Have they gone totally nuts over there?!
.....was less able to square the political point about how Brian Cowen, the Irish prime minister, will win an election if he swallows the medicine the ECB is forcing down his throat: spending cuts, public sector wage cuts and eye-watering tax rises to bring Ireland's deficit down to the levels demanded of a member of the eurozone.
Other countries, especially the poorer and harder-hit eastern members, are facing the same prescription: spending cuts and tax increases during a recession. This is not only anti-Keynesian, it is utter madness. If the ECB were consciously trying to destroy the economies of its member states, it could not have chosen a better set of policies to do so.
And as so often happens in such cases, the rules apply less to some than to others:
President Sarkozy has entered a familiarly Gaullist phase, ignoring EU competition policy and pushing through a €6 billion support for the French car industry; other manufacturers, notably in eastern Europe, have protested to no avail. Mr Sarkozy's assertion that he is not a protectionist is purely rhetorical. When a German minister says that "now is not the time" to let workers from the EU's former eastern bloc countries have full immigration rights in Germany, he is saying the same thing. Gordon Brown may not be able to ensure British jobs for British workers, but the Germans are determined to keep their jobs for German ones. This bending of the rules – or rather this wholesale disregard of them – is the surest sign of a currency, and quite possibly an empire, in terminal decline.
The eastern Europeans, having submitted to the straitjacket of EU economic rules in return for the free-trade commitments which western Europe is now flagrantly yanking out from under them, can at least hope for some economic support, right? Not a bit of it:
When Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Hungarian prime minister, asked them for a €190 billion handout last weekend to prevent a new economic Iron Curtain from going up across the continent, Angela Merkel told him to get lost. She has the German people and, more to the point, German business behind her: why should they pay for the unregenerate behaviour of others? Why should they worry about the collapse of the zloty and the forint? Why should it bother them that Latvia's debt now has junk rating, or that the Irish are almost broke? If Mrs Merkel wants to stay in power, and German workers wish to keep the fruits of their own labours, they must harden their hearts.
More on that aspect of the problem here. The simple fact is that the various European countries think and feel as separate nations, and under stress they will behave as separate nations, looking to their own interests first.
The only good that can come of all this is that the peoples of the individual states may at last rise up against the insane polyglot empire that is threatening to rob them of any chance of enonomic recovery, and demand that their leaders adopt the policies that the current situation demands, EU rules be damned. If that means abandoning the undemocratic EU and its suffocating currency union completely, so much the better.