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How did a left-wing government end up signing the worst austerity program in history?

It took SYRIZA two months to understand that creditors are not in the mood to listen to economic theories and revolutionary manifestos…they simply want their money back. In the end Greece agreed to give up its entire country to appease the creditors.

Alex Christoforou

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Original post entitled, “My Big Fat Greek Funeral: SYRIZA, 3. bailout and capital controls” appeared on Keep Talking Greece.

I am speechless. Not since yesterday or last week. I have been speechless since July 13th when the Greek left-wing coalition government agreed to burden the country and the people with a new loan, the third bailout for Greece since 2010 together with the strictest austerity program ever. I have been speechless ever since and for  more than a week I thought I cannot blog anymore. I took me time to swallow and absorb the shock. And still. I am unable to deal with it.

I am unable to comprehend how a left-wing government ended up signing the worst austerity program ever. For the simple reason that if a left-wing government signs such an agreement, what should I expect from a right-wing or a neo-liberal government to do? Raid my apartment, steal my kitchen pans, my pottery cats collection and my underwear? When the left-wing government signs such an agreement, we can say that the political system in Greece is over. And there is no alternative.

First, we blamed the creditors for wanting to crack down SYRIZA in order to avoid creating other examples of the same kind within the eurozone. Then we blamed again the creditors and specifically German finance minister Schaeuble and his Grexit plan: 5 years bailouts, 5 years temporary Grexit, before Greece could return to the markets. That was original tone by Schaeuble in 2011. Then we blamed the disagreement between the IMF and Germany in terms of “Greek debt relief”.  And finally we blamed the ‘dilettantism of the Greek government” that sent to Eurogroup its economic team to explain to Greece’s creditors, how the Eurozone should be changed. It took Varoufakis & Co two months to understand that creditors are not in the mood to listen to some economic theories and revolutionary manifestos but that they simply wanted their money back.  All our blames were right and wrong at the same time because the game was f;ixed’ form the very beginning.

When the Greek team started to work on its proposals, it was too late. Schaeuble was determined to kick Greece out of the euro and furthermore to ‘help it’ bridge the Grexit time with a loan of some 50 billion euros. Either way, with or without euro, with or without drachma, with or without Schaeuble or SYRIZA, the result is the same: a third bailout of 50-84 billion euro and another bailout program. There is no hope for this country, for the people – at least, for some of them.

I really don’t care, if Varoufakis wears tasteless shirts and why he wanted to ‘hack’ taxpayers’ numbers while sitting with his team of skilled hackers and childhood friends. Varoufakis is not my cup of tea. He never was. But while our Greek life is falling apart day by day, I have to read Varoufakis’ interview Nr 2034 explaining his game theory and his academic hypothesis, hi smother’s story and his cousins pain. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dam. Frankly, my dear, I’m fed up.

I am also fed up to listen to opposition lawmakers complaining about the Parliament Speaker and claiming “Zoi Konstantopoulou is torturing MPs with her pedantism.” I honestly don’t give a dam. Frankly, my dear, I’m fed up to see ‘tortured’ MPs earning €5,000+ per month and enjoy tax-free, while the rest of us is literally bleeding: financially, psychologically, physically and morally.

Neither do I care whether SYRIZA is falling apart, whether the Prime Minister wants early elections in September in order to secure a clear majority in Parliament so that he can pass the austerity bills that lead to nowhere.

I am deaf to government ministers and party officials and opposition lawmakers debating on whether Varoufakis should be indict for high or for low treason.

I just don’t care. It doesn’t affect my life, not even a tiny little bit. I give neither a a whole dam nor half of it for this so-called Greek political agenda after July 13th.

What do I care about is to watch my country and the people falling into pieces. I see our Greek lives suffering another ‘internal devaluation’ minute by minute, day by day, week by week. When the 3. bailout deal will be sealed by 15 or 20 August I will be also able to say “I see our Greek lives suffering another ‘internal devaluation’ minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.”

