Saturday, July 11, 2015

Greece vs. Grease - When you grease the wheels of statism, a nation flies off the slippery slope into the dark abyss

The situation in Greece is playing out like a classic Greek tragedy and it has elicited considerable commentary from the right and the left, and even a few reasonably sane observers.  The right wing position is:  the Greeks made their bed so they need to sleep in it, man up and pay their damn debts. The left wing position is: in the interest of socialist solidarity, the debt should be forgiven, written off and Greece should be supplied with fresh new debt money.  Well, Greece can't pay its debts, not now and not ever.  However, the Greeks do OWE somebody some $370 billion and Greece voluntarily signed on the dotted line for those nasty loans that constitute nothing more than more debt slavery.

If anybody really wants to understand Greece, you have to ask a Greek who intimately knows Greek history, culture and politics.  The problems in Greece just didn't pop up overnight, they've been brewing for decades. Socialism, oligarchy and corruption are the leading culprits for the horrors presently occurring in Greece. Taki Theodoracopulos explains in his essay titled Demagogue Days.

Last Sunday’s referendum was truly Greek, a tragicomedy of errors, a yes-or-no question drafted in cryptic, technocratic gobbledygook, worthy of the best Brussels newspeak. 
But let’s start at the beginning.

The Greek ship of state was cruising on choppy waters under a benign monarchy headed by the 23-year-old King Constantine back in 1967. Greeks are known for their hot tempers, and they were never hotter than during the spring of 1967. MPs regularly came to blows in Parliament as elections loomed. On April 21, 1967, a military coup took place, one that the king was forced to accept in order to avoid bloodshed. After six months the king attempted a countercoup to restore democracy, but he failed, choosing exile instead. The colonels collapsed in the summer of 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern part of Cyprus. Democracy was restored, and the king was rejected in a plebiscite reminiscent of the kind perfected by South American strongmen. Thus begins Greece’s latest democratic period.
Two men dominate the post-colonel period: Constantine Karamanlis and Andreas Papandreou. Both men started their own political parties, New Democracy for the former, PASOK for the latter. Karamanlis was center-right, Papandreou center-left. Both got very rich in office, and both corrupted the patronage system to the maximum. Then Karamanlis, a man I knew very well, and one who had benefited from my father’s largesse only to turn against him once he was no longer needed, had a brilliant idea. He proposed to the powers of the EEC, as it was then called, to allow Greece to join the then six nations, thus ensuring no ambitious colonel would try to grab power by force of arms. The EEC welcomed us with open arms. European money began to flow into a poor country whose main exports were olives and fruit and whose economy was based on tourism and shipping.

In 1981, the established EU Greek nation decided to swing left. Andreas Papandreou came into office and a real Greek upheaval took place. Papandreou established a core constituency of voters by enriching them for life. The trick was an easy one. Tony Blair tried it years later. Close to 25 percent of Greeks were employed by the state, with pensions worthy of far, far richer nations, and leaders of civil unions enjoying double or triple pensions for retiring at age 50. With 25 percent of the electorate in his pocket for life, Papandreou then proceeded to nationalize industries, milk the EU treasury, and flirt with Middle Eastern dictators. He personally became very rich, and even divorced his American wife for a very generously endowed airline hostess he met while flying to an EU meeting who went by the nickname Mimi Big Tits. He married Mimi, survived all sorts of riots against his corrupt policies, and finally expired, his face buried in Mimi’s bosom. After his demise she became a nonperson, as in Stalinist societies. Both Karamanlis and Papandreou were succeeded by their nephew and son, respectively, becoming prime ministers—which illustrates a certain lack of imagination on the part of a battered electorate. Then came the 2004 Athens Olympics and the crowning of Greece as a rich, modern European nation covered in glory. The Greek state spent like there was no tomorrow. And, as it turned out, there was not.

Throughout the early years of the new millennium, the Karamanlis-Papandreou cliques had a new party trick up their sleeves. They played musical chairs for the premiership and were advised on how to cook the books by Goldman Sachs at 300 million greenbacks a shot. It was worth it. EU funds kept pouring in, while Greeks enjoyed avoiding taxes and going to the beach. But a word about tax avoidance: The omnipotent state created by Karamanlis and Papandreou gave back very little to hardworking Greeks who did not rely on the state for their welfare. Hospitals are poorly run and dirty, city planning almost nonexistent, and garbage collection a hit-or-miss affair. In other words, there is very little in return for paying one’s taxes.

The party ended when the you-know-what hit the fan around 2010.  Soaring wages and gold-plated pensions had to end. Eternal austerity was the antidote. This was the EU at its best—worst, actually. It was like taking a middleweight boxer, putting him on a very strict diet, and expecting him to become a heavyweight contender. It was and remains an impossibility. Three successive Greek prime ministers played along with the EU charade of austerity, bankrupting the nation further, until the present bunch of ex–student activists and so-called academics with dubious degrees came along and gave the nation the coup de grace. Which brings me to the present. 
What the EU bureaucrats expect of Greece is a contradiction in terms. Austerity cannot grow an economy, even the unelected and unaccountable technocrats living in la-la land should know that. But the EU’s first and only commitment is to keep the union going, with face-saving devices invented as it staggers along.
Yes, Greece has huge problems but throwing more money at those problem will not make them go away and will only increase the suffering of the Greek people.  In fact, throwing more money at Greece is like throwing alcohol at an alcoholic while demanding that he not drink it. Bailout money engineered by the Troika (European Commission - EC, European Central Bank - ECB and International Monetary Fund - IMF) mostly went to bailing out banks, specifically French and German banks.

