Feb 072012
 February 7, 2012  Posted by at 1:05 pm Finance

.Euro12 If anyone needs a reminder why the Greek people are so angry, frustrated and tired of the never-ending Euro crisis cycle, especially on this particular day of general strikes and protests, then we don’t have to look much farther than the ECB. Overnight, the ECB deposit usage facility hit an all-time high of €503bn as banks take all the money borrowed from last year’s 3-year LTRO at 1% interest and then some and lend it back to the central bank at 0.25%.

These banks obviously prefer to take a small loss and keep the cash safe at central bank [for now] rather than lend it back to a bunch of insolvent institutions, such as other banks or private corporations. Meanwhile, Lucas Papademos and his political flacks are trying everything they can to squeeze the Greek people out of €3.3 billion in spending on healthcare/education and pensions/wages. Where is their equivalent of the ECB?

Why do the Greek people have to take repeated punches to the face so the European politicians and banks, including those of Greece, get their €130 billion payoff from the Germans, French, Americans, etc? The Greek banks are going to write down the value of their Greek bonds (if a PSI deal is ever reached), and then immediately be recapitalized by the bailout cash. If that’s not a reason to be a bit “up in arms”, then what is?



These people are not utterly clueless – they know any deal reached with the Troika and private creditors will not signify the end of anything, let alone the Greek debt crisis. Societe Generale put out a note this morning telling us that, if Greece’s budget deficit and economic growth continue to follow the trend of missing forecasts over the next 8 years, then the Greek debt/GDP ratio will barely make it below 150% by 2020. That scenario would only take a miss of 1% to both Greece’s target budget deficit and economic growth rate.


The austerity measures envisioned by the Troika and Greek politicians are almost guaranteed to give us those numbers from Scenario 2, at best. As English Kathimerini reported last night, and as debt deflationists have been pointing out for years, cuts to public spending and private income will feed back into negative growth, depressed consumption/taxes and successive budget shortfalls, which will feed into higher public debt as a percentage of GDP.

Troika talks continue ahead of party leaders’ meeting


Another issue the leaders will have to finalize following their initial talks on Sunday night is the reduction in the minimum wage. The three leaders seemed to accept this in return for the idea of scrapping the 13th and 14th monthly salaries being dropped.


However, cuts to the minimum wage will have a knock-on effect because they will lead to a 1.3-billion drop in tax revenues and a 2.4-billion reduction in social security contributions. This means the government will have to make up for these losses. Furthermore, Papandreou, Samaras and Karatzaferis are also being asked to agree to scrap the law that allows terms of collective contracts to apply even after they have expired, meaning employers will have the ability to negotiate new deals based on lower wage structure.

The rest of the people in the European periphery, the European core and then the entire world should understand that their debts are going to be just as unsustainable over the next decade, and they are going to be squeezed for the running shortfall just like the Greeks have been, while their largest banks are “recapitalized” by their own money. Indeed, many of them already do understand that (which is the subject of an upcoming post).

The biggest issue in this entire drama still remains that of unfathomable inequality. both in levels of wealth and in treatment. Most of the people in Greece have already accepted lower standards of living, but they have also come to accept strikes and protests as a daily or weekly feature of their world. The reason is because they understand how fundamentally unjust it is for the Troika and their own political leaders to continue doing what they have been doing; to prop up the crumbling, neoliberal edifice of financial institutions at the expense of absolutely everyone and everything else.

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    If anyone needs a reminder why the Greek people are so angry, frustrated and tired of the never-ending Euro crisis cycle, especially on this particula
    [See the full post at: Why So Angry?]


    Alexander Ac

    A then there is this:


    there is something we can to about our predicament, but not much really…



    Ash, you’re quite generous in calling it an “edifice” rather than a façade.



    What happened to the forecast that US municipalities were to go bankrupt, (+ 50 in 2011)?

    It seems like the forecast was a bit early.

    How many Greek cities have declared bankruptcies?

    It looks like that the US cities have a few more moves that they can make before they reach the Greek conditions.