The 40% internal devaluation settled in Greece since 2010, experiences a new peak even though the 3. bailout has not been signed yet. The Capital Controls imposed on June 29th in order to save the banks from draining, have ruined the lives of many Greeks. Friends of mine who have been working for more than two decades in private companies, were “sent to enforced holiday” together with the banks: their full time job turned into 1 or maximum 2 days work per week. That is 4 or 8 work days per month. In relation, their also salary plunged by end of July.  Many employees in the private sector saw their working hours and already low salaries been reduced. How can these people get along without income? Nobody cares and nobody talks about. Neither national nor international media talk about it. We whisper these hazardous circumstances  among ourselves. In quiet. Because we are ashamed. And we wonder endlessly.

Others, plagued by long term unemployment and no perspective to get a job or even a pension, felt obliged to sell their home. That’s not possible under capital controls. The selling amount will remain in the bank and it may even fall victim to “deposits haircut” by the end of the year. Another friend who needs to sell her second flat  – an inheritance – so that she has money to live, cannot sell it either. Ten years ago, the flat was worth 130,000 euro. Now, if she finds a buyer she will have to sell it for 45,000-50,000 euro. She is trying to sell it for the last 1.5 year. Not a single buyer came around the corner.

With the new Value Added Tax hikes, the amount we need to spend for our weekly basic groceries now extra 15-20 euro. “Just 15 euro?” one may ask. Yes. That’s a huge amount, if you don’t have it and you have kids to feed and bills to pay. The 50-euro banknote that will go for groceries will be missed at the end of the month. Bills will remain unpaid, the extra for a health emergency, for example, will simply be not there. It’s either eat or die.

In hospitals and public health care the situation is getting from worse to worst. Shortage of doctors, of nurses, of administration personnel, of material. You need a portion of fluid iron? Average waiting time is 3 days. The same for special creams, for this and that. You need some cotton? “Oh, not so much, please, a tiny piece,” the nurse tells you politely. Sometimes, the drugs or creams never come, you get the prescription upon exiting the hospital.

In the night shift a nurse is in charge for 40-50 patients, even in the public hospital they proudly call “the biggest in Greece, in the whole Balkans, indeed.”  Neither this nor the previous governments managed to raise the working hours of civil servants.

Patients that need night care need to hire a private nurse. They charge €8.5        per hour,  €55 for six and a half hours, and one nice green 100-euro banknote on Saturdays. Union rights as before the crisis. Is this the competitiveness the Troika has been talking about? They work at fixed shifts and by the clock: 11:00 pm to 5:40 am, for example. A 24-hours care will cost you more than 200 euro, the overtime they charge is without receipt. One day, the doctor sends you home, half fixed, half broken and totally broke. Then you will need to consult another doctor and get skilled caretakers at home, all paid by your own pocket. Or lay down and die.

A pair of low-pensioners next door with a bed-ridden and dementia-sick wife  have been going in and out the hospitals for the last 5 months. The woman needs 24/7 care but they cannot afford neither a caretaker or even better a care home for the elderly. Their last savings were spent on private nurses when the woman was hospitalized. The man was in shock and awe when he heard that they both will have 20-euro less because of the rises in health care contributions. The man was in such a shock that he forgot to go pick their pensions on Friday. And on Monday.

And then I read about the Financial Crimes Units (SDOE) that have caught in flagranti tourism businesses with fake cash registers in Mykonos and Santorini. Cash registers that have not been registered to the tax office. The customer gets his receipt, but the businessman pockets the money without giving the state the V.A.T. or taxes. The Finance Ministry got alarmed from this new phenomenon of tax evasion by the evergreen smart “Greeks”.  But “personnel shortage” hinders a raid to all fake cash registers… One of the fake cash registers was located in Mykonos, two in Santorini, two of the richest islands of Greece. In fact: in the richest regions of the debt-ridden country with impoverished families and ruined economy.

And then, I get this damned feeling that I live in another planet in a far away universe. And I want to stay there forever. In a bubble. Away from this Greece, where half of its population starves and is in dire need and the other half, the ‘clever Greeks’ keep cheating and evading taxes and enjoy a real life of fake registration and exorbitant per hour charge, away from austerity agreements, Troika’s demands and the hateful “Mnimonia” (memoranda) as they take advantage of the shortages of the public system.

*** The title is a proposal by Thomais Papaioannou, Correspondent of ERT & RIK in Paris. I had run out of ideas when I finished this post…

References:

http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2015/08/03/my-big-fat-greek-funeral-syriza-3-bailout-and-capital-controls/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+KeepTalkingGreece+%28Keep+Talking+Greece%29

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

The Duran

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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