En Garde, Legarde!


French Finance Minster Christine Lagarde has emerged as the front-runner in the race to replace ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. She is a champion swimmer, an accomplished attorney, and a competent bureaucrat. She’s also a friend of Wall Street who will ferociously defend the interests of big capital. Here’s how The Guardian summed up Lagarde’s resume:

"Christine Lagarde stands for protecting big banks…..she’s the most pro-bank bailout of the lot.

"The Americans are going to try and put in [White House adviser] David Lipton as number two. Lipton is Mr Bank Bailout. He worked for Citigroup. If they put in Lagarde and Lipton, what does that say? We are going with the total bank protection plan. That would be a disaster." ("IMF under growing pressure to appoint non-European head", The Guardian)

According to the New York Times Lagarde is not only a snappy dresser, but has plenty of friends in Washington and Wall Street. Here’s an excerpt from the NYT:

"Ms. Lagarde, the former head of the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, lived in the United States for 25 years. Tall and stylish, with a shock of silver hair and a penchant for Chanel jackets, she is as connected and as respected in Washington and on Wall Street as in Europe." (A Favorite Emerges for Helm of I.M.F., New York Times)

Not surprisingly, Lagarde supports weaker regulations so that banks and other financial institutions can continue to rake in windfall profits while increasing the risks to the broader economy. According to Reuters:

"I see the danger that too strict regulation at the center leads to a flight to the borderlands," Lagarde said in an article published in the Friday edition of German newspaper Handelsblatt." ("Too strict regulation risks flight", Reuters)

Lagarde has also taken a hardline approach to problems in Greece and rejects the idea of debt forgiveness or restructuring. She believes that bondholders and bankers must be repaid regardless of the costs to Greek workers who have suffered through 3 years of Depression, 18% unemployment, savage cutbacks in social services, massive privatization of public assets, and a debt-to-GDP ratio that gets worse every year the belt-tightening continues. Lagarde appears to believe that the people who blew up the financial system should be rewarded for their efforts. Here’s an excerpt for the Wall Street Journal:

"French finance minister Christine Lagarde said late Monday, after a meeting with finance officials from the European Union, that a rescheduling or reprofiling of Greek debt is NOT an option….. Executing the planned austerity program, proper implementation of privatization, and commitments across the political spectrum in Greece are the key for a solution in Greece, Lagarde said." ("France’s Lagarde: Option Of Rescheduling Greek Debt Not On Table", Wall Street Journal)

So the belt-tightening will intensify under Lagarde, which is a signal to bankers that she can be trusted to protect their interests, and all the talk about "soft restructuring" or reforms a la Strauss-Kahn will end.

There will be no more talk about replacing the dollar with SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) either. Lagarde is not going to rock the boat. The only reforms she’ll be working on are "labor reforms", a familiar buzzword among the financial elite for union busting.

It’s worth noting that the normally-subdued Lagarde could hardly contain herself when Bin Laden was assassinated. She even suggested that it might help to boost sales in the US. Here’s the report from Reuters:

"French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde welcomed the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and said his death could bolster consumer confidence and economic growth in the United States.

"The U.S. economy is like the American people. It reacts very quickly either positively or negatively," Lagarde told France 2 television. "I wouldn’t be surprised if this event prompted a pick-up in confidence." ("France sees U.S. economic lift from bin Laden death", Reuters)

Of course, Lagarde’s enthusiasm was not tempered by the fact that international law forbids targeted assassinations of non-state actors. After all, "real" leaders are never constrained by something as trivial as the law.

So, it looks like Wall Street may have found a replacement for the mercurial Strauss Kahn. There won’t be any debt-restructuring, bondholders will be paid in full, and the dollar’s dominant role as the world’s reserve currency will go unchallenged.

Lagarde announced her candidacy on Wednesday and already she’s won the support of Washington, Wall Street, the big banks, and EU heads of state. She’s probably a shoo in.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com


MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate