at the last Governing Council meeting. An investigation, should it occur, which proves the allegations of a breach in protocols and procedures would be the equivalent of impeachment for Draghi. It would also put the whole monetary policy making process on trial and destroy the ECBs credibility and independence. It is no wonder that Peter Praet is so concerned.
Rehnfeld did not however unequivocally deny the allegations; he simply said that they are greatly exaggerated. He has made it clear that Lagardes first order of business is to clear the mess up. It is now her mess and she must take ownership of it. Should she not do so, Rehnfeld may then take further steps to make her own it. He backs Lagarde to bring everyone together again. Of the contentious issue of Draghis alleged rogue policy making, he carefully says that it is in general better to be safe than sorry. This axiom covers his own support for Draghis package of measures. It does not however cover the decision making process that forced it through. The question is at what price to her own agenda Lagarde is now willing to compromise with the rebels. There is no way that she can simply pick up things where Draghi left off and blindly carry on with his package of easing measures.
(Source: UPI, caption and editing by the Author)
Rehnfelds equivocation is a smoking gun. The monetarist rebels have the initiative, despite being abandoned by the BIS and IMF. The problem is however, that their initiative ultimately destroys the ECB if they take it to its conclusion. It will be interesting to see just how pathologically motivated they are. It is more likely that they are just raising the stakes in order to get greater concessions. They will certainly have got Lagardes attention. The last thing she wants is an investigation of the ECB under Draghi, from which she will be the victim of the halo. Further NIRP and QE therefore look like being stalled and watered down. Draghis stimulus package is now stillborn and monetary policy is currently ineffective. The economic situation in the Eurozone will therefore need to deteriorate, in order to give Lagarde the initiative to press ahead with Draghis package again.
(Account by the ECB, caption by George Orwell)
The release of what was semantically purported to be the minutes of the last Governing Council meeting only added to the controversy. The Account refers very clearly to the significance of Executive Board member Benoit Coeure and Chief Economist Philip Lane. Their significance is clear in leading not only the agenda of the meeting but also the summary of discussions that are officially transcribed as the Account. In effect, one is reading the version of the meeting that Draghi chaired and Coeure and Lane then managed and recorded. It is an Account of a gang of three.
The Account states very clearly that
all members agreed that a further easing of the monetary policy stance was warranted to support the return to sustained convergence to the Governing Councils inflation aim.
Things then start to slip in writing. Things get recorded as generic generalizations. For example:
Members expressed broad agreement with most of the monetary policy proposals made by Mr Lane in his introduction as part of a comprehensive package.
And then, things slip a little further with:
Most members saw a package, i.e. a combination of instruments with significant complementarities and synergies, on the whole as the appropriate approach in a situation where individual policy measures were facing some limitations and the impact of each measure on its own was uncertain and difficult to assess.
Slippage in relation to dissent is recorded thus:
At the same time, a number of reservations were expressed about individual elements of the proposed policy package. Although the rationale for a comprehensive package was widely shared, members assessed the case for specific elements differently, with some measures seen as substitutes rather than complements, giving rise to trade-offs between elements of the package, for instance between the liquidity-providing measures and the proposed two-tier system.
And so-on and so-forth in this general recollection, which emphasizes agreement and de-emphasizes argument.
The real issue in relation to Draghi allegedly going rogue was recorded thus:
In summary, the President concluded that all members agreed on the need to act in response to the continued shortfall of inflation with respect to the Governing Councils aim and that a clear majority of members supported the proposed measures, which complemented and reinforced one another, as a powerful package to provide substantial monetary stimulus, ensuring very favourable financial conditions and supporting the euro area economic expansion, the ongoing build-up of domestic price pressures and the sustained convergence of inflation to the Governing Councils medium-term inflation aim. Accordingly, the Governing Council reiterated the need for a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy for a prolonged period of time and that it continued to stand ready to adjust all of its instruments, as appropriate, to ensure that inflation moved towards its aim in a sustained manner, in line with its commitment to symmetry.
Draghi, Lane, and Coeure have not lied. They have simply not stated the objective truth. In a classic case of Behavioral Economics, they have come up with totally different subjective answers to the questions that the dissenters asked. Said answers confirm the bias that the gang of three had, before going into the meeting to allegedly debate a consensus policy response. The lacking consensus policy response then became a simple majority vote. What they have written up is their subjective Account of what transpired.
Official minutes from the Committee that advises the Governing Council on monetary policy must have been recorded by a secretary. This committee is where the alleged dissenting advice originated. The minutes must also have been approved by all members present. They exist somewhere, unless they have been deleted. There is a gap, between the Account and these Monetary Policy Advisory Committee minutes, that allows those with an agenda of their own room to advance it. As Churchill noted, history is kind to those who write it.
