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GERMANY: Oscar Lafontaine on the Financial Markets

by Oscar Lafontaine Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009 at 11:58 AM

"The present crisis cannot be overcome without a regulation of the financial markets.. When banks are given billions through the so-called bank bailout and these billions disappear somewhere, that is a misappropriation or embezzlement of tax funds.."


German Government Fails in Regulating the Financial Markets

By Oscar Lafontaine

[This speech by a spokesperson of the German Left Party (Die Linke) in the German Bundestag 1/22/2009 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Mr. President, dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

The present crisis cannot be overcome without a regulation of the financial markets. The question is: What has the German government done up to now to advance regulation of the financial markets? In this important challenge, the German government has completely failed.

(Applause from the Left Party)

Up to now no measures have been brought forward that seriously tackle a regulation of the financial markets.

Since reproaches of the opposition fraction are dismissed as gossip, I quote the former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt who analyzed the situation very exactly in a noteworthy essay. For months, we have known of the disastrous effects of deregulation on the financial markets. Why has this government done nothing to regulate the financial markets? We simply do not understand this.

(Applause from the Left Party)

Time and again we have presented a whole catalogue of demands. I’d like to recall our core demands:

Firstly, to overcome the financial crisis, mammoth risks may not be hidden in conduits or blotted out in the balance sheets. Why isn’t a corresponding rule or law enacted? That has not been explained to anyone.

(Applause from the Left Party)

When banks are given billions through the so-called bank bailout revitalization and these billions disappear somewhere, that is a misappropriation or embezzlement of tax funds for which you are responsible.

(Applause from the Left Party)

You do this. In the last months, you have misappropriated billions of tax funds.

Secondly, we urged prohibiting so-called toxic securities in the future.

Our third proposal that takes up only three of ten or twenty of our proposals on regulating the financial markets, drying up the tax havens. Without drying up the tax havens, you run the risk that the injected billions could be parked in these havens. You cannot seriously explain this.

(Applause from the Left Party)

Since proposals of the opposition are regularly rejected, we take up three proposals of the former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt. We are interested in your reaction. These proposals are better and more concrete than everything presented by this German government.

(Applause from the Left Party)

You would do yourself a favor if you agreed and gave a certain direction to the measures.

Is financing the merger of private commercial banks with billions the function of the government? I criticize this government for misappropriating these billions completely irresponsibly.

(Applause from the Left Party)

As the next point, economic counter-measures must strengthen domestic demand. Who would oppose this? The question is about the form and extent of the economic counter-measures. If the collapse is small, no great efforts are necessary. If the collapse is great, greater efforts must be undertaken. To the present day, nothing of this has happened on the part of the German government.

In his essay, Helmut Schmidt pointed out the United States has resolved economic counter-measures with 6 percent of its gross domestic product, China – a surplus land – with 20 percent and Japan – also a surplus land – with 10 percent while Germany – also a surplus land – earmarks less than 1 percent per year.

The German foreign minister says the budget could be revitalized through consolidation. With a sinking state share, this could only be absolute nonsense…

The proposals now made are completely inadequate to prevent the collapse of the economy. Because of your inaction, you are responsible for a clear increase of unemployment.

(Applause from the Left Party)

You embezzle many billions of euros and also are responsible for a clear increase of unemployment.

The last point I want to discuss is reduction of domestic inequality. Inequality in assets and income is the foundation of speculation and all the disastrous developments on the financial markets.

(Applause from the Left Party)

A statistic on asset development was recently publicized. The rich have become even richer. Politics is contributing to increasing inequality in the future. The compensation tax and the inheritance tax with the higher allowances conserve the present situation.

The bases of financial speculation are the inequalities of income- and asset-distribution. Whoever really wants to curb this speculation must reduce inequality in distribution of income and assets.

(Applause from the Left Party)

What you inflict with your foolish tax policy is disastrous as to assets distribution. Your tax policy is also disastrous as to wage development… The overall level of wage development is unfortunately below the rate of increasing prices. This means, employees, pensioners and the socially needy lost in 2008. This is a disastrous development.



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