Sunday, July 5, 2015

Oxi To Austerity

That's Greek for the unmistakable overwhelming No to the banking cartel currently trampling all over democracy, all over the world, one nasty grind of the hyper-capitalistic heel at a time.

 The Greeks not only stood up for themselves, they just did the whole rest of the world a giant favor, too. They exercised some good, old-fashioned, bottom-up democracy. They spoke out against a group of very powerful, very sadistic people who thought that they could exercise their will through the instillation of fear and mass suffering. The pluto-sadists still do think that, but at least they've been rendered a little more uncomfortable as they bask in their pathology.

The victorious Greek referendum makes me wish that we had a parliamentary system of government right here in the Birthplace of Freedom for the Propertied Classes. How awesome it would be, for example, if the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its evil offshoots were subject to a popular referendum instead of a quickie  ratification by a corrupt Congress! How democratically old-fashioned if we could all vote "no confidence" the next time the clowns manufacture their own debt crisis as an excuse to cut food stamps and unemployment insurance! Those aristocratic Founding Fathers that some of us celebrated yesterday knew exactly what they were doing when they invented "representative" democracy.

It's still too early to tell if democracy will prevail in Greece, the birthplace of true, bottom-up democracy. After all, remember when some naifs were silly enough to predict that such corrupt regimes as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup had gasped their greedy last back in 2008 when they were caught red-handed, wrecking the global economy?

 And then, spitting in the face of all that is decent and moral and humane, these same entities and their various subsidiaries were allowed to rise up again, bigger and more gruesomely powerful than ever before? 

Never satiated, the hedge fund operators, the private equity moguls, the too big to fail banks, the oligarchs, the rentier and investor class of billionaires --  are on a rampage, bleeding their victims dry before grinding them into pulp.

The financial terrorism now being practiced on Greece is nothing new. It got its start decades ago with the "Washington Consensus" method of plundering Latin American countries under the guise of "aid" provided by the International Monetary Fund (part of the troika imposing austerity on Greece). In exchange for loans to strapped or corrupt governments, the banksters  demanded and got "fiscal discipline" to curb budget deficits; a reduction in public expenditures; deregulation of the finance sector and the economy, with interest rates determined by "the market"; trade deals that favored American multinationals over local companies and sovereign governments; promotion of direct foreign "investment" with an ironclad guarantee of property rights for corporations.

This Washington Consensus (thought to have been discredited when Argentina told it to eff off) has been duly exported to the rest of the world, which of course now also includes such Wall Street-devastated All-American cities as Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore. Can you imagine if there were a Greek-style referendum in which people could just say "Oxi" to school closings and water privatization?

Legend has it that vampires die when they're exposed to the light. Dracula Neoliberalus has become so monstrous and so strong that it probably will require multiple exposures to light (and a banshee wail of populist outrage) before finally crumbling.

It needs multiple stakes of truth through its corrupt heart. It's become so used to getting its own way, sucking up bailouts and corporate welfare with such bloodthirsty abandon that it thinks it is invincible. And it very well might be.

So there is much work to be done. The first task is to debunk the propaganda which dictates that the world is one vast open-air marketplace devoid of national legislatures and judiciaries and governments for the greater good of all. Trickle-down prosperity is a lie that won't easily die. Repeat early, repeat often: the production and sale of goods is not the heart of civilization. People are.

Rather than pursuing the public good, neoliberalism employs technocrats (the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, etc.) who treat individual governments as businesses ripe for the plucking.  They treat people as consumer-workers who must pay the price whenever the bankers and the bosses (whose greed has made them terminally stupid) make their inevitable bad deals and bad choices.

Engaged, caring citizens are anathema to Neoliberalism. We must refuse the directive to become "entrepreneurs" acting in our own self-interest, clawing our individual ways up ladders of opportunity.

The banksters running the world have three distinct Washington Consensus-spawned policies that perpetuate their reign of error and terror: deregulation, corporatization via "free trade," and privatization of public goods and services. Social safety nets are slashed in favor of welfare-to-work schemes paying subsistence wages. Interest rates are kept artificially low to keep the non-existent inflation "bogeyman" in check. Offshore tax havens sheltering trillions of dollars in hoarded wealth are set up. All of this is done with the cooperation of "think tanks" and a media-political conglomerate that broadcasts the neoliberal agenda in forms designed to alternately tease, appease and enrage a victimized, exhausted public. (Things will get better someday.... but here's some health insurance for a lucky few to "consume".... we must close our borders to "those" people, but not ever to profits....  meanwhile,watch TV,  make friends on Facebook, drink, take brand-name prescription drugs at a 1000% markup.)

The Greeks said Oxi. Not only do they deserve debt relief, we owe them a huge debt of our gratitude. 

Democracy is catching on. Plutocracy is trembling in Dracula's Castle.

Here, for example, is what happened at a Brussels conference promoting the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership:


annenigma said...

'People Have the Power!' I am so proud of the Greek people who are supporting Syriza's efforts to break the chains of financial slavery to the Oligarchs. Podemos in Spain too. And Patti Smith rocks! There's a movement afoot.

I wonder if the malcontents at the World Socialist Web Site are still badmouthing Syriza and Alex Tsipras. They seem more interested in sowing divisions than in helping unite people around common goals.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, thanks for this post on the Greek situation, which at least for me has been hard to grasp completely with all the shades of commentary pro/con.

This has to be one of your most clear and powerful posts, summing up world trends, long building up.

The multinational neo liberals are trying to take over the world, but we must admit they succeed more in some countries than others. The US is a sitting duck, with our dominant free market fanatics, little effective opposition, only 2 parties easy to dominate, our bought elections, and even our Dem presidents with Wall St in their cabinets automatically. And of course, voters who identify with their oppressors and exploiters.