One may call this Account a Noble Lie. The monetarist insurgents have the burden of proving that the Noble Lie is deliberate perjury. The onus is on them to provide evidence, audible and/or visual, to prove that the Account is a deliberate fabrication rather than a generalization of a majority decision making process. They could start by asking for the minutes of the committee that advises the Governing Council on monetary policy to be made public, since they allege that this committee said no to more QE. Thus far, there is no whistle-blower only a leak to the FT. If they cannot do this, then everything they say is hearsay. The damage to the ECB has been done however. There may be legal grounds for an investigation, since its own corporate governance structure and policies have not been followed.
Nobody will ever believe the Account of any ECB Governing Council meeting from this point on-wards until the matter is fully addressed. The negative impact on guidance and hence monetary policy is significant.
Sabine Lautenschlaegers resignation from the Executive Board is clearly not just in relation to the monetary policy decision of the Governing Council. She is more corporate governance Martyr than monetary policy Resignator.
(Source: Bloomberg, caption and editing by the Author)
Lautenschlaeger is recording her own vote of no confidence in the ECBs corporate governance structure. The inference is that Mario Draghi has egregiously suborned the institution to his own personal monetary policy agenda. This implied accusation is massive.
Since the ECBs credibility is indelibly tarnished, only a root-trunk-branch-and-leaf review and recommendations can fully restore the faith. Official minutes rather than an Account would be good for starters. Publicly available recordings and stenographer transcripts may be needed at all ECB meetings from now on. The ECB appears to be an irrational actor that has been led by an irrational leader. The checks and balances must be seen again and be seen to be working. An irrational (even if well-intentioned) central bank is a direct threat to the stability and unity of the Eurozone and its currency.
The ECB is a broken institution that is now at risk of failing just when the Eurozone needs a strong cohesive central bank.
If Lagarde kicks this can of worms under the carpet, her own credibility and legitimacy will suffer. She already has previous form with Bernard Tapie, so she cant afford to be seen as anything other than straight by the book. The acquittal of Tapie in July, had given her appointment some timely breathing space which has now been abruptly terminated. Conspiracy theorists will claim that the acquittal had something to do with her ECB candidacy. In these current times of deceit, such theories will find fertile ground in the imagination.
The actions of Lagardes fellow countryman Francois Villeroy de Galhau suggest that French patriotism takes precedence over corporate governance from his perspective. Since he was resistant to more QE, at the last Governing Council meeting, he believes that he is the right man to be a spokesman for the monetarist rebels. Putting France before monetarism will not however endear him to the rebels. Aux contraire, he will infuriate them and widen the Franco-German division.
Opining rather too swiftly and much too subjectively, Villeroy said that the ECB has already turned the page on this corporate governance faux pas and is continuing to operate as if nothing is wrong. French credibility is therefore irreparably tarnished in relation to (1) credible commitment to independent central banking, (2) objective monetary policy making and (3) corporate governance best practice. The repercussions and unintended consequences, from this litany of French decline and fall, will come back to haunt the ECB and the Eurozone in due course.
A truly independent individual will be needed to perform this authors suggested ECB review. This person simply does not exist in the Eurozone today in these times of Populism. All the big names are compromised by their national agendas, whatever they may be. This governance issue will extend to undermining the ECBs credibility as an institution. Its ability to respond and the power of its monetary policy responses have been undermined and diminished, respectively. This is something that a central bank does not need when it is faced with a recession and trade wars.
(Source ECB: caption and editing by the Author)
Despite the controversy that he has caused, Mario Draghi remains as defiant and inflammatory as ever. His behavior inflames the emotive old passions and hatreds, which lie at the core of the current schism developing within the Eurozone. The Jesuits recently inducted him into their pantheon of greats, whilst the Northern European Reformists looked on askance. His humble acceptance speech conflated the European Enlightenment tryptic of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity with his own modus operandi of Policymaking, Responsibility and Uncertainty. The discourse of this MO proselytized the case for MMT, by calling for a Eurozone crusade in the name of the combined religions of monetary and fiscal policy. He is going out swinging, apparently without a care for whom he may take down with him.
A successful MMT campaign will move the Eurozone from its current Federal status to a Unitary Nation State. One should therefore equate the current political skirmish in the Eurozone with the Civil War between the Confederates and Unionists in North America. NIRP equates with the Abolishment of Slavery through its current destruction of usury. Just to be clear, a victory for the Union will make everyone a slave of the state however.
