Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cypriot Parliament Rejects Savings Levy; EU, ECB, IMF Relent

Congrats to the Cyprus parliament for calling the bluff on the EU, ECB and the IMF.

Shortly after noon EDT, the Cypriot parliament voted unanimously - in a rare show of anti-Euro solidarity - to reject the bailout plan proposed by the "troika" (EU, ECB, IMF) that would have imposed a tax on savers, a stark violation of the rule of law.

The plan called for a 9.9% tax on savings accounts in banks with holdings of more than 100,000 Euros, and a 6.5% levy on those under the 100,000 Euro threshold.

The vote had been delayed for two days, but, in the end, the parliament stood up for the welfare of the people and the sanctity of personal property rights, or, could it have been a reaction to a very real threat from retaliation from Russian oligarchs and mobsters (recognized as one and the same, in some circles)?

Much of the billions of Euros on deposit in Cypriot banks belong to Russians, a fact not lost on those who had the fate of their country and countrymen in their hands.

Whatever the case, the troika's gambit to impose a tax on savings accounts went up in flames, fabulously, though one has to fear that this was more of a test run for a future raid on the money held by individuals and companies in banks across Europe. So deep was the opposition that the parliament rejected the plan in toto, sending the ECB and IMF back to the drawing board.

The EU quickly issued a statement to the effect that it would use existing means to bailout the banks in Cyprus, and with them, the bankrupt government. Though nothing material was offered right away, all in Europe know that whatever solution the troika devises will be austere toward the general populace and kind to banks.

In the end, it will be the people who suffer most, as it has been in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and, to a lesser extent, Spain and Italy.

At one point during the back-and-forth of memos and media bites, one of the EU finance ministers quipped that Europe was two-thirds of the way through the crisis. Skeptics of the overall viability of the European Union will note that using 2008 as a baseline, the year 2014 would serve as an end to the crisis, otherwise meaning the collapse of the EU and the end of the Euro as a multi-national currency.

It doesn't get any stranger than in Europe, the dystopian nightmare conceived as a method to compete on a global scale which has devolved rapidly into an Orwellian series of meetings, dictums, bailouts, trial runs and sovereign failures.

America took the drama in stride, the markets stumbling through the early part of the session only to rally in the afternoon, though the crisis in Cyprus is still far from over. This was only act one of what will certainly be a three-to-five piece performance.

While it may be back to normal (whatever that means) for US and global markets for the next few days, the FOMC meeting of the Fed wraps up tomorrow at 2:00 pm EDT and the budget battle in the US congress continues to gain pace, with the Senate and House bills far from resolution.

As usual, congress will be out of session beginning March 25, though it must pass a continuing resolution by the 27th in order to forestall a government shutdown due to lack of funding. As in Europe, the nefarious machinations of government are never without a dramatic deadline. Thus, the remainder of the week will shift focus from the tiny island nation of Cyprus to the secluded denizens within the halls of congress.

For now...

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