Greece’s Humiliation

Even if you live under a rock in Guatemala, you can’t have failed to see and hear the ongoing farce that is the financial wrestling match over Greece’s financial predicament. I’m not a financial expert or an economist, but when has that ever stopped anyone thinking they had the answer to Greece’s problems?

No, I’m not here to offer my thoughts on how this particular economic corpse is supposed to be resuscitated, I’m just curious to know how a handful of supposedly intelligent people can systematically and comprehensively shaft an entire nation of human beings.

Because that’s what they are: the people affected by the dithering, grandstanding, pushing and straining of a bunch of power mad lunatics are real people who, through the fault of leader after leader, financier after financier and creditor after creditor, have had their money, wages and savings stolen.

To hear Jean Claude Juncker lecturing Greek people on democracy and fiscal integrity is laughable to the point of tragedy. A man, an unelected bureaucrat, who was once the prime minister of a country that encouraged wholesale tax avoidance, now feels fit to tell Greek people why they should accept austerity for the sins and incompetence of others.

Last Sunday, Syriza offered the Greek people a referendum on how the negotiations should proceed. This Sunday the results of that referendum are about as relevent as the Iliad. Fifty billion euros of public assets must be sold off, the creditor haircut is still a pipe dream, and Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank is still poised to turn off the tap that supplies Greek banks with cash.

Is there anyone in this long running pantomime ready to emerge with any credibility? Has Alexis Tsipras gone back on everything he promised at the last Greek election? Consider how all this started in the first place.

Goldman Sachs allegedly cooked the books to make the Greek economy look healthier than it was, allowing them to join the euro. Creditor after creditor lent a succession of bent and idiotic politicians more money than they could repay, and then the shysters in the investment banks brought down the whole artificial financial system in 2008, leaving a bankrupt Greek economy washed up with no way of repaying its debts.

And who loses out in all this? Greek citizens queuing up at empty cash machines trying to withdraw their own money. Apparently, there’s only five hundred million euros left in the whole of the country, which sort of begs the question, where’s it going after it’s withdrawn and spent?

Perhaps Jean Claude Juncker knows. He is after all an expert on tax havens. Perhaps Mario Draghi knows; it’s his money being head of the European Central Bank. Or maybe Angela Merkel can tell us. A large proportion of the money in the ECB comes from German taxpayers.

One thing you can be sure of is that the people who killed the Greek economy will not be sitting at home tonight wondering how they’re going to put food on the table next week.

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21 thoughts on “Greece’s Humiliation

  1. I get so tired of this sort of news, Chris – not to sound flippant, but it all makes me want to lie down rather a lot. Living in Ireland and working in the financial sector, I see the Jekyll and Hyde of this every day, the smug side and the ugly side, and yet it’s like a car crash in slow motion: I can’t tear my eyes away. Some days I feel too tired even to be cynical, which for me, as you know, is pretty much dead. But I liked this post, very well put, thank you for writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I saw yet another headline on the news my first reaction was ‘why don’t they bury this corpse?’ That and the depressingly familiar demand to privatise public services and sell off public assets made me want to write something, anything.

      And you work in the financial sector. I could have swore you worked down a coal mine…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The line I keep hearing from the British media, and certain vocal sections of the political class, is that Greece has a “moral” duty not to renege on its debts. I have trouble getting my head round the “morality” of squeezing cash from the cashless in order to repay financial organisations whose very existence is based on a system of institutionalised gambling.
    Enjoyed that, Chris. If you know what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In one respect it’s encouraging to see wider public condemnation of the way Greece has been treated. What with the German finance minister’s personal connections to the group who will administer the 50bn euro trust fund, and now even the IMF thinks the euro deal is a terrible idea. It looks like this farce will have a very long encore.

      And if the banks are so hung up on moral duty perhaps they could pay back the money they stole in the 2008 crash.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To me, this seems to be the modern economic dilemma that divides European taxpayers (and from the outside looking in, the rest of the world) cleanly between the left and right, the progressive and the fiscal conservative. I think we both know which side each of us is on.

