Dorothea Lange We’ll be in California yet. We’re not going back to Arkansas 1938
Financial bubbles blown on the back of massive amounts of debt, of necessity lead to debt deflation (it’s just entropy, really). Fighting this is futile, and grossly costly to boot. The only sensible thing to do is to guide the process as best you can and try to minimize the damage, especially at the bottom rungs of society, because that’s where the deflation first takes hold, and where it spreads out from.
Attempting to boost inflation, or boost demand, before letting the debt deflation run its course through restructuring and defaults (perhaps even a -partial- jubilee) leads only to -further- distortion, and -further- impoverishes society’s poorer (at some point to a large extent the former middle classes). Whose lower spending, as nary a soul seems to comprehend, is the origin of the deflation to begin with.
All the attempts by central bankers to boost inflation that we’ve seen so far squarely ignore this, and operate on the false assumption that if only prices for financial assets and real estate can be raised even higher -artificially-, deflation can be warded off.
Thing is, deflation starts not at the top, it starts at the bottom. It’s not the banks or the bankers or the well-off who are maxed out and stop spending, but the people in the street.
They are responsible for most of the spending in an economy, and therefore for the velocity with which money moves in a society. And if the velocity of money falls below a critical point, no increase in the other side of the inflation/deflation equation -the money/credit supply- can make up for the difference. There is a point where all of the King’s horses and all of the King’s central bankers can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.
The people in the street are not just maxed out in the sense that they have no money, they have less than no money, since they’re deep in debt. An increasing part of whatever they do still have, and what they make in their ever lower paying jobs, goes toward debt payments. Yeah, that’s the giant sucking sound.
QE and other ‘plans’ like it don’t address this even in the slightest, and are necessarily failures before they even start.
Central bank stimulus measures are all exclusively targeted at the upper rungs, and therefore miss their aim entirely. Or perhaps we should say ‘alleged’ aim, since it takes quite a leap of faith to presume that all the world’s central bankers fail to understand their own field so thoroughly that all they can all come up with is failures.
However, given that they all studied the same faulty economics textbooks, we can’t rule out this possibility. It is certainly strongly suggested -once again- by Steve Keen in Our Dysfunctional Monetary System.
Rather than effective remedies, we’ve had inane policies like QE, which purport to solve the crisis by inflating asset prices when inflated asset prices were one of the symptoms of the bubble that caused the crisis. We’ve seen Central Banks pump up private bank reserves in the belief that this will encourage more bank lending when (a) there’s too much bank debt already and (b) banks physically can’t lend out reserves.
What may also play a role is that the upper rungs tend to be blind to anything outside of their own circles, that because they 1) have their hands on a nation’s wallets and 2) they see themselves as the most important segment of any given society, they elect to try and solve the problem inside their own circles -and truly believe this is feasible-.
This can of course not possibly work. Because they’re hugely outnumbered. They don’t have nearly enough influence on money flows in their societies. If they can’t sell the bottom, let’s take a number, 80%, of society sufficient produce or gasoline or homes or trinkets, the entire society seizes up the way an engine does that runs out of oil.
The top makes its fortune for a while getting the bottom ever deeper into debt, only to inevitably find that this kills off the entire economy. Then they do some more of the same, and find ever more of their own kind becoming part of the bottom.
The problem for the rich is simple: there’s not enough of them. Well, that and they don’t understand how societies function. Let alone economies. Scraps off the table won’t do the trick. Next stop pitchforks.
Any deflationary period would have been hard no matter what. Still, none would have had to lead to what we’re facing now.
But look out there at what’s happening in politics, at who’s popular in various places. It’s all geared towards more inequality, not less, like some tooth and claw Darwin version were the world’s economics teacher, wherever you look it’s all the well-off making ever surer they will remain well-off or better.
And even if you look for instance at Bernie Sanders in the US, he wants more for the bottom of society, but that seems more for sentimental or ideological reasons than a sign he actually understands why it would raise the odds of the States being a going concern going forward.
