Greece Battles for Democracy and Survival

Written by Chris Kanthan. Posted in Opinion, Politics

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Published on May 17, 2012 with 23 Comments

By Chris Kanthan

May 17, 2012

Greece, the cradle of Western civilization, has been going through tough times lately. The unemployment rate is 25 percent – and for people under the age of 25, it’s 50 percent. In the last three years, the stock market is down 90 percent, average wages are down 40 percent, and GDP is down 20 percent.

It’s no wonder suicide, homelessness and crime rates are going through the roof.

Greece is not alone. The financial crisis that exploded on Wall Street has severely damaged the economies of many countries in the “euro zone”, the top 4 being Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain (called “PIGS” by the financial community).

Although the U.S. was greatly affected by the financial catastrophe of 2008, it was able to avoid a complete financial meltdown mainly by borrowing more money (through issuing bonds), printing more dollars (a dangerous practice with an innocuous name, Quantitative Easing), and using the public treasury to bailout banks. Since the U.S. dollar is the world’s premier Reserve Currency, it makes it a lot easier for the U.S. to borrow.

Countries in the euro zone, however, have much less control over their destiny. They cannot print Euros and their ability to borrow on the world bond market is restricted by the “troika,” three powerful bodies comprising the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

So Greece, like other euro-zone countries, went to the Troika for bailout help and was immediately put on the “austerity for growth” program.

As great as it sounds, the austerity program works like this: Imagine you lost your job because of a bad economy. You call up your rich uncle and he gladly steps up to help you, but with some conditions. He charges you premium interest rates and, for your own sake, puts you on a financial discipline program. This means, no cable, cell phone, internet, or insurance payments for your car, and your food budget is cut in half. Now you’re depressed, hungry, and looking for a job without a phone, the internet or use of a car.

The Uncle comes back after a month, chastises you for being lazy, and takes away your car as collateral since he is not sure when your lazy ass will find a job.

For Greece, the austerity program meant mass layoffs, slashing wages, harsh cuts to pensions and the minimum wage – all the while raising income and sales taxes. Without a PhD in economics one can deduce what subsequently transpired – a country in deep recession.

The bankers, or as some call them the “banksters,” came back after a while and demanded real assets for debt payments. Greeks were forced to sell stakes in their oil refineries, natural gas plants, banks, lottery system and utility companies including phone, electricity, and even water! The banksters also got their share of revenue from Greek airports, national highways, and from the national post office to name a few.

To add insult to injury, the European banks selected one of their own to become the new leader of Greece, a completely unelected person with no party affiliation, Lucas Papademos.

Who is Lucas Papademos? Interestingly, Papademos was the head of the Greek Central bank from 1994-2002. He worked, or rather colluded, with Goldman Sachs to fudge the numbers so Greece could join the euro zone in 2001. Immediately he was awarded a plum job in the European Central Bank.

And when it was time to start selling Greek assets in 2010, Papademos was made the ‘adviser’ to the Prime Minister to identify public assets that could be sold. He did such a wonderful job of raising taxes, cutting wages, and under-selling Greece’s assets that he was made the new Prime Minister of Greece by the banksters in 2011 – without a single Greek citizen voting for him. Democracy officially overthrown!

Several unique laws were quickly passed including one that explicitly prohibits the prosecution of politicians for their actions under the austerity program – protection from treason.

Another law passed in 2008 gives the party that comes first in a parliamentary election 50 extra seats rather than just being purely proportional. What this means is, if the two establishment parties get 34 percent of the votes combined, they will get 102 seats in parliament and with 50 bonus seats, they will have the majority to form a government. In this new “democracy,” 34 percent of the electorate can impose their will on the rest (66 percent).

On May 6, Greece had its first election since Papademos ascended to power. The two parties that were tweedle dum and tweedle dee for decades got whacked severely. About 70 percent of Greeks voted against the austerity measures.

The anti-austerity vote would have been much higher than 70 percent were it for not the fact that because of the crumbling economy many independent newspapers and TV stations were shut down. The mainstream media, controlled by the elites, repeated everyday that the only way out of the crisis is for Greeks to surrender to the austerity measures – the alternative would be unbearable.

