Is Italy the Next Greece?
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Europe’s Unwanted Reboot
Some 2012 memories don’t deserve reviving. For example, one "Sorry for Party Rocking" is more than enough. We could do without another European debt crisis, too.
But we seem to be getting the latter, or something similar. Like Greece in 2012, Italy has a weak economy and a Sisyphean debt load. Euro-skeptic populists recently won elections there, promising to blow out Italy’s budget and reviving fears about euro-zone stability. Italy’s interest rates have soared and stocks have tumbled. The pain has spread elsewhere in Europe and fed today’s U.S. market selloff.
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi helped end the 2012 crisis by promising to do “whatever it takes” to stabilize markets. But Marcus Ashworth notes the ECB is treating Italy’s agita like a parent reacts to a kid’s demand for ice cream – by saying, “We’ll see.” Until the ECB puts its money where its “whatever” is, contagion will continue, Marcus warns.
Investors also need a guarantee that Italy won’t pull a Brexit – Italexit? – writes Ferdinando Giugliano. And that seems unlikely any time soon – at least not until another election, which may not come until September, and only if everybody agrees it’s an in-or-out vote on the euro. Bloomberg’s editors say that election will now be the most consequential since 1948, with only the European Union and the legitimacy of Italy’s government at stake. And Ashoka Mody warns that President Sergio Mattarella denying the populists their right to name a euro-skeptic finance minister could give them even more power in the next election.
For now, this crisis seems likely to end as 2012’s did, with another ECB rescue. But it’s another one of those big risks that could keep markets on edge.
The Bloomberg View
Though the Cold War ended long ago, the threat of nuclear war hasn’t waned. But America’s missile-defense system is behind the times, warn Bloomberg's editors:
“Last year, President Trump claimed that ‘We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time.’ … Judged as a whole, the country’s missile defenses come nowhere close to providing that kind of security.”
Fight the Power
At many public companies, the board of directors might have something to say about a CEO indulging in days-long Twitter rants and firing cars into space, while his company bleeds cash and struggles to manufacture product. But that is not the case at Tesla Inc., where the directors (including CEO Elon Musk’s brother) are extremely well-paid for not doing much, writes Liam Denning.
Tesla is one example of many tech companies that give far too much power to their founders, writes Shira Ovide. Sunset provisions on supersized voting shares is one way boards could start showing “the tiniest glimmer of backbone,” she writes.
Puerto Rico’s Toll
President George W. Bush’s presidency was forever stained by his administration’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is orders of magnitude worse. A Harvard study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine puts the aftermath’s death toll at 4,645 – or nearly three times that of Katrina. Though President Donald Trump shouldn’t take all of the blame for that outcome, his lack of concern about the crisis contributed to it, writes Jonathan Bernstein:
“Trump isn’t a reality star anymore; he’s an elected official, with real and important responsibilities that he shirks. What he does or doesn’t do has huge practical consequences for all Americans. Sometimes those consequences are the difference between life and death.”
Trump and California are on the opposite side of most issues. But California’s economic growth suggests it must be doing something right, says Matthew Winkler.
Small companies aren’t enjoying the corporate-profit boom, writes Justin Fox.
Trump is right: Somebody in the White House really is out to get him. – Ramesh Ponnuru
Are you a broker who wants to make a fortune in a hurry without so many pesky regulations? Move to Vietnam. – Shuli Ren
The heroic “Spider-Man of Paris” is just the kind of immigrant France (and other European nations) wants to get rid of. – Leonid Bershidsky
The U.S. can still catch up to China in manufacturing – but not the way Trump suggests. – Noah Smith
Ethiopia could be the China of Africa, with booming growth and regional influence. – Tyler Cowen
For the past six months or so, a Twitter account called @weezerafrica (the work of a 14-year-old girl named Mary) has dedicated itself to the very important issue of getting ‘90s alt-rock band Weezer to cover “Africa” by the ‘70s soft-rock band Toto. After months of such pressure, Weezer at first responded by trollingly covering Toto’s “Rosanna” instead.
But today, at long last, Weezer released an “Africa” cover. Mary wins the Internet, and also music?
Note: Please send the rains, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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