The political and economic dynamics threatening the European monetary union are complicated enough on their own. But there’s tremendous uncertainty about which choices European voters and leaders will make, and each hypothetical outcome there prefigures even more difficult-to-forecast consequences in the United States.
Still, economists and analysts have examined a range of scenarios — from ongoing recession in Europe, to a disorderly dissolution of the Euro and ensuing depression. And even the least bad of likely outcomes across the Atlantic will continue to put downward pressure on already-sluggish U.S. economic growth.
Late last year, Reuters looked at the consequences for the U.S. of a mild European recession, a protracted Euro recession, and a full-on meltdown. The upshot is that the American recovery can weather the Euro crisis even if leaders there insist on muddling through instead of taking the sorts of politically difficult actions experts say would be required to fix the problems there.
That was November 2011. Since then the U.S. economy has cooled down. But the same basic threat assessment holds up today, according to Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Such turbulence in Europe, with the massive wealth destruction, bankruptcies and a collapse in confidence in European integration and cooperation, would most likely result in a deep depression in both the exiting and remaining euro area countries, as well as in the world economy,” the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said last year.
Big U.S. financial institutions have taken steps to protect themselves from direct exposure to a European financial collapse. But the falloff in demand, and a worldwide financial flight-to-safety, would likely lead to a significant decline in U.S. GDP, which would be exacerbated if European countries and the United States didn’t quickly abandon the austerity programs baked into their current budgets.
“The spillover effects, the chain of consequences are very difficult to assess,” said International Monetary Fund President Christine Lagarde last month. “We can certainly assume that it would be quite messy.”