Sep 022015
 September 2, 2015  Posted by at 2:56 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  

Russell Lee Migrant family in trailer home near Edinburg, Texas Feb 1939

A few days ago, I joked to Nicole that Paddypower should by now have a bet open on how much longer the Schengen open border treaty will be valid in Europe. Didn’t check if they actually had one, mind you.

But it can’t be long anymore, so it wouldn’t be a big money maker even if it existed. I give it a few days at most. Italy just announced it wants guards at Brennero, one of its main border posts with Austria. One down, a few hundred to go, and they may go at a rapid clip.

Europe’s countries are not each other’s enemies yet, but they will shut borders. Germany pulled a fast one yesterday by telling Hungary to stop the trains from rolling west, but now Budapest has a big problem. They should have just allowed the refugees to board the trains and leave. Put them on a train, give them food and drink and make them first Austria’s and then Germany’s problem.

And Germany’s a fine place for the refugees to go, since Berlin is sort of the de facto capital of the EU, at least when that seems a profitable position to be in, but it’s not the perfect place to go, because Merkel and her ilk will denounce their leadership claims whenever that looks more beneficial in the polls.

Merkel and Schäuble can screw over Greece three ways to Sunday, but they’re like this Bill Pesek headline on Bloomberg two weeks ago about the Chinese leadership that said something to the effect that they like the power but not the responsibility. That’s at least as true for Europe as it is for Beijing.

And that makes it hard to call any supposed leaders on any of their responsibilities. It’s also why thousands of refugees have drowned and not one of the ‘leaders’ have lifted a finger. They’re there for the power, not the other stuff.

And that, as I’ve said a hundred times before, is embedded in the EU model, in its design, its regulations, its laws, the whole shebang. When I read that Yanis Varoufakis wants a pan-European anti-austerity movement, I’m thinking he doesn’t understand how it’s set up. The whole bureaucracy was made to resist change, democracy, and any challenges to its ‘belief’ system.

It’s no use saying the EU should do something or another in the refugee crisis, because it won’t. And what it may do will always be way too late and way too little. It’s how it was structured. The EU is geared towards accumulating more power, not solving its own problems.

But at the same time, Brussels is still the only capital the EU has. And that’s why all refugees, wherever they are at the moment, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Macedonia, should be allowed to board trains, with enough humane facilities and provisions, bound for Brussels.

They should all be directed towards the European Parliament and/or other posh buildings – they recently opened a €1.2 billion one, that should facilitate a few refugees -, and stay there until the EU is forced to solve the issue.

And every single cameraman on the planet should be there to register what happens. How long they will be allowed to go without food, water and shelter. How long they will go without proper medical treatment.

Let’s see how Brussels deals with 50,000 -100,000 people in its streets and parks, with more coming every day, while the whole world is watching live on a hundred news channels.

And I know Strasbourg will want to dispute the claim that Brussels is the capital, and you know what?, I’m willing to send half of the refugees there too. Just so the French don’t feel left out or insultée or have their pride hurt.

And something tells me that the citizens of Belgium and France, like their Greek peers, will have the decency to feed and shelter the Syrian and Libyan mothers and children on their doorsteps while the ivory towers diddle.

It looks to me to be the only way to expose the EU for what it is, and then put an end to the macabre monstrosity it has become.

We would need to convince the refugees that by doing things this way, they would open the way for those who come after them, of which there will undoubtedly be many.

The Italian, Hungarian, Greek etc. governments should issue rail tickets from their countries to Brussels and tell the refugees that that’s where the European capital is, and to apply there for visas, asylum, and everything else.

Brussels lives by the adage of divide and rule. And that serves only the bureaucrats that inhabit the institution. Not the refugees, and not the people of Europe.

Apr 282015
 April 28, 2015  Posted by at 5:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  

Harris&Ewing Ford Motor Co. New medical center parking garage, Washington, DC 1938

Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad ran a little article recently that we’re surprised no other news organization picked up. It concerned a proposal in the European Parliament in which the parliamentarians got to vote on raising their own paycheck (always a good idea). The best thing about the story is that not everyone voted in favor.

