Is Europe returning to a dark past?

The public discussion of Europe’s economic crisis has carried a curious air of repression: When commentators have worried about worst-case scenarios—the scenarios that harken back to the dark moments in the Continent’s history—they have generally been dismissed as alarmist. 

But there are good reasons to treat these dire warnings with the gravest seriousness—to place them within the realm of plausibility. One of these reasons can be found within the file cabinets of the U.S. government. In 2004, the U.S. National Intelligence Council, the government’s premier agency for strategic intelligence analysis, published a report arguing that the European Union might not survive to see the year 2020. The report worried about restrictive labor laws and aging populations, not debt and the unraveling of the currency union. (The report also saw the main danger as Germany’s economic weakness, which makes for curious reading eight years later.) Still, it is bracing to consider that the U.S. government has worried about the worst-case scenario with the same intensity as the so-called alarmists.

Walter Laqueur — “The Weimar Union

What do you do when half of your country’s youth is unemployed?

Like so many others throughout Spain, Mario’s voice has that brittle, dry quality of an old confidence that’s begun to splinter. He tells me that he’s “not particularly hopeful” about what’s in store. To his left sits Raquel—another Toledo native, the same age as Mario, and a self-professed optimist. She cuts in: “I have two degrees, but I may as well not have studied anything at all.” When I ask her about her next move, she says that she’s thinking of leaving the country. She mentions a secondary school in Italy where she could teach humanities. Flushing slightly, she quickly adds that job prospects there are only marginally better than in Spain.”

Jonathan Blitzer, Spain’s Lost Generation: What Do You Do When Half of Your Country’s Youth is Unemployed?”

(Photo courtesy of spiegel.de)

A recovery or another headfake?

Is this an economic recovery actually worthy of its name?

"There have certainly been several headfakes before (remember ‘green shoots’ and ‘Recovery Summer’), but, to borrow a dangerous phrase, this time might be different. Economic data has surprised on the upside for the past few months, and the December jobs report continued this positive trend. The headline unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent on 200,000 net jobs added in the month—which, while not a fast enough pace to bring down unemployment to pre-recession levels till the mid 2020s, still represents a substantial acceleration over the past year."

- Matt O’Brien, “A Recovery, Or Another Headfake?

Also, be sure to check out TNR Senior Editor Timothy Noah’s blog, where he takes on the odd contention that all white working class voters are Republican.

Photo courtesy of Alaska in Pictures.

Why does the Republican-controlled House refuse to pass a bill that has overwhelming bipartisan support?

The House on Tuesday rejected a bipartisan Senate compromise on extending a payroll tax cut for two months and extending unemployment benefits.

President Obama has come out and urged the House to pass the resolution supported by the Senate before the holiday, but House Republicans have refused to budge, even dubbing this political situation their “Braveheart” moment.

Read Timothy Noah’s blogpost, “Invitation to a Beheading for more on Congress’s pre-holiday theatrics on the pay-roll tax cut, and what this gamesmanship may mean for changes in Americans’ taxes in the new year.

UPDATE: For live coverage of the developing debate, see Timothy Noah’s follow-up blog entry, “Man Bites Dog, GOP Version.

 

The true cost of unemployment: It affects more than your wallet.

thedailyfeed:

The damage of prolonged unemployment goes deeper than dollars. Skills deteriorate, anxiety and depression set in, and sometimes an outlook changes forever. Megan McArdle argues that the true cost of unemployment is even worse than we thought. 

Also, read Simon van Zuylen-Wood’s guest blog post, “Would Extending Unemployment Benefits Increase Unemployment?”

Have Republicans lost their economic marbles?

"The most important thing to understand about the Republican jobs agenda is that it’s not really a jobs agenda. That sounds simplistic and harsh, but I think it’s true, at least if you buy into the mainstream economic consensus."

- Jonathan Cohn, “The GOP’s Uncertainty Canard”

Read more of Jonathan Cohn’s breakdown of the GOP jobs agenda, here

Courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute