Sorry to go on about the Czechs again, but they provide so much ammunition. Topolánek: your government has just fallen in the middle of the EU Presidency, the very same Presidency that has already stumbled from gaffe to gaffe, and then you make an all out attack on the President of the United States? As reported by the BBC:

He attacked the US’s growing budget deficit and the “Buy America” campaign, saying “all of these steps, these combinations and permanency is the way to hell”.

Now the Buy America stuff might be nationalistic and protectionist, and indeed the Czech government has spoken out against the economic nationalism of France. But to state that the US policy is a way to hell? I think the guy could have chosen his words more carefully.

It’s also interesting to keep an eye on how this comment by Topolánek is covered (or not) by ‘EU can do no right’ bloggers such as Daniel Hannan, England Expects and Bruno Waterfield. Let’s not forget that Topolánek’s ODS party is a likely partner for the Tories in a new political group in the EP after the elections, and pro-Americanism is often the flip-side to euroscepticism among UK Tories, UKIP voters, and readers of the Daily Telegraph. However the fiscal stimulus proposed by the Obama administration is the very sort of neo-Keynsianism that those very same groups find abhorrent…

6 Comments

  1. Good posting Damien.
    My point is exactly that people can understand this stuff – it is not science it is politics.
    To the very limited extent the PES has a programme, good for it.
    But I would take issue with its limited character (“green” production is usually rather a dubious one too).
    Any suggestion that Keynesian economics is in anyway socialist is laughable, he was an Etonian saviour of capitalism not one of its gravediggers.
    The question is not about spending but the relationship of planning and democratic direction given to the economy.
    “We are all Keynesians now,” said a US president. Not Barack Obama but Richard Nixon.

  2. DamienRM

    Well, just to react to your last post Bruno, I don’t agree with whoever you heard say in Brussels that a fiscal stimulus is a matter for bean counter and not for the electorate. First of all, I don’t think it can be qualified of bean-counting when the sums we are talking about have as many nils after the 1. Or then it would be rather big beans.
    But mostly, I think it’s wrong to assume the electorate can’t understand enough about the dynamics of a stimulus package. I can’t remember who said rightly “you know it’s a time of crisis when everyone is reading the economics page rather than the sports page of their paper. In a time of crisis, everyone thinks they are an economist”. Far from me the idea to explain the details of any government spending to sun-readers but I am convinced that most voters understand and agree (at the moment) with general principles of Keneysian public spending in time of crisis. That is enough to make an informed choice.
    And the choice is offered to voters at the coming elections. One the one hand, re-electing the EPP and Barosso, who got us here in the first place with his good friend Charlie, who opposes further public spending to get us out of the crisis, and commissionned (and plans to implement) the toothless Larrossiere report on Financial regulation in the EU.
    On the other hand, there is a written, clear, and simple programme, written by grassroot activists from all over the EU and available to the public since december. It proposes a large EU-wide new deal, a big part of which would be green-oriented, as well as tighter pan-EU regulation in financial markets, the banning of short-selling, the introduction of Eurobonds, not only for Eurozone members but to raise capital for new member states as well, and a large push in R&D financing. You will have guessed, that’s the PES manifesto.
    So there is a choice, and I have made mine. You may disagree that Keneysianism is the best way out of the crisis, but I think the voters should be offered the possibility. It’s just a shame that the PES, with its internal mess, does not seem to be prepared to put forward someone to explain this choice in those clear terms to the electorate. And I think that will make them lose.

    And a last thing on the Obama spending plan: whatever one thinks about it, it’s admirable that 10% of all spending will go towards green projects and green jobs. More than we can say about spending plans on this side of the pond. Europeans don’t need to have their unprofitable manufacturing jobs bailed out (we agree on that), they need state-funded re-training or higher education, and a security of income for a reasonable amount of time. Who said flexicurity?

  3. Hmm. Apologies, I did get carried away (having a very bad day), not sure by how much I missed though… certainly did not mean to be unfriendly.
    You reply that: “I don’t have enough of a grasp of economics to know what’s best, and I studiously steer clear of writing about things I know little or nothing about.”
    This is the problem. “Fiscal stimulus” we are told is a technical matter of economics, something for the bean counters. “Trust us, we are experts,” runs the line.
    On that count voters (who should get to decide let alone write) on these matters are unqualified – an argument one hears in Brussels rather a lot.
    The question is not whether money should be spent or not (that is an absurd Brown/Cameron sideshow, bald men fighting over combs) but why there is no poliotical programme that pose an alternative to what went before, the status quo that caused the crisis,.
    Financial market regulation and bailouts does not really fit the bill.

  4. Bruno – I think you got a bit carried away there…

    (1) You might note that I say “readers of the Daily Telegraph” and not “writers for the Daily Telegraph” – I was not saying you’re a Tory.

    (2) I also do not state what I personally think of the Obama ‘fiscal stimulus’ – I don’t have enough of a grasp of economics to know what’s best, and I studiously steer clear of writing about things I know little or nothing about.

    (3) I have continually and consistently argued in favour of improving the EU’s institutions from a democratic point of view, and have written all kinds of posts about how institutions, political parties etc. need to be reformed to improve democratic accountability.

    Yet, having said all of that, we are where we are with the EU – if there is to be someone that should be able to have a go at the USA it should be the President of the European Commission, not a head of a Member State speaking without agreement from the other Member States. Because I care about that issue I’m running Anyone But Barroso that has very effectively riled plenty of people in Labour and the PES.

    So you’re welcome to have a rant, but I think you’ve missed the target here.

  5. This posting is too long but hey…
    Topo’s comments – undiplomatic or gaffey as they are – represent the majority position of the EU.
    Brown has had a real battle to prevent the EU taking the position that “fiscal stimulus” (dreadful jargon term that expresses how empty the policy is) should be temporary, even with time/date cut off.
    Feel free to call me a Tory because of my employer (it is suitably easy), Jon but I have never defended the Czech Prez because its personnel are ODS, only because I thought it was right to.
    I have relished their less than diplomatic language because it has been a breath of fresh air in a town where obfuscation and consensoid dullness is the order of the day.
    Sometimes I do agree with EU policies (some on energy and telecoms are quite good) but that is trumped by its anti-democratic character.
    As a new Labour type, you worship delivery not democracy. For me, democracy is always more important than whether the trains run on time. Even if I lose the argument. The EU’s structures and practices float policy above politics – the cut and thrust of one argument versus another.
    On state spending in a recession, I do not see the point unless it is part of an economic plan and political programme.
    The “fiscal stimulus” of Brown and Obama tends to reinforce destructive practices and does not represent a plan or political programme.
    The idea that state spending is good per se without asking questions about what it represents is a particularly moronic Labour fetish.
    This is because most Labour types have had no critique of the state for over two decades – this has not been good for civil liberties.
    Unlike the Tories and you new Labour types Jon (so radical!), I support democratic planning over the market any day.
    Moreover, as I have written a number of times, I support planning at a European level.
    If anybody was advancing a state spending programme which was future orientated, aimed at raising productive forces and advancing people’s control over their own lives then I would support it.
    The Brown/Obama spending is aimed at shoring up the status quo and all that entails.
    You’re the conservative here Jon.

  6. Our prime minister chose very diplomatic words to describe the mess that the new irresponsible U.S. administration is creating. The hell is quite a neutral formulation.

    I assure you that in the private context, he is describing the socialist and protectionist policies of your new leader as a path to the asshole which is probably more accurate and secular than a hell;. 😉

    Believe me that I am the last one who would celebrate a bad fate of America but it seems that we will have to get ready for this outcome.

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