Obama should follow Finnish lead on bailouts

Joanne Butler Contributor
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Despite our own huge debt problems, President Obama wants to pledge billions of dollars (if he can get the Chinese to loan us the money) to the International Monetary Fund to help the EU bail out Greece. Instead of listening only to his Euro-elite chums, Obama would benefit from a conversation with the no-nonsense folks in Finland’s True Finn party. I recently met with some party leaders in Helsinki and learned that True Finns are causing a ruckus not just in Finland but in the entire EU for their steadfast opposition to the Greece/Spain/ Portugal/Ireland bailouts, and the party’s popularity is surging as a result.

True Finns have been accurately described as “Euroskeptics” and their skepticism runs deep. A party leader, Mr. Jarno Eerola (chairman of TF’s Espoo region in suburban Helsinki, home to TF chairman Timo Soini), explained to me that Finns, with their highly dispersed population (think of Wyoming with lakes), have had a long and difficult experience with decisions being made by a faraway central government, first in Helsinki, and now in Brussels too.

True Finn party people, according to Eerola, see Brussels as the center of the new Evil Empire. That’s because Brussels bureaucrats lack a mandate from the people, yet they can impose “solutions” for fiscally irresponsible member states that must be paid for by taxpayers from more prudently managed (and hence successful) economies.

Eerola noted that Finland had its own banking crisis in the early 1990s (following a period of deregulation), which it solved on its own, a major factor being that failing banks were allowed to liquidate. Further, the Finnish government tightened its banking regulations, preventing a repeated meltdown in the following decade. However, the True Finn party views the current EU situation as rooted in an inability to let the overextended French and German banks fail while spreading the burden of propping up these banks beyond the borders of France and Germany.

The bottom line for the True Finns is that they want solutions to Southern Europe’s fiscal problems as well as France’s and Germany’s banking problems that don’t involve Finland picking up the tab and endangering their own economy via huge outflows of cash.

Of course, the Brussels bureaucrats (who share the same worldview as their D.C. counterparts) don’t see it that way. Eerola attributes this to the fact that the EU’s decision makers come mostly from Germany, France, and the U.K. — large countries with large civil service sectors that have “big-government expert” mindsets.

Lest you bleeding-heart, caring-and-sharing types think that the True Finns are trying to shirk their obligations as members of a so-called United States of Europe, I would invite you to look at Finland’s history. Only until about a hundred years ago, Finland was always ruled by either Sweden or Russia — and sometimes both simultaneously! For centuries, Finnish language and culture were repressed. More recently, World War II had the Finns fighting off the Russians and the Germans.

With this history, it’s not surprising to see Finns mightily worried about losing their hard-won and relatively young sovereignty, and the True Finn party is growing in popularity. A tracking poll by the Finnish state broadcaster, YLE, shows the True Finn party surging in May 2011 to second place behind the National Coalition Party and ahead of the Social Democrat Party.

Likewise, American taxpayers should be concerned when their president wants to hand over our scarce, expensive resources to an unaccountable bureaucracy — the IMF — for a European bailout! Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) has been outspoken in her opposition to American tax dollars being used for the bailout, citing a “culture of entitlement” at the IMF. We need more common-sense voices to join hers and those of our friends in Finland if we want to stave off a crisis that will surely lead to a double-dip recession, if not a depression.

(Thanks to Mr. Eerola and Mr. Simo Grönroos, the secretary of True Finn’s youth organization, for their help with this article.)

Joanne Butler is a senior economics fellow at the Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware. You can email her at joanne-butler@comcast.net.