Money Is Power An Inside View of the IMF's Massive Global Influence
Part 8: Europe's Euro Challenge
It is a Tuesday in late September, the day after Strauss-Kahn addressed the United Nations in New York to advocate workplace measures and then, in a statement to the press, praised the unions once again. It looked like a campaign. He spoke earnestly about the global situation, the hardships of workers. He seemed determined; DSK does what he does with grim determination.
But what will he do? Will he leave the IMF before reaching his goal? Will he lead the French Socialists to challenge President Sarkozy in the 2012 election year? Strauss-Kahn has enough political astuteness to know the answer by heart: "I have to worry about people who do not have jobs," he says. "I'm lucky I have one." Some of his detractors in the IMF say that Strauss-Kahn's closeness to the unions is nothing but calculation on the part of a politician and economic expert.
If Strauss-Kahn runs for president, he can expect to face a smear campaign. His affair with a Hungarian IMF employee, which triggered an investigation, will be a thorn in his side, as will his reputation as a man who is now on his third marriage but who has loved many women. When asked about the internal investigation, he says: "It was a mistake. A waste of time. The price for mistakes is the waste of time."
Has he heard that Sarkozy is telling people in Paris that he warned Strauss-Kahn not to ride an elevator alone with a woman in the IMF building? No, he says. He isn't smiling any more.
Sitting in his office, surrounded by the scent of flowers, Strauss-Kahn prefers to talk about Europe's sad future. "The European institutions," he says, "were absolutely necessary and very useful for many reasons, but only in quiet times. ... The crisis exposed very clearly the way the EU is working. There is, in my view, too much concern about domestic safeguarding and domestic problems rather than concern about the EU itself. The result of that is that the recovery in Europe is lagging behind while the recovery in Asia, South America, the US and Africa is rather strong. I'm afraid that if the European countries don't take the bull by the horns, they will be the part of the world with sluggish recovery. After building the Union and creating the euro, the European Union now needs to take a third step, which is more economic policy coordination and more fiscal policy integration, and so more centralization. But the system moves very slowly."
He reaches toward the table, but there isn't any water there. Everyone at the IMF drinks too little water and too much coffee.
Then he says: "You can't have a monetary union without a reasonably coordinated fiscal policy. And you cannot make it work when neighbors make deals: If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you -- just as France and Germany did when they exceeded the 3 percent deficit limit. Europe needs rules, surveillance and sanctions. Sanctions should not be the suspension of voting rights. Who cares about voting rights? They have to be financial sanctions -- payable not during a crisis, of course, but a few years later."
In the end, DSK raves about China, Asia, dynamism and speed.
- Part 1: An Inside View of the IMF's Massive Global Influence
- Part 2: From Capitalist Mean Machine to Think Tank
- Part 3: Instant Flows of Cash
- Part 4: Shedding Its Image as the Headquarters of Hardcore Neoliberalism
- Part 5: Dropping 250 Billion over Europe
- Part 6: 'The End of Begging'
- Part 7: 'A Greek Bankruptcy Is Unavoidable'
- Part 8: Europe's Euro Challenge
- Part 9: 'Europe Must Reform Itself, That's Clear'