    John Day

    How does a nice global financial oligarchy change the financial paradigm from debt-based-exponentially-growing money supply to something which does not grow, as dictated by the economic fundamentals of Peak Oil?
    It appears that little collapses, zero interest, and war in the oil-places are part of the step-down experiment. All the little collapses, and taking one then another oil-supplier offline are testing how this may be accomplished short of WW-3.
    At some point, the big transfer of monetary definition will be necessary. Gold would be easiest at that point.
    Until then, it’s year after year of squeezing those who have the least power to resist, and watching their behavior closely, to further refine techniques.



    Receding horizons, anyone??

    4.10pm: Economist Shaun Edwards points out that Greek bonds are still trading at very distressed levels in the secondary bond market today:

    Here we go again as Greece’s one-year bond yield rises to 528% now. Only 527.9% above Germany’s!

    Earlier, 6 month bills went off at about 4.8% at auction. Of course, they can’t really auction those 1 year bonds



    Please enlighten me – how does one log out? I seem to be permanently logged in.



    John, why leave it to the financial oligarchy to change the paradigm?

    The “big transfer of monetary definition” can only be necessary if money is necessary. Is money necessary?



    So the Greeks are angry that there is no funding for a government whose policies are unsustainable, bo ho ! The exact same problem will confront Spain, Portugal and the US in the next few years. It is about time that the progressives come to grips with the fact that an unproductive society cannot be supported by the “Rich”. Socialism just does not work!!!!!


    ex VRWC

    Its not an edifice or a facade. Its a sarcophagus. Its dead inside, and has no hope of life in its current form, but yet we keep piling layer after layer of riches on the outside so it looks good, so we can pretend it has vitality and life. All the while worms and decomposition eat away at the insides, who happen to be the people and businesses needed to sustain it.



    @ MR166

    It is about time that the progressives come to grips with the fact that an unproductive society cannot be supported by the “Rich”. Socialism just does not work!!!!!

    a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

    As I understand the situation, Greece entered the Eurozone with some economic book-cooking done by Goldman Sachs (GS) whom, as far as I know, have nothing to do with socialism ( see definition above). I think GS could be referred to as a type of Mafia-style economic association. I believe some of their associates have been known to shake down large governments and are definitely not productive in any sense that concerns main-street economies. Greeks, on the other hand, apart from their politicians, I would say produce real goods and so true wealth.



    Hi Alexander – the link seems dead.


    John Day

    Steve B.

    Money is necessary for lots of things, like flying somewhere, or having your infected appendix out.
    I have needed both, and so did my Mom, and my eldest son.
    Money saved our lives. We come from an appendicitis prone family.
    No money = no surgeons.
    I’m sure you can think of other examples.
    Money allows a complexity of economy, which is otherwise not obtained in history.
    I’m not a fan of money or oligarchy or economic change, just a participating observer in the whole process.



    They will crush Greece before and after default. Unlike Mish Shedlock, I don’t think that life “will go on” after Greece defaults. Not for the Greeks anyhow. Because at the point that default becomes inevitable, then a new kind of firewall is erected to protect the rest of Europe. And that includes making default so painful, and so apparently devastating to the soul of the country, that all other weak countries will try anything not to default too. If Greece really can get back on its feet by defaulting, then the other countries will follow su it. But if Germany ensures that Greece’s default leads to nothing but chaos and pain, then Portugal and others will think twice! I think Germany will fan the flames once Greece defaults, and “aid” will actually be designed to rub salt in the wounds rather than heal the country.






    It is just not Greece that will suffer, every nation and state that needs to borrow money in order to pay their day to day bills will pay higher rates when lenders finally figure out that there is no way to guarantee repayment.

    Most if not all social welfare programs will be ended as the central governments cede power to more local divisions of government. Of course the central governments will not give up without a fight, they will try inflate their debts away for a few years and blame greedy lenders for the nations problems.

    Social welfare and education will again become a family and local responsibility.



    John, that’s an interesting interpretation of my question.

    Yes, money is arguably necessary at the individual level in a world that uses money. Is it necessary in the broader sense, though?

    In a world that no longer used money would ‘no money=no surgeons’? I don’t think so. What it would mean is no oligarchy (financial or otherwise), no debt, no interest, no growth paradigm, no economic fundamentals, no WW3 (to pick just a few things from your original comment.)


