在上周六德国全国性报纸《星期日世界报》（Welt am Sonntag）刊登的访谈中，高盛（Goldman Sachs）CEO劳埃德•布兰克梵宣称欧元区解体的风险已经在去年消退。布兰克梵进一步说道，美国人一贯地低估了欧洲人想要“建立一个团结的欧洲”的决心，但“我不会犯同样的错误”。
In an interview published last Saturday in the German national newspaper Welt am Sonntag (World on Sunday), Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein declared that the risk of a euro breakup has faded in the past year. Blankfein went on to argue that Americans typically underestimate the will of Europeans to "see through the creation of a united Europe," and that "I'm not going to make the same mistake myself."
What is Lloyd Blankfein thinking? The health of Europe's fragile economies has taken agefahrhlich, German for perilous, turn since last spring. That puts the common currency in far greater danger than ever. The declarations of solidarity by European Union officials and heads of state, and a desperate patchwork of fixes that that only mask the members' basic weakness, are deluding the best financial minds, including Blankfein, into believing that the euro is virtually certain to survive.
The shocking deterioration in practically every economic metric points to the opposite conclusion. Unemployment in the 17-nation eurozone will jump from 11.4% in 2012 to a record 12.3% this year, according to the most recent IMF projections. The jobless rate in Spain and Greece will reach 27% in 2013, while around 2% of workers in France and Italy, the zone's second and third-largest economies, will lose their paychecks over the next two years.
Measured in GDP, the eurozone is now shrinking, and risks careening into a depression. After expanding 1.4% in 2011, the euro area retreated 0.6% in 2012 and will contract again this year, with only one of the troubled economies -- Ireland --showing any growth. Even France, long bulwark of the common currency, suffers dwindling output. Despite the much-vilified shift to "austerity," the mountainous debts continue to rise. This year, France's borrowings will reach 92% of GDP, versus 62% in 2008. For Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, that figure already exceeds 100%, and Spain is fast approaching triple-digits.
So given the dreadful numbers, why are the bulls gaining confidence that the euro will pull through? If the southern members were making fundamental, structural reforms to their rigid labor markets, the Blankfein view would make sense. But that's not the main theme in the eurozone. "The nations in the eurozone have a competitiveness problem far more than a debt problem, and it's been greatly underappreciated," notes Allan Meltzer, the renowned economist at Carnegie Mellon.
In Italy, Spain and France, "unit labor costs," the wages and benefits required to produce a car or sheet of steel, are far higher than in Germany or the Netherlands. That's hammering their exports. At the same time, they're importing heavily from the lower-cost countries, from Germany to China.
Only two solutions are possible. The weak nations need to radically reduce wages and pension costs, and reform restrictive work rules, or shift to cheaper currencies. Progress on the former has been extremely disappointing, with Italy and France already retreating on pension reform. Unit labor costs have fallen in response to rising joblessness, but not nearly enough to make their exports competitive or garner required reductions in imports. With the traditional safety valve of a falling currency no longer available, these nations are drifting further and further into debt and decline.