However, even with the new un-democratic bonus seats, like a Hollywood script, the two establishment parties fell short of the required 151 seats to form a government by 2 seats. And none of the other parties would join.

The new shining star in this process is Alexis Tsipras, a 37 year old motorcycle-driving, dynamic and charismatic person whose party came in second. He repeatedly calls the austerity measures “barbaric” and says it will lead to “the destruction of Greek society.” He has refused to be a part of any coalition government that will continue selling Greece to the international bankers. He argues that Greece can be a part of the euro zone but the debts have to be renegotiated under fair terms.

The ruling class even tried to install another banker-friendly unelected person on Tuesday, but Tsipras stopped it. The new elections are now set for mid-June.

Polls show that Tspiras’ popularity is increasing everyday and that he will handily win the new election.

If the Greeks can stand up against the international bankers, it could give Spain and Italy and nations across Europe the courage to do the same. But you can bet your last euro that the financiers will use all their money and power to try and stop that.

The next month maybe the most important month in the history of modern Europe.

Chris Kanthan

Chris Kanthan

Chris Kanthan has degrees in Physics and Engineering with a minor in Economics. And, just for fun, a diploma in Paralegal. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has traveled to more than 30 countries, and deeply cares about politics, finance and food. He has also written an e-book titled "Deconstructing Monsanto" that is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. He can be reached at chrisk2000@yahoo.com.

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  • cupcake 500

    Chris, here is an idea: If you don’t like the terms don’t borrow the money. Who is to blame for the current crisis: the lenders? or the people who can’t control their spending. Your “borrow from the Uncle” example is pure folly. Spending is a disease. Addicts typically have to hit rock-bottom before the addiction can be cured.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

        Good point actually! Countries should try to debt free. If only the
      lenders wouldn’t corrupt the politicians to borrow on behalf of the
      country.  Search Youtube for “John Perkins Confessions of an Economic
      Hitman” . Here is a guy who corrupted politicians for a living. The IMF
      and the World Bank used the same strategy for decades in South America

  • Pgm

    All correct except PIGS As “I” stays for Ireland and not Italy!

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

       Guess it depends on the analyst. http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article19330.html Some call it the PIIGS and so on. Horrible monicker/acronym either way. And thanks for your support!

      • 1mango

         agreed – PIIGS / the “pigs”  acronym is rather insulting indeed.

    • 1mango

       Actually, it is PIIGS:
      P – Portugal
      I – Ireland
      I – Italy
      G – Greece
      S – Spain

  • hellotroika

    Greece wanted to join the Euro and EC. There were obvious benefits: increased trade, monetary stability, etc. What’s going on now is simply the Greek economy does not match the acceptable parameters and the ECB is no longer willing to fund it further. This is easy. Greece had no business being in the Euro zone and now will be leaving it. We can all pretend that this is a disaster but as long as Greeks are willing to preserve their way of life (which makes them happy) and give up the privilege of being a Euro-zone member, then all is not lost… except for us suckers that thought that Greece had a chance of being a full-fledged member of Europe (the eco-political body… not the geographical region).

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      Iceland and Argentina are two recent examples of countries that stood up against the
      IMF and are flourishing now. Iceland was threatened that they would become the “Cuba
      of the North” but now there is near-zero unemployment and as for Argentina, it’s been enjoying 9 years of solid growth.

    • 1safechick

      ‘monetary stability’ – that’s funny.