The actual Darwin could have taught us all a lesson or two three about the role of balances in ecosystems, and in human societies. But then he actually studied them. Economists, politicians and central bankers have not.
The other, grander gamble that Xi has taken is to keep the Chinese economy growing. Of course, the Communist Party since Deng Xiaoping has staked its legitimacy on economic growth, so far to good effect. But Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao governed through a broad-based consensus of senior party leaders, which meant that the risks of legitimacy and delegitimacy were spread across the group and the institution they represented. Xi, in contrast, has taken more power – and therefore the risks of economic growth – onto his shoulders. There are many tools central government can use to keep an economy growing, and China under Xi will use them all. State-owned enterprises may be less efficient in the long run than truly private companies, but they have the enormous political benefit of responding to centralized state directives.
With good economists advising him, Xi stands a reasonable chance of transitioning China into a more consumer-driven economy, thereby assuring a source of modest continued growth even as the export-driven economy slows down. But that task, too, depends on the individual purchasing decisions of ordinary Chinese – that is, success of China’s economy, and therefore of Xi’s presidency, ultimately depends on the domestic consumer market. This brings us back to the stock market. Sure, Xi has to worry that the correction will spook emerging consumers, encouraging them to sit on their cash rather than spending it. But the much bigger political problem is that ordinary Chinese, watching the market fall, will experience the certain knowledge that Xi can’t really do anything about it.
Short-term stopgaps like closing markets during sell-offs or ordering state-owned enterprises not to sell their shares won’t address market fundamentals – because they can’t. In confirmed capitalist societies, we long ago learned that the government can’t stop the market from going where it believes it must. The reason, of course, is that the market isn’t a single entity that can be forced to take collective action. It’s an aggregation of individual decision-makers, all of whom share a competitive interest in achieving gain and limiting loss. For that reason, governments in experienced capitalist countries know that the only meaningful, long-term way to respond to market declines is by trying to create economic conditions that will restore faith in the markets.
The government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought a three-year bailout loan of at least €53.5 billion ($59.2 billion), in a last-ditch effort to keep the country in the euro. In exchange, it offered a package of reforms and spending cuts, including pension savings and tax increases, similar to the one presented by creditors last month. The proposal was submitted to European institutions late Thursday and will be presented to the Greek Parliament Friday. It is set to be discussed at a summit of European Union leaders Sunday to determine whether Greece gets a new bailout, or be forced to leave the single currency. Greece offered measures that almost mirrored a proposal from creditors on June 26, which was rejected by voters in a July 5 referendum.
In return, it asked for its long-term debt to be made more manageable to allow it to rebound from a crisis that has erased a quarter of its economy. It is unclear if the proposal is enough to clinch a deal with creditors amid signs of economic deterioration since banks were closed and capital controls imposed 12 days ago. “The Greeks appear to have made significant concessions, apparently accepting much of the most recent creditor proposal,” Chris Scicluna, head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets in London, wrote in a note. “It remains to be seen whether creditors will want even more austerity.” The Greek government said it would use the three-year loan from the European Stability Mechanism to cover debt repayments between 2015 and 2018, mostly to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
It will then be left with debt owed only to European Union institutions. Greece’s proposal includes creditors’ longstanding demands for sales tax increases and cuts in public spending on pensions. Greece also proposes the restructuring of its debt and a package of growth measures of €35 billion. Pressure has been mounting on Greece’s creditors to make the country’s debt more manageable. “A realistic proposal from Greece will have to be matched by an equally realistic proposal on debt sustainability from the creditors,” European Union President Donald Tusk told reporters in Luxembourg Thursday. “Only then will we have a win-win situation.”
The race to come up with a last-minute proposal to keep Greece in the eurozone began with a Sunday night phone call from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to French President Francois Hollande, moments after Greece’s referendum dealt a near-fatal blow to the talks. If Greece wanted to remain in the eurozone, Athens must make ambitious proposals to its creditors quickly, Mr. Hollande told him, adding: “Help me help you.” That advice was part of an urgent French campaign to salvage months of negotiations from the wreckage of the Greek referendum. After long staying out of the fray, Mr. Hollande was scrambling to keep the discussions alive. His strategy: to press Mr. Tsipras for stronger economic overhauls while persuading Angela Merkel to give Greece more time and, ultimately, hope for debt relief.