Most did though. It much amused me to see that apparently it was Angela Merkel’s party, the German Christian Democrats, which was behind the proposal. Initially, they had even wanted double what they actually got. Here’s some numbers and details – and please forgive me for not being a math wizard -.

A Member of the European Parliament (MEP), according to the article, receives the following for their valiant and entirely selfless efforts at public service:

• Salary: €8000+
• Expenses: €4300
• A per diem allowance of €300 for every day a meeting is attended.

Per year that adds up to: €147.600 + €30,000 if 100 meetings are attended. Let’s say €180,000.

On top of that, the Parliament pays into MEPs pension funds, but we’ll leave that alone for now.

There are 751 MEPs, so total ‘salary’ costs are €135,180,000. But that’s just the start.

And we’re not yet adding translation costs, which apparently can add up to over €120,000 per day (!), or perhaps some €30-40 million per year.

Nor are we taking into account the estimated at least €200 million per year it takes to have the entire Parliament (MEPs, assistants, translators, employees, in total about 4000 people) move between Brussels and Strasbourg every month, an oddity that springs from a drawn-out power poker play between Germany and France. Do note: the constant move costs way more than all 751 MEP’s base salary + expenses.

No, the proposal discussed, concerns the added expense accounts MEPs receive for their assistants. At present, the amount involved is over €21,000 per month, and according to the people who receive it – and vote on raising it -, that’s not enough.

Typically, says the Dutch paper, an MEP has 3 assistants, all of whom get paid €2500 a month. They’re also in a special low Brussels income tax bracket. This means each MEP receives €252.000 per year in ‘assistant costs’, and spends €90,000 in salary costs, leaving €162,000 for food and lodging. Since there are 751 MEPs, the total adds up to €15,771,000 per month or €189,252,000 per year.

And they want more.

The original proposal called for another €3000 per month. Because some MEPs protested against this, it was reduced to €1500. Or €18,000 per year per MEP, times 751, a cool €13,518,000. Just in extra costs they voted in all by themselves.

There are many many stories about people living the high life once they get voted into the Brussels/Strasbourg traveling circus. The majority have lucrative jobs at home. They stay in swanky hotels. They collect per diems for meetings they don’t actually attend. They lay the basis for lucrative corporate careers after they exit the Parliament. It’s democracy in theory but not in practice.

Brussels/Strasbourg is no stranger to corruption, or whatever word you would want to to use to describe what goes on. Still, there are lots of MEPs who are completely on the up and up, and many who even pay back a lot of their ‘compensation’ into either the Parliament itself or into their own – national – part coffers, because they say the payments are exorbitant. But they don’t speak up. At least not outside of the confines of the Parliament itself.

But these are also – all of them put together – the people who uphold the EU policies versus Greece, where there are really many children who are hungry, and seniors who can’t get proper health care. Faced with a situation like that, one would think a proper parliament of a proper union wouldn’t dare raise its own expenses – which have to be paid by member countries’ taxpayers – before and until all children in the union are properly fed, and all grandmas properly taken care off by qualified medical personnel.

One would think. These are also the people responsible for the EU support that allows the Kiev army’s mass killings of its own people. And for the continuation of the anti-Russia and anti-Putin stance that’s become so popular across the western world. They may not be the daily executives of the circus, but they still are the responsible at the end of the day.

They are also the people who voted to cut down the budget for the Mediterranean refugee patrol missions, money saved that, if you want to take a cynical enough view, was freed to raise their own stipends. As thousands drown.

And so again we would like to raise that question: why would anyone, any country, want to have these people take their decisions for them? What would make you think when you live in Greece that these traveling circus clowns would be better at protecting and defending your interests than your own people, who live where you live, who see what you see on a daily basis?

It’s fine, and it’s perhaps even logical, at first glance, for Greeks and Italians to want to remain part of the euro. But when you look closer, you can’t avoid the notion that by being part of the euro, you give up the autonomy you also crave. And that the price you pay for being a part of the euro, and of the EU, makes you a serf to greater and richer interests that care about you about as much as they care about flies on their walls.

This one story about what MEPs vote themselves is but one example. Why not send us an example of where and how you feel Brussels protects your interests better than your own governments? We’re really curious to know. Because we don’t see it.