Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Germany Calling



(Own report) - German banks and insurance companies are fighting for an appropriate portion of the multi-billion dollar US Government emergency bail out plan. On the weekend, the government confirmed its plan to expropriate at least US $700 billion from American taxpayers to prop up bankrupt private US institutions. This announcement included a restriction: Only US financial enterprises should benefit from these $700 billion. Foreign investors that have also been affected, through their deposits in US institutions, among them prominent German businesses, are initially excluded. Through the crash on Wall Street, they suffered a loss in the three digit millions. In Germany these losses led to serious capital shortage in regional banks, which in turn are canceling credits for medium sized companies. Insolvency and layoffs are resulting. Up to this moment, the government circles of several western allies have been intervening in Washington, demanding an equal share in the expropriated funds for their private national banks. According to economic experts of the government, this crash will shrink Germany's projected growth to a mere 0,5 or zero percent, whereas a few months ago, this growth was estimated to reach over two percent. Western economy is in the grip of the worst financial crisis since the 1929 Great Depression. In view of the US financial "meltdown", German military circles remark, not without satisfaction, that the USA has surpassed its "power policy peak", sounding the knell of the "American century" even in the military field.

According to official pronouncements, the emergency bailout, whose details are still being worked out by the US government, will amount to US $700 billion. US economists, who are criticizing the size of this expropriation plan, estimate that in reality it will reach at least $1 trillion.[1] The private bankruptcy debt volume, taken over a few days ago by the US government, is already at approximately US $400 billion. The final price tag for additional ailing shares and policies is unknown. The promise to impose these private debts on the US population, while rewarding the debtors with money, will provoke a multiplication of liabilities, cheating the taxpayers of astronomical sums. Depreciation and losses "could reach even more than US $1 trillion," estimates the president of the German Federation of Industries (BDI).[2] This amounts to at least US $5.000,00 from every employed US American to compensate for the current Wall Street losses.

The money flowing into the pockets of stock exchange speculators has to be taken to a large extent from the real economy and from foreign investors. The United States is bankrupt, shoving ahead of itself a huge mountain of over US $10 trillion in total debt. The average US American will be confronted with a gigantic poverty generating program because of the foreseeable wage cuts and price increases as well as the inflationary financial market developments. But national economies trading directly on the US financial market, will also feel the crash. On the weekend, the HSH Nordbank in Kiel, 29 percent owned by the Schleswig-Holstein state, admitted that, when the Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in the US, it lost "more than 100 million Euros in credit risks."[3] This relatively small sum could already mean trouble for a shipyard (500 employees) in northern Germany, that was counting on credits of HSH Nordbank to insure its future.[4] At the same time Schleswig-Holstein will be faced with losses of 40 million Euros in this bank's dividends that were expected for its budget. There will be no dividends, and the state budget is ailing. Like in the USA, cuts will be mainly felt by the poorer segment of the population.

The total losses caused by the Wall Street crash for German financial institutions are estimated to reach into the two digit billions. Banks and insurance companies are withholding the exact numbers. It is known that the Deutsche Bank participated in a so called rescue fund of US $70 billion, when the crisis still seemed manageable a few days ago. This money will be lost, if it is not included in the US government’s bailout plan, covered and reimbursed by the taxpayers. German politicians intervened on behalf of the Deutsche Bank and other German enterprises. On the weekend, the US government was ready to make a concession. Foreign institutions would be allowed to participate in the appropriation of public funds, if they have branches in the USA. This compromise would relieve the large German financial institutions, who, without exception, have subsidiaries in the USA, while smaller investors will be left with nothing.

German businesses oriented eastward [5] and segments of the German military and arms industry are commenting on the financial disaster with apprehension but not without satisfaction. The magazine of the Bundeswehr reservist association remarked in its latest edition that "since a few years, America has been suffering a loss of significance and therefore its independence of action."[6] This is why the former "hegemon" is now loosing its "role as world leader". No problem can "today and in the future, be solved by political and military means of single powers" - an allusion to the claim for global interventions by the German military.
Subsequent to the US financial "meltdown" [7], German business and military circles expect a more vigorous pursuit of their power ambitions, which can optionally be directed eastward or westward. The financial crisis is reinforcing Germany’s foreign policy.

[1] A $700 Billion Rescue Plan for Wall St., but Will It Work?; The New York Times 20.09.2008[2] Deutlich schwächeres Wachstum in Deutschland befürchtet; Reuters 20.09.2008
[3], [4] Deutsche Schiffbauer in Not; Tagesspiegel 21.09.2008
[5] see also Krisengewinner
[6] Die USA und das Ende der Unipolarität; loyal. Magazin für Sicherheitspolitik September 2008[7] Financial Meltdown; AP 19.09.2008

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