The stance reflects a particularly French vision of the eurozone as a grand political project, with strategic benefits for Europe worth defending even at high cost. A Greek exit from the eurozone would set a dangerous precedent, French officials say, turning the currency bloc into little more than an arrangement of fixed currency exchange rates that governments could discard. French leaders have waxed poetic in recent days about the special place Greece holds. Greek independence was celebrated by French writers and artists from Victor Hugo and to Eugene Delacroix, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told lawmakers Wednesday in explaining why France refuses to accept a Greek exit from the euro. “Greece is a passion for France and Europe,” Mr. Valls said.
“The goddess that gave its name to our continent is at the heart of our mythology.” Domestic politics is also at work. Mr. Hollande, a Socialist, faces a rebellion from members of his parliamentary majority who accuse him of abandoning his 2012 election pledge to push for pro-growth policies in Europe. Standing up to Berlin on behalf of Greece is a chance to brandish his leftist credentials for party hard-liners, analysts say. It is unclear whether France’s triage will lead to a deal by Sunday, when European Union leaders are due to decide Greece’s fate. But France’s intervention has helped keep the talks on life support.
I do not have the foggiest whether these latest Greek proposals will be enough to secure a deal. There are still very big obstacles to overcome. But Alexis Tsipras has achieved something that has eluded him in the past five months: he has managed to split the creditors. The IMF insists on debt relief. The French helped the Greek prime minister draft the proposal and were the first to support it openly. President François Hollande is siding with Mr Tsipras. And that changes the stakes for Angela Merkel. If the German chancellor says no now, she will stand accused of taking reckless risks with the eurozone and the Franco-German alliance. If she says yes, her own party might divide similarly to the way the British Conservatives divided over Europe. I have always predicted that the moment of truth for the eurozone will come eventually. It will come this weekend.
The financial markets seemed to have made up their mind that a deal will happen. But beware the many landmines on the path to a deal. Of those, only the first has been sidestepped with Mr Tsipras’ offer. What he is now proposing is, economically, not fundamentally different from what he, and the Greek electorate, rejected in Sunday’s referendum — but it works politically for him. The phase-in period of some of the harder measures is longer. And if there is a deal, there will have to be an explicit reference to debt relief this time. The IMF insists on it. And even Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, says so. This is an important development, but it is not clear that all creditors will, or can, agree.
By tomorrow, the technical people and the finance ministers will need to discuss whether the Greek numbers add up. The answer is almost certainly no, not least because of the rapid deterioration of the country’s economy. The imposition of capital controls and bank withdrawal limits brought most economic activity to a standstill. Any macroeconomic adjustment programme will have to start with a realisation that the situation is worse today than two weeks ago. The Greek list takes account of this in terms of slower adjustment periods. This is economically sensible. But Ms Merkel has already said she wanted this problem taken care of through additional austerity. For a programme to be agreed, one side will have to back down here.
On top of this, there is now the acute problem of an insolvent banking system — one that is totally reliant on a special lifeline by ECB called emergency liquidity assistance. The ECB will find it hard to increase ELA. So apart from agreeing on a macroeconomic stabilisation programme, European leaders will this weekend need to answer the more immediate question of what to do with the Greek banks. This is possibly the single most complicated question because there are no easy and fast answers. What may have to happen is that the number of banks will have to shrink to three or two, and that depositors may have to be “bailed in”. I cannot see that the creditors would agree to a further bank restructuring programme, in addition to the €53.5bn in new loans currently under discussion.
Lynn Parramore: What’s your view of the attitudes of the creditor powers?
