As Merkel Runs for Reelection, All Politics Is Regional

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“All politics is local,” said U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill in 1982.

Angela Merkel has begun her campaign to remain Germany’s chancellor. Her party must retake the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s largest by population, to begin the process. She traveled there recently to market her standards as a champion of austerity around the European Union. Bloomberg reports she trumpeted her unwavering support for national expense cuts as the only way for Spain and other financially weak eurozone nations to solve their debt troubles. In the process, she has indirectly rejected the idea that stimulus has any role in a financial recovery in nations like Spain and Italy, which have begun to fall into deep precession.

Merkel, like most politicians, is unlikely to speak about her possible concern about the financial future of Europe if it will harm her ability to remain in power. The next federal election in Germany is in late 2013, over a year away. Most of Europe likely will fall into an irreversible recession by then, if economists who see the needs for stimulus as an antidote are correct.

Merkel actually may undermine her chance to remain as chancellor, if a regionwide recession badly hurts Germany’s export economy. Voters are often fickle enough to forget the priorities they once had if their own financial prospects begin to dim. Merkel’s support of austerity, if it is misplaced, could be the final trigger for the undoing of the tentative sovereign health of Italy and Spain. She will be left to explain how two countries that were “too big to fail” failed and how that probably will permanently disband the eurozone and its common currency.

Either Merkel’s position on austerity is convenient or she actually has deep personal conviction in her point of view. But this part of her platform for reelection endangers the near-term financial future of most of Europe.

Douglas A. McIntyre