In some nations, the neo libs haven’t been so successful with their parliaments and public opinion. They have explicit working class party traditions, which the US shuns. Thus less destruction of their working and middle class. So far, their conservatives don’t aim to destroy their generations old health care systems, unlike our Gop.

But I have heard of lower retirement ages, hikes in college tuition and partial h/c privatization attempts, at least in UK--- don’t know how far that’s gone. The UK seems to have more in common with USA, than some continental nations. The Murdoch influence?

I recall I read Europeans did vote negatively in a referendum on their free trade deals, per a commenter. But I can’t find anything on it now.

But you summed it up: deregulation, corporatization, and privatization.

The US right wing has their 5 year plans just like Stalin.

Step by step methodology includes lowering wealth taxes, shifting burden to the majority of ordinary citizens.
Exporting millions of US jobs and importing cheaper replacements for fired US employees.
Destroy unions, replace pensions with 401k self directed accounts, subject to the market roller coasters.
Dismantle rule of law for Wall St, giving them power over the economy.
Raise tuition, causing debt servitude.
Let the medical industry keep costs soaring eve higher over decades. The score on that is USA—millions of bankruptcies. Other advanced countries –zero bankruptcies—per NYT.
No laws against media monopoly and underfunded public media needing corporate support. Kochs and PBS.

Citizens United by the Court is the cherry on the cake for the Takeover of the world’s ‘greatest democracy’. Call it free $peech.
John Nichols book, “Dollarocracy”, says many groups in states are working to overturn this, but I see nothing on the media, so are they keeping it dark?

My question---- in nations with free media time for all candidates, such as France, etc, how do the media profits compare to those in the US, where one of their biggest profit sources is the years of campaign ads financed by billionaire donors?
Do their lobbyists push for American style 2 billion dollar election campaigns? Think of all those profits.

Cirze said...

I've linked you, Karen.

Great essay.

And Yanis V., Finance Minister, has given up the fight already.

annenigma said...

Yanis has given up the fight already? Au contraire! Yanis Varoufakis has just begun to fight. He knows what Elizabeth Warren knows.

“We of the Left know how to act collectively with no care for the privileges of office,” blogged Varoufakis, who has described himself as a “libertarian Marxist.” He called Greece’s struggle against European Union creditors a “superhuman effort” that is only “just beginning.”

Jay–Ottawa said...

Memories of the Colonels' Coup of 1967 worry the worriers. Will Greece leave the EU? is one question. In addition, will Greece's military consent to a likely follow-on step of dropping out of NATO? So then, will the Left be shouldered aside once again by the Greek military, helped along by local reactionaries and foreign meddlers, especially the foreign meddlers?

Here's an interesting comment from The Intercept. Military coups are no longer in fashion. Big money and state agencies (other than the military) can handle these problems without tanks in the streets.

tombrowns' schooleddaze' 04 Jul 2015 at 11:19 am

The Greek tragedy, now playing an encore season of manipulated austerity and social discontent, awaits any country that does not toe the US line. The implied threat of bringing any country to its economic knees and the ensuing pandemonium of poverty induced turmoil is as frightening as the US humanitarium comfort of bombing and drone strikes.

American rule relies as much on finanical control as it does on military superiority. On the poorer nations bullets fall, on more wealthy ones derivaitives can achieve the same results. The GFC has shown that banks (too big to fail) and IMF are an essential weapon in world control.

The military Industrial complex always had banks backing it.

“Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game.”
Matt Taibbi

Jay–Ottawa said...

Thomas Piketty has been granting interviews in France and Germany on the Greek crisis. He doesn’t mince words. Fragments of his Q&A with Die Zeit (translated into English and not long) found at the link below.

One of the nuggets therein:

Die Zeit: Do you believe that we Germans aren’t generous enough?

Piketty: What are you talking about? Generous? Currently, Germany is profiting from Greece as it extends loans at comparatively high interest rates.

valerie said...

Great essay, Karen - and I LOVED the flashmob clip!

Thanks for the link to the Thomas Pickity interview. Wish it were longer! But that guy is powerful in what he puts out there. The whole idea of looking at debt from a historical perspective is profound.

Bill Black has a really good essay on Greece. Thanks for the link on your blog roll, Karen. Black has a way of giving the relevant background and historical and economic perspective that is as educational as the points he is making in his essay. I would LOVE to sit in on his classes.

Correct me if I am wrong - and I really miss Denis at times like this
- the likes of Goldman Sachs helped Greece cook the books to get into the EU
- Germany and France didn't cotton on
- the big American banks loaned, unsecured and at high interest rates, loads of money to Greece
- when it looked like Greece was going to default on the private investment bank loans, Obama went over to the EU and strong armed the EU banks into bailing out Greece / the private investment banks
- so now the EU banks are on the hook for bad debt
- and now they want to impose the austerity and poverty on Greece that was not imposed on Germany and France after WWII
- Greece has given them the finger
- and now the EU is powerless to make Greece pay

Just a note of interest - We should look at Iceland after they defaulted on their debt after The Crash. They had some lucky breaks in that they took the world by surprise, had minerals to exploit and China was interested in helping them - but I find it interesting that no one is talking about Iceland. It is as if there is a media blackout on how well Iceland has done by rejecting austerity.

This is a link to an older interview on Canadian radio (h/t Jay-Ottawa) that I found incredibly enlightening.

valerie said...

What I MEANT to write is the whole idea of looking at Greece's debt from the historical perspective of the debt forgiven after WWII, is profound. Sorry - I sounded either trite or sarcastic in my first rendition.