Contagion Catastrophe

This is the worst-case scenario from Europe, and it just might come true: Italy defaults on its debts. Every major Italian bank collapses. Recession grips the eurozone. Sovereign defaults and bank failures ripple across the Continent. Saddled with bad loans to nations and lenders in Europe, American banks hemorrhage cash. Credit freezes in the United States. Multinational companies, unable to raise money, curb U.S. investment and hiring. Wall Street demands, but fails to get, new bailouts. The entire developed world plummets into recession and, quite possibly, depression. This, in contrast, is the placid warning that President Obama gave Americans about the threat: “If Europe is contracting,” he said on Monday, “then it’s much more difficult for us to create good jobs here at home.” There’s still a chance that Europeans, through some combination of fiscal and monetary action, can stop the crisis before it shatters the feeble U.S. recovery. But the worst case is so much worse than Obama’s description, and Washington has failed to prepare voters for the possibility.

Posted: Fri, 12/02/2011 - 11:54am