Category Archives: Austerity

Greece: People Are Eating Out Of Dumpsters

L’Enfant de la Haute Mer has the story (please use Google Translate if you don’t read Greek).

This has happened in the United States within my lifetime, notably in the era of the “sainted” Ronald Reagan. I’ve seen it myself. Every grocery store dumpster had its regulars; it was presumably their main source of food.

It should never have happened in the United States. It should never again be allowed to happen in the United States. And it should not be allowed to happen in Greece or any other Eurozone country. Allowing people to starve in a setting of great wealth (which the Eurozone is) is simply wrong.

Krugman: How The Greek Government Is NOT Like A Family

Following up on the post upstream about Robert Reich, Paul Krugman expresses much the same notion in his post Losing the Belt. Consider the Greek government, says Krugman:

After all, you could view Greece as being like a family that overspent, got itself into debt, and whose members now have to do all the things families do when they get in that position: slash spending on inessentials, postpone medical care and other big expenses, quit their jobs and reduce their incomes — oh, wait.

That’s the key point, of course. When a family tightens its belt it doesn’t put itself out of a job. When a government tightens its belt in a depressed economy, it puts lots of people out of jobs; and this is a negative even from the government’s own, narrowly fiscal point of view, since a shrinking economy means less revenue.

My fear is that the Eurozone-imposed austerity measures in Greece will have precisely the effect on that nation that postponing medical care too often has on a family… economic disaster as irreparable to the body politic as medical disaster is to the human body. Again, let me emphasize: this does NOT have to happen. I suspect even European banksters know that, as loath as they are to admit it. We all know what to do; the problem is persuading the wealthy and powerful to do their rightful share. And we all need to lose the “belt” metaphor.

Another Bipartisan ‘Grand Bargain’?

The mind recoils. But apparently it’s in the works, probably to be sprung on us after the elections. According to David Dayen, The Hill (see below for link) says that, in Dayen’s words, “Republicans have joined a bipartisan working group that is preparing a document on deficit reduction.” Yes, of course, some Democrats… with full White House support… are rumored to be ready and willing to cut “Medicare and other social programs” (Dayen).

Not surprisingly, this is apparently in part the work of Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whipped. Whip, I mean… yeah, whipped. Damn, I did it again! I wonder why that keeps coming out…

Then there’s this, which Dayen quotes from The Hill:

The core House group of roughly 10 negotiators is derived from a larger Gang of 100 lawmakers led by Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Health Shuler (D-N.C.), who urged the debt supercommittee to strike a grand bargain last year.

And it’s all being negotiated… and apparently already drafted… in secret. That seems to be the pattern of legislation lately: we peasants don’t get to see the action. Sometimes we get to see it after it’s in place as law; sometimes not even that. Sometimes it’s implemented in trials held in ordinary courts at law; sometimes it’s litigated in secret courts. (I have no reason to believe this particular law will be secret, only the process of legislating it.) I never thought I’d live to see the day. But it’s here: we not only do not control our government, we aren’t even witnesses to it.

I’ve never been a fan of “bipartisanship” … why have parties, if they don’t oppose each other? But even if “bipartisanship” is something I have to accept as today’s reality… why all the secretiveness? If the shit is about to hit the fan, can’t we be given at least a minimal opportunity to duck?

Greece: A Brief Update

As my earlier post, The Last Colony, scrolls off the main page, our regular commenter on Greek affairs, L’Enfant de la Haute Mer, continues to keep us up to date on conditions and events in Greece. Two of her recent links to articles struck me as particularly relevant. First, an article in The Nation, Greece in Meltdown, by Maria Margaronis:

For decades, Greeks have had a relationship of antagonistic symbiosis with the state, resenting its inefficiency and petty bureaucracy while relying on the big party machines to keep them comfortable. … “[Now,] The whole political system has been discredited,” [former truck driver Nikolaos Koumbariotis] said. “At this moment, no one believes in anything. No one has any faith that there could be some sort of representation that could solve our problems.”

… But it’s also because Greek democracy has been suspended for some time. Both main parties have split under the pressure of the impossible choice—default or deeper austerity—extorted from Greece by its lenders; on February 12 each expelled some twenty members of Parliament for voting against the terms of the new loan deal, a 700-page document they were given one day to read. …

(Americans know about huge bills which legislators are given only a day or two to read… can you spell “PATRIOT Act,” children? Of course, that is the single law most destructive of American democracy in all of American history, and in more rational times with a less radical Supreme Court, it would be overturned as unconstitutional. Instead, it has become the basis of more infringements of civil liberties, e.g., the Military Commissions Act, and more draconian unitary executive policies from administrations of both major parties.)

The other link of note is to a YouTube video of an interview of Costas Douzinas, professor of law at Birkbeck University, London. The uploader of this video provides one brief transcription conveying the flavor of Prof. Douzinas’s commentary:

You can push people out of the way until they leave the country if they can or they live off the rubbish bins. At the moment we have 22 per cent unemployment, 50 per cent unemployment among the youth, and a huge increase in homelessness, which may result in a proportional increase in suicide

We in America think we live in hard times, and no doubt we do. But our suffering is nowhere nearly as bad as Greek suffering… and while our democracy is threatened, theirs is apparently completely gone.