Unfortunately, Americans tend to interpret the world through simplistic ideas that are just as wrong as they are simple. Case in point: the common assumptions about what is happening in Greece today, circa Spring/Summer 2010.
Hereâ€™s a couple of good examples: â€œGreece spent more money than they earned,â€ or â€œHard-working, prosperous Northern Europeans bailed out lazy and extravagant Greeks.â€ The former may have been accurate as recently as the times of, say, Ben Franklin, while the latter is just total bullshit. Perhaps Americans can be forgiven for their stupidity and collective ignorance of history. Well, probably not.
This ignorance blinds us to the jarring reality of contemporary life â€“ the world economy of corporate globalization is a massive swindle where the house is guaranteed to win and the unlucky players (that is, real people) are guaranteed to lose. And lose. And lose some more. Repeat ad nauseum.
This reality is on offer for all to see in the spectacle of restructuring sovereign debt in Greece. Greece and Greeks are not being bailed out â€“ German and French banks and other holders of Greece bonds who bought them recently as prices were plummeting are the bailout beneficiaries, as well as currency speculators and credit-default swap (on Greek government bonds) casino gamblers. Theyâ€™ll all be â€œmade whole,â€ or paid off in full. Greece, meanwhile, will be locked into debt peonage, with rising debt and no visible means of settling it. Bailed out indeed!
Thatâ€™s right â€“ the financial oligarchs that sucked Greece into round after round of ill-advised financial leveraging will not lose a cent or euro of their guaranteed profits. Meanwhile, Greek workers are being forced to swallow savage pay and benefit cuts in excess of 20%, even as the prices of the basic commodities they consume rise by double digits and their economy careens headlong into a recession. Surely youâ€™ll excuse Greek workers if they want to break shit and stomp around in anger.
This is an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the working classes to the financial oligarchy classes that run the big corporate globalization swindle. The imagined result is nothing less than the rollback of all socially progressive changes fought for by the working classes of the 19th and 20th centuries, including decent wages and work protections, strong unions, retirement benefits that keep the elderly out of the dog food market, social services available to all, and other key elements of the welfare state social contract.
Unlike American workers, who are used to being habitually fucked over with no recourse, the Greeks are taking to the streets in an effort to derail the deep structural changes being forced down their throats by European bankers and oligarchs, and their lackeys that currently run the government of Greece under Papandreou (socialist? Ha!).
A central neo-liberal economic policy over the last 30 years has been to shift the funding base of taxation from wealth and property to income, even as wages have essentially remained flat for the working classes over this period. Predictably, this has driven a massive transfer of wealth into the coffers of the worldâ€™s financial oligarchy classes.
This has also left the same incomes (and not wealth and property) on the hook for shouldering the burden of the spending cuts imposed in order to make whole the bankers, speculators, and swindlers of the Goldman Sachs derivatives division variety. To see how derivative swindlers can turn a $250 million project into a $5 billion debt liability, check Matt Taibbiâ€™s expose on the swindling of Jefferson County, Alabama.
European bankers and politicians are using the International Monetary Fund (IMF) playbook on Greece, one thatâ€™s prescribed painful structural adjustments for â€œdeveloping countries,â€ with few, if any, â€œdevelopmentâ€ payoffs, and wide swaths of rape and pillage of people and resources across the global landscape. Hell, the IMF is even in on the pillage of Greece, bringing their neo-liberal discipline and debt slavery to the prosperous countries of Europe for the first time.
It should be an extreme embarrassment to Europeans that theyâ€™ve called on the IMF to help their own, as their pathetic impotence is now on display for all the world to see. But no, the financial oligarchy classes are proving yet again that they have no shame in their relentless drive to expropriate the worldâ€™s wealth at the expense of real working people.
Make no mistake, if this works in Greece, itâ€™ll be coming to social services near you, all across the globe. Corporate globalization has financialized the worldâ€™s economy to such a degree that every sector is now hostage to the dictates of investment finance and speculation, as was on display in the collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2007-2008. Speculators ran up the interest rates for Greek sovereign debt because of their vulnerability, as evidenced by their national fiscal deficit this year of 13% of GDP. Can runs on the UK and Spain, with 12% deficits, or Portugal at 11% be far behind? And about that growing U.S. debt loadâ€¦
In many ways, the hopes of the working classes of the world to protect the gains they made are tied up in the success or failure of the Greek working classes to hold the line on the spread of neo-liberal structural adjustments. As analysts such as Michael Hudson on Counterpunch.com have pointed out, the game is almost up for corporate globalization and its financial speculative greed. They are wringing every last farthing, cent, peso and ruble out of the Big Casino theyâ€™ve constructed as the global economy.
The big question is, where will any given country and/or community be standing when the whole swindle comes crashing down, as it inevitably will. The Big Swindle of Greece is just the latest and greatest signal of this inevitability. So donâ€™t believe that the Greeks are lazy and overpaid; they are fighting the good fight that each and every one of us should be fighting.
Via email from Greece from Frederik Urshgur – 5-17-2010
Previous postings in the Greece on Fire series: