It’s astonishing that in his hour at the Brookings Institution earlier today, Italian prime minister Enrico Letta mentioned ‘Tea Party’ once, but the words ‘Berlusconi,’ ‘Lampedusa,’ or even ‘election law’ never escaped his lips.
Letta said that he was following with interest the current political standoff in the United States over the debt ceiling and the government shutdown, especially with respect to the relationship between debt yields and political stability. Letta, who is in Washington DC this week, met with US president Barack Obama earlier today, the day that the US federal government reopened after a 16-day shutdown:
This is why… I was so interested in understanding what’s happening here [in the United States], the discussion with the tea parties, the Republican Party and so on. It was something very interesting for me, of course, because of the future of the discussion of the political parties and of the discussion around the problem of the debt, around the problem of how to deal in a bipartisan way.
It’s saying something quite spectacular when an Italian prime minister, who leads Italy’s 64th postwar government, can compare the instability of the American political system to that of Italy’s system, where, most recently, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi tried to cause Letta’s government to fall just 15 days ago. Letta leads a ‘grand coalition’ among his own party, the center-left Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party), Berlusconi’s center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom), and a small group of centrists led by former technocratic prime minister Mario Monti.
Despite the precarious nature of Italy’s coalition government, Letta — with a professional, earnest, mild-mannered mien — has tried to project an aura of stability. Letta is keenly aware that the perception of Italy’s own political instability could be the difference between a future of economic growth and dynamism and a future of demographic decline and economic stagnancy.
From today’s remarks, you may have gotten the sense that Letta thinks that a more integrated European Union and greater domestic political stability will be enough to transform Italy — he even said that the difference between the Italian government’s paying 3% interest rates and 6% interest rates is the difference between the sun and the moon.
But does a solution to Italy’s political and economic problems lie solely in the balance between 3% and 6% yields? Continue reading Letta discusses political stability in Washington on day after US gov’t shutdown ends