    John Day

    Hi Steve B

    There is a “time share” group here in Austin, but their time sharing is suspect, so that small groups that already know and trust each other, are setting up their own limited time share arrangements to avoid rip-offs.
    I am OK with a world without money or heirarchy/oligarchy, but I cannot envision how it would realistically operate, let alone how to make the transition.
    I like gift economy. It is easy, but it only goes as far as the excess ripe fruit coming off your trees. It cannot pay for advanced medical training, or support specialists.



    John, you wrote “I cannot envision how it would realistically operate”.

    That’s because what’s ‘realistic’ in our current world is greatly influenced by our use of money. Can you maybe envision how it would/could operate in a way that you (and most people) wouldn’t necessarily consider to be realistic? Don’t be rational (which is a money-usage term) either. Can you free your thinking from the limits of money use and its influences?

    As you note, time share and gift economy systems are limited, primarily because they currently operate within a larger system that uses money—trust is difficult to build when profit incentives from the edges are constantly eroding it. In a world without money they would operate differently, with greater trust developing over time. Of course, they would also be unnecessary in such a world. No need to limit the transfer of goods and services because of a perceived need to ‘get something in return’.

    We can get what we need and more if we understand and act with the understanding that we can all contribute something most days of our lives for most of the years of our lives. Exchange and accounting of value (what we use money for) are unnecessary. If you weren’t getting what you really wanted, you’d go out and find a way to get it (legally), or else you’d do/make it yourself. Without the need to earn money and the wasted time mucking around with it (paying, receipts, balancing accounts, tax preparation, etc.), a large amount of time would be freed up for us all to develop the relationships and skills we want and need.


    John Day

    Steve B,

    I am an imaginative and innovative person, yet your words are not painting any picture which I can realistically envision. That makes your idea a non-starter for the 95% of humans who have less imagination than I do, not to mention the whole, vested intersts with power killing anything they can’t control, aspect…



    Steve and John I think that your discussion really centers around what will be the next currency when governments fail. Gold and Silver are the historical answers and they may well be worth something but in reality farm land and the supplies/animals needed to produce crops are the only real store of value when governments and economies collapse. After food, housing and warmth come next. Welcome to the 21st century. If you are lucky enough to live near some farmer that has more food than he needs then some sort of commerce or barter system start to commence. Now before you rush out an buy your 100 acres of farm land you have to realize that you will be the only source of revenue left to support federal,state and local governments so you better have a plan in place that will enable you to keep your land. Could ammunition be the next currency????


    John Day

    MR 166

    Bullets as local currency and government taking productive land from farmers are easily grasped and well-worn paradigms.
    This is common fare, part of an uneasy transition period between more stable arrangements.



    John here in the US 45% of the people pay no taxes and the really bad stuff is yet to come. So the question is, what can I buy that will be worth something in the future that the government will not be able to confiscate?


    John Day

    The bigger question is where you will be part of a functioning community with food, water, shelter, some fuel, all the things to keep living. Functioning community AND all those things. This is a much more complex and difficult question than whether the government will confiscate your solar panels, inverter and Edison cells. The government is mostly going to collapse at some time. I hear those bunkers under the Denver airport are well stocked, but I’m not invited, and wouldn’t want to go.



    @180: MR166, that’s not what our discussion was about. I’m suggesting that ending the use of money altogether is a valid option.

    John, our imaginations don’t depend on the words of others or their ability to “paint a picture”—that’s our imagination’s job.

    It seems that it might be necessary to imagine a world without money before trying to imagine the transition to such a world. After all, what are we imagining a transition to?

    And maybe for you it would be helpful to think about what you personally would do in a world without money. How would you spend your time? What assumptions do you make about what others would do? Are they realistic? (Keep in mind that a world without money would have had to transition to that way of existence through the agreement of billions of people.) Are they based in fear?


    John Day

    Steve B

    Yes, I think that historically all transitions of large groups of people are based within fear.
    That is the only thing which changes how people live their everyday lives.
    This is common knowledge, certainly among those who control our species.
    I can only imagine myself living without money in a very small, agrarian community, where these things commonly work. This is no frills existence. A wound gets infected and you die of gangrene. 50% of children die before puberty, etc.
    I have visited such a community in the Laotian jungle. They still travel for a day to take the pigs to the nearst market, to sell, so that they may wear Chinese manufactured clothing. They catch and eat rats, other jungle-meat.




