On Monday, European finance ministers are expected to approve the latest bailout package for Greece, which last week got more-than 85% of its creditors to agree to "voluntary" haircuts on their Greek debt.
The resulting restructuring is the largest for a sovereign nation in modern history, and the first since the adoption of the euro in 1999, but did avoid a messy, disorderly "credit event." But a default by any other name is still a default.
The EU has probably bought itself "several more months," thanks to the Greek restructuring and the "radical measures" adopted by the European Central Bank, says Steve Forbes, chairman of Forbes Media. "You can keep kicking" the can down the road, "but crises emerge."
Notably, Greek debt is trading in the so-called "grey market" as if Greece will fail to make payments on its newly restructured debt and Portuguese debt yields have risen sharply in the past week.
In sum, Forbes fears European policymakers have failed to take the "right" lessons from the Greek tragedy.
Right now "you have the worst of both words" in Greece, he says. "The economy is going into the tank without the pro-growth reforms to get it back again."
Forbes prescription for Greece -- and Europe's other so-called PIIGS -- is familiar to anyone who's followed his work over the years: less regulation, labor reform and a "radically reformed tax structure," featuring (of course) a flat tax. (See: "Everyone Is Making a Bungle of Things": Steve Forbes' Rx to Fix Greece)
"They're going in the wrong direction" in Europe, he says, citing new tax increases in Spain and Portugal and Greece's failure to really reform its bloated public sector.
"They need remedial education," Forbes says of EU policymakers. "They're all tied to defunct notion of Keynesianism that government spending somehow stimulates the economy -- that easy money stimulates the economy. No it does not."
Forbes compares European policymakers to medieval doctors who tried to "bleed the patient to cure the patient. So they killed the patient."
Europe -- and the Eurozone -- certainly isn't "dead" but the road to recovery from its rolling debt crisis is starting to look shaky, again.
- Steve Forbes
- Forbes Media