Jamie Galbraith: What happened on the 26th of June was that Alexis (Tsipras) came to realize, at long last, that no matter how many concessions he made he wasn’t going to get the first one from the creditors. That’s something Wolfgang Schäuble had made clear to Yanis (Varoufakis) months before. But it was hard to persuade the Greek government of this because its members naturally expected, as you would when you’re in a negotiation, that if you make a concession the other side will make a concession. That isn’t the way this one worked. The Greeks kept making concessions. They’d present a program and the other side would say —as you can read in the press — oh, no, that’s not good enough. Do another one. Then they’d complain that the Greeks were not being serious. What the creditors meant by that was this: when you come around and agree to what we tell you, then you’re serious. Otherwise not. This is the way bad professors treat extremely recalcitrant students. You come in with a paper draft and they say, no, that’s not good enough. Do another one.
LP: Have the individual creditors differed on how to treat Greece?
JG: There are some divisions amongst the creditors that are well known. But they’re all variations on the theme of insular, sheltered, cloistered people who do not understand what is happening in Greece and do not know the economics. So, for example, the European Commission tends to be a little bit nicer, the IMF tends to be better on debt restructuring but worse on the structural issues, and the ECB was infuriated by the fact that its technocrats couldn’t walk into any ministry in Athens and make demands and be paid attention to. So there were different aspects of this that seemed to trouble different creditors, but it all amounted to the fact that between them there was no basis for arriving at anything other than the original Memorandum of Understanding (bailout program).
LP: What exactly triggered the breakdown that led to the referendum?
JG: What happened was that the IMF took the staff level agreement draft that the Greeks had presented, and marked it up in red ink and presented it back to the Greeks as an ultimatum— this is what we will accept. Or rather (EC president) Juncker presented it back to the Greeks as an ultimatum. And Yanis was told, take it or leave it. So they basically had no choice but to walk away from it, to leave it.
LP: How do you think the referendum has changed the situation? Has it given the Greeks leverage or not?
JG: That’s a difficult question. The recent Ambrose Evans Pritchard piece is very much on the mark. The Greek government, and particularly the circle around Alexis, were worn down by this process. They saw that the other side does, in fact, have the power to destroy the Greek economy and the Greek society — which it is doing — in a very brutal, very sadistic way, because the burden falls particularly heavily on pensions. They were in some respects expecting that the yes would prevail, and even to some degree thinking that that was the best way to get out of this. The voters would speak and they would acquiesce. They would leave office and there would be a general election. But civil society took this over in the most dramatic and heroic fashion. It was an incredible thing to see. The Greeks, amazingly, voted 61% no. That, momentarily, gave a jolt of adrenaline to everybody in the government. But the next morning, they were back where they were before. And that’s why, of course, Yanis left at that point.
As the Greek saga continues, many have marveled at Germany’s chutzpah. It received, in real terms, one of the largest bailout and debt reduction in history and unconditional aid from the U.S. in the Marshall Plan. And yet it refuses even to discuss debt relief. Many, too, have marveled at how Germany has done so well in the propaganda game, selling an image of a long-failed state that refuses to go along with the minimal conditions demanded in return for generous aid. The facts prove otherwise: From the mid-90’s to the beginning of the crisis, the Greek economy was growing at a faster rate than the EU average (3.9% vs 2.4%). The Greeks took austerity to heart, slashing expenditures and increasing taxes.
They even achieved a primary surplus (that is, tax revenues exceeded expenditures excluding interest payments), and their fiscal position would have been truly impressive had they not gone into depression. Their depression—25% decline in GDP and 25% unemployment, with youth unemployment twice that—is because they did what was demanded of them, not because of their failure to do so. It was the predictable and predicted response to the austerity. The question now is: What’s next, assuming (as seems ever more likely) they are effectively thrown out of the euro? It’s likely that the European Central Bank will refuse to do its job—as the Central Bank for Greece, it should do what every central bank is supposed to do, act as a lender of last resort.
