Σάββατο, 19 Μαΐου 2012

Greece Battles for Democracy and Survival



The next month maybe the most important month in the history of modern Europe.
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.
By Chris Kanthan
May 17, 2012