(Source: ECB, caption by the Author)
Draghi was also careful to say thank you to the BIS for swiftly coming to his support. He also thanked the European Courts for giving him legal precedent to do QE.
(Source: ECB, caption by the Author)
Having legally derived his legitimacy, he then went on to conclude that this devolved his political legitimacy; to be a dependent civil servant, rather than an independent central banker. He failed to observe that this political legitimacy is now under threat all over the Eurozone from Populists. He also failed to note that the ECB is a significant driver of the reaction by the Populists.
After presenting himself like Uriah Heep, as a humble civil servant, Draghi promoted the virility of his strategy by dispensing with the fig leaf of central bank independence. For him, independence has only been a badge, to be flashed when it was useful to help promote the hijacking of corporate governance that he thinks he has successfully pulled off. MMT is dependent upon the symbiosis of fiscal and monetary policy. Draghis obituary may note that he did whatever it took for MMT; his last act being the conflation of monetary and fiscal policy with the corresponding loss of central bank independence.
In summation, Draghis acceptance speech resembled the case for the defense against the monetarist plaintiffs in a future a legal drama. It may yet come to that, despite French attempts to sweep him under the carpet into posterity.
(Source: New York Times, caption by the Author)
So much for Draghis legacy then. The real reminder of how fragile his hopes are, for deeper fiscal integration to bend QE bond buying rules, came from Germany. At the current pace of ECB bond buying, the central bank has one more year left of German bond buying before it cant buy any more. As the Germany economy weakens, the need to buy more Bunds increases. Unfortunately, since buying limits are based on the size of a countrys GDP, the potential QE Bund buying declines as the German economy weakens.
A situation calling for more QE therefore is faced with the real prospects of less QE and then no QE at all. If the situation is bad for Germany, it is fatal for Eurozone nations with larger fiscal deficits and weak growth. The ECB is already maxed-out on how much it can buy of these nations debts. In effect, the Capital Key bomb for them has already exploded and they are dying in slow motion. This ticking Capital Key bomb thus gets louder by the day; as does the panic for those who wish to change it.
For the likes of Germany, the fuse on the bomb needs to be lengthened, by slowing the QE buying rate, if it cannot be changed by writing new Capital Key rules. Currently, the Germans do not wish to have new rules written.
For those nations who are already dead, only new rules can resurrect them back to life. If there are no new rules forthcoming, then these nations will simply break them; and then live in Eurozone and IMF debt purgatory, until another sovereign debt crisis enforces a resolution. One could say that they are already there. As we shall see later, the Italians have an axe to grind in this regard.
(Source: Amazon, caption by the Author)
Draghis legacy thus lies in the balance. Lagardes fate is tied to his legacy, unless she can change the dynamic. At least one of her opponents has thrown her a line.
After much initial acclaim, monetarist rebel-rouser Robert Holzmann has turned out to be a little disappointing. The initial disappointment should not however detract from admiration of his negotiating skills and cunning. Conciliation and reconciliation are ostensibly on his agenda. But they come at a price.
Whilst slating Draghi and his policy for being wrong, Holzmann extended the olive branch of peace to Lagarde. The offer came with a threat, in the reminder that there are other Governing Council members who also feel the same way as he does. This olive branch included glowing praise of her political skills in balancing all the conflicting views at the IMF. He then offered a compromise of adopting a temporary 1.5% inflation target. This would avert further massive easing, but still leave some room for a little more; since Eurozone inflation is still well below 1.5% and still falling. In relation to the ECBs governance failure, he positively opined that I (Holzmann) expect that Lagarde will start a process in the ECB that more strongly integrates national central banks.
Ostensibly, all Lagarde has to do now therefore is throw Draghi under the bus and meet Holzmann halfway on the inflation target and the governance issues. In order to preserve her reputation and avoid a deeper scrutiny of the governance failure, this is a generous offer. It does however make her Holzmanns sock-puppet and captive; positions that she may not wish to assume.
As the Holy War raged at the ECB level, secular Eurozone finance ministers opened a second front at the political level. Nations with room to fiscally stimulate i.e. Germany and Holland were implored to do so by those who lack said room. If these calls are not reciprocated in good faith with alacrity, then those without said room will then move to break Stability Pact limits and threaten the stability of the Eurozone. This next stage would then be conflict escalation.
The Germans and the Dutch could argue by presenting their own supporting evidence that the escalation has already begun. This evidential escalation is however criminal. EU auditors have recently found that 4 billion Euros of central budget disbursement was misappropriated and misaccounted for at the national level. The prospect of fraudulent fiscal practice to avoid Stability Pact rules is therefore real and ongoing.