  • TheTruthShinesOut

    The sheer criminality & hand in glove collusion of the political class with international bankers is disgusting. I eagerly await the June 17th elections when SYRIZA comes to power, & the previous PASOK & New Democracy criminals are wiped forever off the electoral map (and hopefully in due time have their bank accounts and personal assets audited). Yesterday Spain was forced to borrow on the international markets at 6.5% (Greece was forced into accepting a EU/ECB/IMF loan when it’s interest rates reached 7%)…A Greek default and exit from the Euro will easily push Spain that extra 0.5% of a percentage point into “bailout” territory. Then “Northern Europe” will be up for at least another 500 Billion euros. I wish the Merkel mafia goodluck with that. I hope they can explain to German citizens why hundreds of Billions of Euros of bad loans made by international banks are now owned by German & other European taxpayers – cause seriously thats all she has managed to acheive. And whats worse is that this is all that Merkel & her partners in crime wanted to acheive. To transfer Bank debts to European taxpayers. Great article.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      You have hit the nail on the head. Just out of curiosity, where are you from? Love that line “transfer Bank debts to European taxpayers”. Another way to look at it is: Banks borrow from Central Banks at 0-1% and make risky investments. If they make money, they are genius and hence deserve $25 million bonus (like Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan). But if they lose money, then the Govt pays back that loan to the Central Banks on behalf of the local banks at 6%”. So the Central Banks make a killing on the spread of 5%. Win-Win for local and central banks. Lose-lose for the Public.

  • Miltos

    Great work Chris!
    Greek State assets were not actually sold, they were given away! The process was easy the stake sellers were “Greek politicians” implanted by Goldman Sachs  in the Greek Government. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for the buyers since everything was sold for less than pennies. Most cases price sold is 1/50 and 1/100 of the actual price.
    Also, I am not in to Tsipras that much but he is definitely a far better solution than the all others.
    Keep it up!

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      Thanks, Miltos. When 9/11 happened, the Europeans said,” We are all Americans today”. There are many Americans who see what’s happening in Greece and Spain and other countries and are saying,” We are all Europeans today”

  • Anastasia

    Hello, my name is Anastasia, I am Greek and I would just like to tell you that you’ve got your facts dead right when you talk about the past, but not when you talk about our new Messia (Tsipras). His party is a mixture of people who cannot make up their minds about anything. Before the elections, his motto was “we cancel all agreements”.Now, some of his members scream that we should leave the EU and the euro, some say we can still remain in the EU, if we refuse our prior commitments and start negotiating all over again. But the other members of the EU do not agree to anything of the kind, they only promise to discuss some mesures. Tsipras is an arrogant kid who goes around telling everyone that he doesn’t need them. But he doesn’t have a plan B and he is a liar like everyone else. The difference is that we know what the others can or will do, whereas he still has the advantage of the untried. And the greeks are so fed up with the situation that they would carelessly accept anything else. Tsipras has no answers. It’s as if he thinks he can go to Europe, tell everyone to bugger off, save the wolrd and ride into the sunset. But if we go bankrupt or leave euro, where is he going to find the money to pay the salaries? He doesn’t know and doesn’t care. He has never been happier in his entire life! He manipulated the frustration of my people. The votes he gets are not votes of confidence, but votes of revenge against the others. Is it his fault that Greece is were it is? No. But is he the solution? No, make no mistake.
    I don’t know much about economics, but I do know a lot about the human nature. I am a notary. I trust nobody.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      Thank you Anastasia. Only the Greek people have to decide who is the best person to represent their interests. (I don’t even like word “Leader” so much. A politician should be a “servant” of the people). Making the banks get a “haircut” and starting all over again is not as hard as it sounds. Look at Iceland. They refused to bailout the banks; refused to pay the international banks. The IMF said “You will become the Cuba of the North”….Iceland will be the pariah forever. What happened? There was a huge devaluation of their currency, they suffered for a short while but 2.5 years later their economy is growing at 3%, 0% unemployment, and the same bankers are coming back to invest in Iceland! Or Argentina: the IMF forced the austerity measures and pegged their Peso to the US dollar. It was daytime robbery. In 1992 Argentina forced the banksters to get a 55% cut in their debt and went on their own. Result: 9 years of booming economy. 