    “I can only imagine myself living without money in a very small, agrarian community, where these things commonly work.”

    You said you were an imaginative person, John. You’re not demonstrating it.

    Just in case it’s not clear yet, I’m talking about THE WHOLE WORLD not using money.

    Do you understand that in a world without money, the community where you currently live would also not use money? Nothing tangible (like infrastructure) would disappear, and many people would continue to make things and provide services just like they do now. Doctors, for example. Can you imagine living where you are now, doing what you do now, receiving the goods and services you receive now, just not using money?


    John Day

    Steve B

    Perhaps I should have said that I can only REALISTICALLY imagine living without money in a small agrarian community.
    I read lots of science fiction in my younger years, and found all those scenarios easy to imagine within the context presented.
    You present no context, yet you feel free to speak down to me, for failing to mentally create a context, which you cannot apparently create yourself.
    Why do you think the infrastructure, which is now present, will survive the end of money? Iraq got all the copper wiring stripped out of the buildings and power plants. This is happening in America now. It is only one example of the difficulties involved in major transitions.
    90% of the population of the world is about to die-off.
    Get back to me in 20 years.



    John, the world as it is today is the context. That would be the starting point for ending the use of money. (How could it be otherwise?) 7 billion people on a planet with vast infrastructure, advanced technology, highly skilled people, worldwide communication network, established supply lines, active food production systems, enormous waste, etc., etc.

    People steal copper because they can sell it for money. No one would steal something like that in a world that didn’t use money unless we operated as though balancing value matters. It doesn’t. If you don’t believe that, consider all the wasted time, volunteerism, and other non-compensated activity (as well as theft, fraud, etc.) that goes on in the world today which vastly outweighs the small discrepancies in value equalization over a person’s lifetime.

    I think the infrastructure would survive because it has a lifetime (years minimally, centuries maximally) and we have people to maintain it. Why do you think the infrastructure wouldn’t survive the end of money? The end of fossil fuels is an independent factor, so it has nothing to do with the impacts of the possible ending of the use of money.

    In less than 20 years we could end the use of money and lessen the severity of the die off that you foresee. After all, what led us to this precipice but the use of money? (If cheap fossil fuels seems like a better answer, think about it for a while.)

    By the way, I covered some of this ground in comments on the old TAE site if you care to look. I’m also happy to respond to specific questions.


    John Day

    Steve B

    The process of change in monetary system will certainly be violent, and will go first into deflation, as it is doing in the middle East, Europe and the US. There is a necessary destruction of the old regime, which is translted into humans being destructive and violent, in an effort to survive.
    That’s where the copper wires get pulled out.
    It is possible to trade through computerized electronic creditd, even in a complex marketplace, like the Pacific rim. Some of that is happening. It is like electronic money. It requires something like the internet and lots of computing power, a central heirarchy.
    People will choose, naturally, to enrich themselves or an ally, even if it means somebody they don’t know gets killed. It’s human nature.
    Any system has to work with this.
    The question of how something is organized must arise at the outset, because there are people who have a skillset to selfishly use any system. We see that with money. It is less in a cash system, and more in a centrally controlled electronic monetary system, such as we are moving into.
    Let’s look at a realistic scenario for any monetary system, which is arising in a self-organizing fashion after a 90% die off of the species, and destruction of vast swthes of habitat. There will be trust for one’s own small clan, and little else. Within the small clan, money will not be essential, but money, or specialized trade items, like wine, cheese or tools, will be necessary for external trade.
    Living systems go through overgrowth and die-back. Bacteria and deer herds behave the same within their respective closed systems. I think we are about there.
    Recall that money has co-arisen with all that our species has been through, over eons. Like language, something like money (salt, for instance) is archetypal. We have evolved species characteristics into a world, in which it is an integral part.




    “The question of how something is organized must arise at the outset, because there are people who have a skillset to selfishly use any system. We see that with money.”

    Yes, and that’s why I’m suggesting that we stop using money. Part of my thesis is that we would see that far less if we did so.

    You write with a great certitude. Sounds like your mind is made up. Best wishes.



    Certitude going on fatalism.

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