Fortunately, all involved in the current budget skirmish were under strict instructions not to escalate yet. At the eleventh hour, therefore, a compromise in support of a notional common budget was made. This agreement is symbolic and without teeth. It lacks any practical reference to size and also how the common funds will be spent. Escalation of the crisis will therefore be needed for these important issues to be agreed upon. All those concerned can now go away and start escalating, in order to force further debate and agreement . or not!
Once again, crisis is the only way of getting peoples attention and getting things done in Europe. The Eurozone economy therefore has to be sacrificed for this alleged greater good in the long run.
The Spanish were the first to start the escalation process post-summit. This probably reflects the fact that their economy is in free-fall. It should also be remembered that Spain currently has an acting government only. Any escalation should therefore be put into the context of this weak political situation. The acting government tried to escalate by stealth. GDP expectations were lowered slightly for this year and slightly more for next year. Having caused no alarm there, the acting government then tried to sneak in the escalation. The fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP was radically raised for 2020, by much more than the GDP rate was lowered. Clearly, the acting government intends to spend more. The big question is will the EU allow this, given that Spain is already pushing fiscal spending limits? A draft plan of this intended sneaky increase in spending was also submitted to the EU. Spain and Mr Market await the EUs response.
(Source: Bloomberg, caption by the Author)
Italys attempts at escalation were as equally comedic as Spains. Whilst it has a government of sorts, the Italian coalition couldnt agree on the contents of the draft budget that it submitted to the EU. The draft is fiscally deficit prone; with a combination of a cancelled VAT hike, tax cuts for the workers (voters!) and infrastructure spending. All elements cover the voter bases of the coalition parties which cannot agree in principle on it.
(Source: theconversation, caption by FIFA)
The amusement at Italys comedic attempts at escalation soon turned into shrieks of derision and cries of foul play. Italian Paolo Gentiloni rotates off the bench onto the field to play as EU Commissioner on economics. Some would say that he is already in an offside position. Rather than play offside, however, he simply wishes to move the linesmen so that he appears onside. His first call is for a redefinition of fiscal rules. This should then be followed by a fiscal expansion in all those who have room. Presumably, those who suddenly find that they have room from the redefinition will not be slow shooting.
Slovakia also began the escalation process. Interestingly, this escalation will see the country abandoning its commitment to balanced budgets. Germany should take note. A fellow Black Zero traveler is getting off the bus. Slovakia is sending the message that Black Zero is over. This small Eurozone nation will soon be held up, as the precedent that Germany should be following, by those with fiscal stimulus intentions in mind.
(Source: the Author)
The last report noted Mario Draghis heavy reliance upon the small Eurozone nations to get his package the majority vote it needed in the Governing Council. The obvious quid pro quo is that the ECB makes its balance sheet available to keep deficit costs manageable for these nations. Blurring this line on deficit financing thus fulfills the prophecy of MMT in the Eurozone. The escalation should thus be understood as the road to MMT. This blurring also fulfills Draghis belief stated earlier, that he was a humble civil servant.
(Source: isutrecht, editing by the Author)
It is clear that the Dutch expect things to escalate. It is also clear that they think that Christine Lagarde will just be Draghi in designer drag for monetary policy. They have therefore begun preparing to resist the fallout from more QE, NIRP and Capital Key rule bending/breaking. Their first preparations are to plug the dikes in the Dutch banking system from bursting with ECB liquidity flooding. The Dutch central bank hopes to plug the first systemic leak by raising capital adequacy requirements against mortgage assets.
Dutch Governing Council member Klaas Knot also put Lagarde on notice that there will be no sweeping under the carpet of the dissent from the last meeting. Knot had been criticized by former ECB Chief Economist Peter Praet. Praet would only say that Knots public dissent was inappropriate, rather than illegal or even inaccurate.
Evidently, Praet does not wish to risk perjuring himself by upholding an egregious corporate governance failure of the ECB President; that was allowed by the custodians of governance (ex-Sabine Lautenschlaeger) best practice on the Executive Board.
Doing a Draghi, Knot turned the outgoing Presidents mendacity on itself; by concluding that there is in fact a unanimous ECB consensus to do a full monetary policy framework review. Framing the corporate governance issue, Knot opined that the way that a Governing Council decision is communicated should be an extension of the way that decision was made. He is now confidently positioned for a conversation that will take place under Ms. Lagarde. It is advisable for her not to disappoint him.
Read the original here:
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