    Both compassion and decades of economic research indicate that kicking a country when it’s down only makes things worse. Greece needs more currency flowing through its gates, not less, much like how American society needs more government investments and improved infrastructure, not endless federal and state cutbacks. In order for an economy to thrive, it needs people to spend and invest, and to do that these citizens need money and a reason to circulate their cash.

    Moreover, bad investors should pay for bad investments when it comes to sovereign states. National economies can’t be held to the same standards as loan sharks. I’m afraid the global economy just doesn’t work that way, especially when the average ordinary Greek citizen ends up biting the worst of the bullet, despite having little to nothing to do with this whole debacle in the first place. “The poor always being fucked over by the rich. Always have, always will…”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with all that. I said in my comment to CS Wilde below that the cynic in me thinks creditors want perma-debt, because they make money from the endless interest payments.

      A lot of the politicians sitting around the negotiation tables have dealt with this issue based on their own domestic political standings and not what was in the best interests of Greece and the eurozone project. But then that’s the narrow minded worldview that most politicians seem to operate under.

      On a slightly tangential issue, I heard an interview with a British Major General this morning. His intelligent and straighforward views on political strategy in areas of conflict (Iraq and Syria) were unlike anything I’ve ever heard from a politician. I wonder if politicians are really the best people to be left in charge of countries. But then when you look at the debacles in Greece and Italy, and the unelected disgrace that is the European Commission, I don’t know what the alternatives are!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m on Greece’s side on this one. I believe austerity policies are not the solution; the Euro zone needs to stand together as one, which means it needs to support its weaker link. Having said that, income taxes in Germany go up to almost 50% of its average citizen’s salary, and in Greece that’s up to 32%. Both percentages are unfair, but if the Euro Zone is to stay together, it needs to have more than just a common currency. That’s my humble -and it’s also a lay person’s – opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Austerity policies strangle any opportunity for economic growth, which prevents Greece from ever having the chance to pay back its debts. The cynic in me says that’s what Greece’s creditors want; endless paying back and all the interest that generates.

      The whole euro experiment is fundamentally flawed because of the differences in economies. How these masters of the universe ever thought a Greek and German economy could harmoniously co-exist says more about geopolitical ambition than economic intelligence.


      1. The same way the the US manages to combine so different State economies. However, the EU lacks most of the tools available to the federal government. I strongly suspect the financial crunch was expected – indeed, allowed to go much worse than it should have – to shove Europe towards federalism.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. In a sense, I wish she would her money where her mouth is. I’m all for federalism, if that’s what Europeans want. Let’s hear the arguments in favor and against, have a referendum and get it over with. It’s this neither-here-nor-there situation that I find unacceptable.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Absolutely true. And I don’t think they’ll ever agree to that because they know the European public was never totally behind full integration. In the last few years increasing nationalism has put paid to any chance of a definitive referendum on the subject, so it looks like we have this half way house arrangement for the foreseeable future.

              Liked by 1 person

    2. As I live in Greece, I can say this:

      Greece has a 23% company tax, plus 23% VAT, plus arbitrary, supposedly “one-off” taxes aimed at house owners, car owners, entrepreneurs, etc. I closed my company of 15 years in February, when I realized that I had made some 60,000 euros in 2014, and had paid 40,000 to the State, in one form or another. I’ve now moved the company to the UK, where I know that a 20% tax is a 20% tax; not a 65% one.

      Greece may nominally have a relatively low taxation, but in fact it’s remarkably hostile to entrepreneurs, treating them (us) all as tax evaders, slapping on “one-off” taxes at the state’s discretion. As a result, most do turn into tax evaders, in a classic example of a vicious circle.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Apart from the insidious nature of ad hoc taxes, there’s also the added annoyance of knowing that the tax in part is going to repay government bond issues – and the interest on those bonds – to international banks.

        Inept and unfair fiscal policy is one of the most effective ways to generate tax evasion.

        Liked by 1 person

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