IMF Director Admits: Greek Bailout Was "To Save German & French Banks"
For the first time in public, though practically the entire world assumed it, an official from The IMF has admitted that the various Greek bailouts were not for The Greeks at all... "They gave money to save German and French banks, not Greece,” Paolo Batista, one of the Executive Directors of International Monetary Fund told Greek private Alpha TV on Tuesday.
According to Zero Hedge, of the whopping $230 billion in bailouts 1 and 2, only 11% of the bailout money actually went to the Greeks, here.  At this juncture, bailout money is either bailing out banks or servicing the debt, and it's been that way since the 1st Greek bailout in 2010.

So when the left starts screaming that the bailouts are not helping the Greek people or the Greek economy, it's not as though they aren't making a valid point.  Well, Europeans aren't exactly sympathetic toward the Greeks who have a long history of milking somebody - be it their creditors, bondholders, the EU, European taxpayers etc.

Politicians exist for 2 reason - to buy votes and plunder the people to pay for the thieving public sector and promised 'free' everything programs.  In Greece vote buying and growing the pampered public sector was elevated to such an art that even the obsessively liberal, statist and labor union loving New York Times chirped in to complain about the thieving Greek public sector. 

The Cost of Protecting Greece’s Public Sector
For generations, political power in Greece has been based in large part on providing public sector jobs in exchange for votes....

“Instead of shrinking the bloated government apparatus and making it more efficient, New Democracy and Pasok hardly even touched it,” Stefanos Manos, a former Greek finance minister, said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine in June.

Wages in the public sector were on average almost one and half times higher than in the private sector.

In the past, a more productive and expanding private sector could have withstood — to a degree — the financial drain of a costly and profligate public sector. Today, shielding the public sector is no longer an option, especially when it comes at the expense of the rest of the population.
In his outstanding book, Boomerang, Michael Lewis was spot on in his analysis of Greece that also accurately portrays most problems in nations with powerful public sector unions. Lewis said "As it turns out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a piƱata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. In just the past twelve years the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms – and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a years. Twenty years ago a successful businessman turned minister of finance….pointed out that it would be cheaper to put all Greece’s rail passengers into taxicabs: it’s still true. “We have a railroad company which is bankrupt beyond comprehension…..and there isn’t a single private company in Greece with that kind of average pay.”

Greece isn't even a nation that is economically productive and it only represents about 2% of EU GDP.  It's 2 main industries, tourism and shipping, are taking hits and tourism is about to suffer a major decline as folks cancel their Greek vacations because of financial instability.

Switzerland is one of the most prosperous nations on the planet.  It's 8 million people produce a whopping GDP of $685 billion.  In Greece, 11 million folks produce a pathetic GDP of $242 billion. I don't know what the Greeks do, I don't think anybody does.

Why is Greece such an economic laggard?  Well, the primary reason is that foreign capital does not flock to places where property rights are not secure and Greece is notorious for its lack of secure property rights.

What's Really Wrong With Greece? It Lacks Secure Property Rights, and US Property Rights Keep Declining

Who owns what in Greece is such a freaking nightmare that the New York Times did an awesome piece on the ridiculously archaic Greek property registration system.

Who Owns This Land? In Greece, Who Knows?
At one point, in the early 1990s, Greece took more than $100 million from the European Union to build a registry. But after seeing what was accomplished, the European Union demanded its money back.
Such is the sorry state of Greece.   Greece is always shaking down somebody for something. Decades of corruption, crooked politicians, bloated public sector unions, oligarchs and the absolute worst of the worst in all things have left Greece and its people a certifiable basket case.

So long as the wheels of statism continue to be greased with new money and new bailouts, Greece is destined to continue its accelerated descent into misery and poverty as debt slaves.  If the Greeks truly had anything resembling sanity left within their national moral compass besides the perpetual rattling of macho rage that blames everybody else for their nightmarish fate, perhaps they should ring up the Swiss with a blaring SOS that screams "HELP, we're drowning and we need help in learning how to become free, prosperous and sovereign".

As if the mess in Greece isn't already bad enough, $120 billion in Greek bank deposits are locked up in the Greek banking system that is CLOSED.  Greeks do not have access to what little money they do have - it's been locked away by the Troika that refuses to provide liquidity for Greek banks.  If a central bank has one defining function, it's to maintain liquidity so that ordinary folks can access their money.  However, the strong hammer of the Troika denied Greeks the right to their own money. Morever, it is clearly evident that the European Central Bank is a big fail.  If anything, the one issue that folks should be debating is the issue of fractional reserve banking and its glaring failures.

Greece: A Warning of the Totalitarian Power of Centralized Government and Banking, and FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING

Finally, it's being reported that the Greek Parliament blessed off on the Troika deal, the very same deal that Greek voters rejected in the July 5, 2015 referendum.

Greek debt crisis: MPs approve bailout plan but some Syriza MPs rebel 

By genuflecting before the Troika in an act reminiscent of a kneeling victim about to be beheaded by the swordsman, the socialist Greek government literally voted to condemn the Greek people to the status of debt slaves.  It's the equivalent of tossing the Greek people into a boiling cauldron of grease and deep frying them as munchies for the financial cannibals.

Socialists and statists are notorious for their love of the banksters, oligarchs and above all THEIR LOVE OF ABSOLUTE POWER.  It's no surprise that Syriza capitulated to the Troika.  Socialism and statism cannot survive without banksters and mountains of debt - it's the mothers milk of tyranny, cronyism and corruption. 

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