The Greek Crisis: What You Need to Know About the State of Europe Right Now.

Guess I’m not done discussing this topic by a long shot! I thought this time, I’d at least spend a bit more time giving a detailed analysis of my personal opinion and understanding of the crisis.

The reason I guess is because I just have a hard time finding anyone one out there, who I feel has a good grasp of the issue and doesn’t paint a picture of the Greeks being morally useless, or of them being totally innocent bystanders of the crisis. And the solution is either a catastrophe, