G8 leaders to advocate new stimulus spending
German Chancellor Angela Merkel cuts a lonely figure in Europe these days. She's one of the only leaders on the continent who still thinks bringing EU members' budgets under control to be the way out of recession and into a period of growth.
But with the election of socialist Francois Hollande and leaders like Great Britain's David Cameron and Italy's Mario Monti clamoring for new government spending programs, it appears that the deficit cutting consensus that has dominated european politics for the last two years has shattered and a movement back to business as usual for left wing governments is in the offing.
Francois Hollande, sworn in this week as French president, has already made waves by challenging Europe's austerity focus and saying he will pull French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.
Obama, 50, may use their introductory meeting in the Oval Office to encourage the 57-year-old Socialist to rethink his Afghanistan plans that put France on an earlier exit timetable than other NATO allies.
But the two leaders, who have both expressed support for pro-growth policies in Europe, are expected to form a common front on the euro zone crisis that could dominate this weekend's Group of Eight talks.
Obama's administration spent heavily to tackle the 2007-2009 U.S. recession, and Hollande is seeking to take the edge off austerity with more job-creating infrastructure investments.
He is not alone. Cameron has become increasingly vocal in demanding Europe's leaders act more decisively, Canada's Stephen Harper has been a frequent critic, and of the euro zone G8 members, Italian premier Mario Monti was calling for profound growth measures even before Hollande did.
That could leave Germany's Angela Merkel, who insists debt-cutting programs cannot be diluted, cutting a lonely figure.
The G8 summit comes as Greeks are pulling cash from banks amid growing fears that it might crash out of the single currency euro zone. Financial markets fear for the future of the entire currency zone, with Spain's banking sector also under pressure.
The U.S. dollar climbed, world shares fell and German borrowing costs hit record lows on Friday as a deepening Spanish banking crisis, uncertainty about Greece's future in the euro zone and lackluster U.S. data provoked a rush for safe-haven assets.
Hollande and the other "growth" advocates are counting on Germany to backstop their spending spree. Merkel will have none of that which is why she would probably take a chance on blowing up the euro zone rather than throw good money after bad if Greece reneges on its austerity plans, or if Italian banks have difficulty as a result of the Grexit. Merkel has to answer to German taxpayers who are tired of bailing out a profligate Europe. And if it comes down to her re-election or a maintanence of the status quo in the euro zone, she is likely to choose the former.