And if it refuses to do that, Greece will have no option but to create a parallel currency. The ECB has already begun tightening the screws, making access to funds more and more difficult. This is not the end of the world: Currencies come and go. The euro is just a 16-year-old experiment, poorly designed and engineered not to work—in a crisis money flows from the weak country’s banks to the strong, leading to divergence. GDP today is more than 17% below where it would have been had the relatively modest growth trajectory of Europe before the euro just continued. I believe the euro has much to do with this disappointing performance. [..]
The U.S. was generous with Germany as we defeated it. Now, it is time for the U.S. to be generous with our friends in Greece in their time of need, as they have been crushed for the second time in a century by Germany, this time with the support of the troika. At a technical level, the Federal Reserve needs to create a swap line with Greece’s central bank, which—as a result of the default of the ECB in fulfilling its responsibilities—will have to take on once again the role of lender of last resort. Greece needs unconditional humanitarian aid; it needs Americans to buy its products, take vacations there, and show a solidarity with Greece and a humanity that its European partners were not able to display.
Greece has mapped out details of a landmark €2bn gas project with Russia, a scheme that could stir tensions with Brussels just as Athens seeks a third bail-out. Panayiotis Lafazanis, the firebrand leftist energy minister, presented the project to Greek energy executives on Thursday in a defiant speech, vowing that Athens would not be pushed around by EU institutions, writes Christian Oliver. EU policymakers are concerned that Russia could take advantage of the crisis to pull Greece deeper into its orbit and pipeline politics is critical to relations between the two nations. Athens and Moscow say their new project, the so-called South European Pipeline, will bring 47 billion cubic metres of Gazprom’s gas into Europe by 2018.
Mr Lafazanis promised that it would create 20,000 much needed jobs in Greece. This promised deal with Russia is a sharp rebuke to Brussels, which wants to reduce dependence on Gazprom and argues that southeastern Europe should diversify its supply by prioritising gas from Azerbaijan. Opening his remarks with pugnacious references to the eurozone crisis, Mr Lafazanis said that Greece was aiming to secure a deal with Brussels as quickly as possible. However, he then warned EU institutions that Athens was not about to roll over. “Greece is no-one’s hostage,” he said. “The Greek people’s No vote, and I am referring to all of the people, is not going to become a humiliating Yes.”
Germany conceded on Thursday that Greece would need some debt restructuring as part of any new loan programme to make its economy viable as the Greek cabinet raced to finalize reform proposals to avert an imminent economic meltdown. The admission by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble came hours before a midnight deadline for Athens to submit a reform plan meant to convince European partners to give it another loan to save it from a possible exit from the euro. Greece has already had two bailouts worth €240 billion euros from the eurozone and the IMF, but its economy has shrunk by a quarter, unemployment is more than 25% and one in two young people is out of work.
Schaeuble, who has made no secret of his scepticism about Greece’s fitness to remain in the currency area, told a conference in Frankfurt: “Debt sustainability is not feasible without a haircut and I think the IMF is correct in saying that. But he added: “There cannot be a haircut because it would infringe the system of the European Union.” He offered no solution to the conundrum, which implied that Greece’s debt problem might not be soluble within the eurozone. But he did say there was limited scope for “reprofiling” Greek debt by extending loan maturities, shaving interest rates and lengthening a moratorium on debt service payments.
One of the great paradoxes of our time is how Germany has done so exemplary a job in recent decades of understanding and accepting responsibility for the horrors of the Nazi era while continuing to entertain a willful ignorance of the economic policy errors that paved the Nazis’ path to power. The solution to this riddle is that Germans’ deep-seated debt obsession (in German, the words for “debt” and “guilt” are the same) has blinded them to the consequences of that obsession. You’d think, for instance, that Germans would have learned from John Maynard Keynes’s 1920 book “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” which correctly predicted that the onerous reparations inflicted on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles were economically unsustainable and politically perilous to the prospects for German democracy.