  • Nikos Hadjisavvas

    A very insightful look on the Greek case.
    Yet, Tsipras is playing the Game of Chicken rather aggresively.  Despite the huge improvement in its finances, Greece is still on a budget deficit, albeit a small one.
    So the contigency that the ‘banksters’, and the rest of the clan, pull the plug on Greece, is still a serious threat. 
    Is it a credible one? Well, what are the lessons learned from the Lehman Bros. case?
    a. That by killing the small Bank, and bailing out the big sharks, a collapse of the system has been avoided, or
    b. That the demise of Lehman has contributed significantly to the current turmoil and that similar cases need to be avoided at all costs

    I wish also to point that, to my opinion, the choice of Papademos, VP of the ECB, was a good one.  Besides, the elected politicians are the main actors responsible for the Greek mess.  As for their capacity, note that the vast majority of them has never practiced a real job. They have been ‘professional politicians’ all their lives and their main worry has always been to get elected to make a living!

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      In the Lehman and Bear Stearns cases, the big banks wanted them to fail for 2 reasons: 1) They have to sacrifice some smaller banks before asking the public for the bailout for themselves 2) It was a great opportunity for the big guys to buy the assets of these bankrupt firms on the cheap. 

      In this case, the “failure” of the Greek experiment, from the banks’ point of view means this: Greek people were not subjugated and this will give the Spanish and the Italian public the confidence to do the same. A “successful” Greek experiment from the banks’ point of view means that Greece can continue to be a source of huge revenue for the banksters (thru taxation and selling/giving-away of assets).

      However, a win-win situation is for Greece to force the banks to take a “loss”. In reality, the banks have already made a killing on Greece. So even if they “concede” now, they are laughing their way to Gold vaults.

  • Eftychia

    I liked your article very much…I am happy that an american post what is really happening in Greece since as I have seen so far from other posts in US people don t know what s the issue here…I would like to say that I voted SYRIZA in the elections but my first choice was ANTARSIA…I strongly believe that we should get out from the eurozone in order to start over. I am really afraid of what will happened in the next elections since the media barks all the time in the news about how devastated will be if we leave the euro etc and scaring people…I am afraid that the elderly will vote the big parties in order to avoid the “disaster” while they will sucrifice the youth s future…I am 25 years old, looking for a job for 1,5 years, I hold a university degree in statistics and I won t have a problem starv now for a better future…I will have a problem though to sucrifice what other s took me, in vain…We can fix a better Greece outside euro, painful at first like the 50s…but remember what came next??yeah, the 60s…

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      Thank you Eftychia. Here is an insightful video of an interview of Richard Wolff, an American professor, on the Greek crisis. This was taped in Nov 2011 but he predicted everything correctly and you would like his take on the solutions. The video is a bit long with a noisy background but well worth the time. 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6hfl5CK4Do

  • Richmondman

    Glad I live in the USA…

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      The US has $15 Trillion in Debt (Translation: $150,000 of debt per taxpayer ) that is growing by $2 Billion a day. You should be worried

  • UwillSurviveGBU

    Playbook Indonesia – if anyone believes in austerity, look at all the documented mess in Indonesia – 1998. It’s a complete cycle – painful, one never should live through these times, let alone tens of millions – yet, it’s a complete cycle – from currency devaluation, mass unemployment – tens of millions laid off – thousands of street cafes emerged created by these laid off professionals – bankers, professionals, became accidental chef and waitress – and worse, the riot, hundred of homes burned, and literally thousand of deaths. This is Playbook Indonesia – courtesy of IMF. Yet we lived. Humans are resilient, systems are not. Don’t be scared, it will get tough, system will crumble, but humans are resilient. Society, by no choice, will survive. God bless the Greek people. – Remember: no IMF person was ever prosecuted ever, anywhere.

    • http://twitter.com/chrisk2000 chris k

      Thank you. President Nixon called Indonesia the giant prize of Asia. With the help of IMF and the World Bank, dictator Suharto gave away Indonesia’s natural resources to western countries for decades and used the manufactured poverty to create cheap labor and sweat shops. John Pilger’s documentary (on Youtube) called “The New Rulers of the World” explains this well. Joe Stiglitz, the Nobel prize  winner for Economics and the former Chief Economist of the World Bank has written books about this as well. (“Globalization and its Discontents” is a good one).

      As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me. The world bankers have been fooling us for decades with the same Playbook. Shame on us.