You’d think they’d have learned from their own descent into Nazism that balancing budgets when unemployment is at record heights can undermine a democracy’s viability. You’d think they’d have learned from the London debt agreement of 1953 that debt forgiveness and reasonable repayment terms can foster prosperity and strengthen democracy in the debtor nation — which, in this case, happened to be Germany. That Germans have learned none of these lessons is now — tragically, for Greece — apparent. Germany’s insistence that Greece continue to slash services and social investment if it is ever to qualify for debt forgiveness remains unaltered, even though Greek unemployment stands at 25%, even though 40% of Greek children live in poverty, even though a neo-Nazi party (Golden Dawn) has come out of nowhere to win seats in Greece’s parliament.
Jens Weidmann, the president of Germany’s Bundesbank, has said doubts about Greek banks solvency are legitimate and rising by the day. Mr Weidmann also said the majority of Greeks who had voted ‘no’ in Sunday’s referendum had spoken out .. against contributing any further to the solvency of their country through additional consolidation measures and reforms. The Bundesbank president, a member of the governing council of the European Central Bank who has called for Greek banks ¨ 89bn liquidity lifeline to be scrapped, said in needed to be crystal clear that responsibility for Greece lay with Athens and international creditors, and not the ECB.
The Eurosystem [of eurozone central banks] should not increase the liquidity provision, and capital controls need to stay in force until an appropriate support package has been agreed by all parties and the solvency of both the Greek government and the Greek banking system has been ensured. The Bundesbank president hit out at Athens for causing economic ruin. [Eurozone member states] can decide for themselves not to service their debts, to collect taxes inadequately, and this is something I particularly fear in the case of Greece to lead their country s economy into deep trouble, he said in Frankfurt on Wednesday. The Syriza-led government had not only walked out on the previous agreements, but has been widely criticised as an unreliable negotiating partner. Mr Weidmann’s comments came as France s finance minister Michel Sapin, who is pushing for a deal that would allow Greece to stay in the eurozone, emphasised the greater cost of a Grexit.
“What s costlier? That Greece exits the eurozone and defaults on all its debt? Asking the question is answering it”, Mr Sapin told Radio Classique on Thursday. “A deal is the best solution for Greece and Europe.” “Greek banks have been closed for more than a week. Greece is already in a pre-chaos stat”e, he said. “How history will judge us?” However, Mr Sapin reiterated the need for the Greek government to present credible reforms as well as difficult decisions to balance the budget. “There are taxes to raise, it’s difficult,” he said. Mr Sapin saluted the good attitude of Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos at the latest eurogroup meeting of finance ministers. “He came with a lot of modesty”, he said.
A senior member of Greece’s negotiating team with its European creditors agreed to a meeting last week in Athens with Mediapart special correspondent Christian Salmon. Speaking on condition that his name is withheld, he detailed the history of the protracted and bitter negotiations between the radical-left Syriza government, elected in January, and international lenders for the provision of a new bailout for the debt-ridden country. The almost two-hour interview in English took place just days before last Sunday’s referendum on the latest drastic austerity-driven bailout terms offered by the creditors, and opposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and which were finally rejected by 61.3% of Greek voters.
While the ministerial advisor slams the stance of the international creditors, who he accuses of leading a strategy of deliberate suffocation of Greece’s finances and economy, he is also critical of some of the decisions taken by Athens. His account also throws light on the personal tensions surrounding the talks led by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who resigned from his post on Monday deploring “a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my ‘absence’ from its meetings”. The advisor cites threats proffered to Varoufakis by Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, warning he would sink Greece’s banks unless the Tsipras government bowed to the harsh deal on offer, and by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who he says demanded: “How much money do you want to leave the euro?”
Struggling to pay off more than €300 billion in debts, Greece is banking on Switzerland to help it recover a treasure trove of undeclared assets that tax cheats have stashed in alpine vaults. But anti-tax haven campaigners are sceptical about “undemocratic” tax amnesties that are prone to loopholes, allowing many tax dodgers to wriggle out of their obligations. “The devil is always in the detail with these deals. If Switzerland can claim it is helping to clear untaxed assets out of its banks, this could provide it with a public relations service,” Nicholas Shaxson of Tax Justice Network told swissinfo.ch. “But amnesties generally favour wealthy people who can pay accountants to exploit loopholes, such as insurance wrappers and discretionary trusts.”
Such “slippery structures” render assets “technically declared”, allowing them to remain offshore under the radar of amnesties, Shaxson added. “Tax amnesties only make a difference if the public believe that, once they have ended, the government will assertively go after people who did not disclose,” Heather Low of Global Financial Integrity (GFI) told swissinfo.ch. “Tax cheats in the United States would be afraid of the authorities if they did not disclose during an amnesty. I’m not so sure this would be the case in Greece.” In April, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced plans for a global tax amnesty to repatriate overseas funds to Greece. It is believed the government has settled for a one-off 21% levy on those who come clean, pending parliamentary approval of the proposal.
Negotiations between Greece and Switzerland on how best to recover black money hidden in Swiss banks have been ongoing since 2012. But the two sides are reported to be edging closer to a solution that would allow banks to cooperate. While Switzerland would not be an official partner to a Greek tax amnesty, the approval and cooperation of the Swiss authorities would be integral to the scheme working. To this end, two meetings were arranged between the countries in March and April to discuss the practical details of persuading Greek tax cheats to sign up to the amnesty. While not yet concluded, Varoufakis felt encouraged enough to announce Greece’s intended global tax amnesty following a meeting with Swiss officials in April.
The mainstream news is painting the Greeks as the bad guys, and the Troika as the savior of Europe. Quite frankly, it is really disgusting. Pictures of an elderly Greek pensioner have gone viral, depicting what the Troika is deliberately doing to the Greek people by punishing them for their own failed design of the euro in a system that is just economically unsustainable. The heartbreaking photographs circulating are of 77-year-old retiree, Giorgos Chatzifotiadis, after he collapsed on the ground openly in tears, driven to despair, outside a Greek bank with his savings book and identity card strewn next to him on the ground. This illustrates the horror the Troika is deliberately inflicting upon the Greek population.
This image illustrates the core of the issue: ordinary Greeks tormented by EU politicians who pretend to care about people. This is not a Greek debt crisis, this is a Euro Crisis and they refuse to admit that what they designed was solely for the takeover of Europe at the cost of the future of everyone, from pensioners to the youth. Chatzifotiadis queued up at three banks in Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki on Friday in the hope of withdrawing pensions on behalf of him and his wife. When he went to a fourth bank, he was told he could not withdraw his €120; the ordeal simply became too much and he fell down in tears in total desperation. His comments were simply that he “cannot stand to see my country in this distress”. He continued to say, “That’s why I feel so beaten, more than for my own personal problems.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are facing terrible times ahead because socialism is completely collapsing. Government employees have lined their pockets, which is precisely the endgame and how Rome collapsed. It was not the barbarians at the gate. It was that the Roman army was not paid and they began hailing their various generals as emperor and they attacked cities who did not support their choice. Only after weakening themselves, then the barbarians came in for easy pickings. If Russia really wants to take Europe, all they have to do is be patient. They will self-destruct for the Troika cannot see any change in thinking for that means they must admit that they were wrong from the outset.
Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis admitted that Germany appears to have a plan to force Greece outside the Eurozone, even though while he was in office he insisted that Grexit scenarios were a bluff to push the Greek government to accept harsh austerity measures. Talking with reporters at the Greek Parliament café, Varoufakis noted that Wolfgang Schaeuble is the only Eurozone Minister with a specific plan. He also said that the German Finance Minister completely controls the majority of the Eurogroup except for French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.
“Schaeuble has a plan for Greece’s exit from the Eurozone,” and added, “this is his best chance to succeed.” When asked if he believes the Germans are taking into account the estimated cost of a Grexit, Varoufakis argued that Schaeuble believes losses can be controlled. Furthermore, the former Greek Finance Minister stated that it is possible that his exit from the Greek government was due to Schaeuble’s pressure.
As for whether he believes that a deal will be achieved in the next 24 hours, he initially said “no comment” but later added: “I would like an agreement to be reached but only if it is also a solution. At the moment, we cannot judge the outcome.” People at the café called him “Minister” but he always answered: “I’m not a Minister. I’m a member of Parliament.” “Once a Minister, always a Minister,” he said, adding that he prefers to be an MP and be called Yanis. Asked to comment on the recent referendum results, he stated that the outcome was epic and grandiose, although he avoided to answer the question about whether the citizens voted “No” but the government is following the “Yes” direction.
“There’s quite precisely no common ground between the two belief systems, and yet self-proclaimed Christians who spout Rand’s turgid drivel at every opportunity make up a significant fraction of the Republican Party just now.”
Our age has no shortage of curious features, but for me, at least, one of the oddest is the way that so many people these days don’t seem to be able to think through the consequences of their own beliefs. Pick an ideology, any ideology, straight across the spectrum from the most devoutly religious to the most stridently secular, and you can count on finding a bumper crop of people who claim to hold that set of beliefs, and recite them with all the uncomprehending enthusiasm of a well-trained mynah bird, but haven’t noticed that those beliefs contradict other beliefs they claim to hold with equal devotion. I’m not talking here about ordinary hypocrisy. The hypocrites we have with us always; our species being what it is, plenty of people have always seen the advantages of saying one thing and doing another.
No, what I have in mind is saying one thing and saying another, without ever noticing that if one of those statements is true, the other by definition has to be false. My readers may recall the way that cowboy-hatted heavies in old Westerns used to say to each other, “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us;” there are plenty of ideas and beliefs that are like that, but too many modern minds resemble nothing so much as an OK Corral where the gunfight never happens. An example that I’ve satirized in an earlier post here is the bizarre way that so many people on the rightward end of the US political landscape these days claim to be, at one and the same time, devout Christians and fervid adherents of Ayn Rand’s violently atheist and anti-Christian ideology.
The difficulty here, of course, is that Jesus tells his followers to humble themselves before God and help the poor, while Rand told hers to hate God, wallow in fantasies of their own superiority, and kick the poor into the nearest available gutter. There’s quite precisely no common ground between the two belief systems, and yet self-proclaimed Christians who spout Rand’s turgid drivel at every opportunity make up a significant fraction of the Republican Party just now. Still, it’s only fair to point out that this sort of weird disconnect is far from unique to religious people, or for that matter to Republicans. One of the places it crops up most often nowadays is the remarkable unwillingness of people who say they accept Darwin’s theory of evolution to think through what that theory implies about the limits of human intelligence.
If Darwin’s right, as I’ve had occasion to point out here several times already, human intelligence isn’t the world-shaking superpower our collective egotism likes to suppose. It’s simply a somewhat more sophisticated version of the sort of mental activity found in many other animals. The thing that supposedly sets it apart from all other forms of mentation, the use of abstract language, isn’t all that unique; several species of cetaceans and an assortment of the brainier birds communicate with their kin using vocalizations that show all the signs of being languages in the full sense of the word—that is, structured patterns of abstract vocal signs that take their meaning from convention rather than instinct.
Pope Francis on Thursday urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land. In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope also asked forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic Church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America.” Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money “the dung of the devil,” and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labor for developed countries.
Repeating some of the themes of his landmark encyclical “Laudato Si” on the environment last month, Francis said time was running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem. Francis made the address to participants of the second world meeting of popular movements, an international body that brings together organizations of people on the margins of society, including the poor, the unemployed and peasants who have lost their land. The Vatican hosted the first meeting last year. He said he supported their efforts to obtain “so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three “L’s”: land, lodging and labor.”
“Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” the pope said, decrying a system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.” This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable … The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable,” he said in an hour-long speech that was interrupted by applause and cheering dozens of times.
The pontiff appeared to take a swipe at international monetary organizations such as the IMF and the development aid policies by some developed countries. “No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice,” he said. “The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor,” he said.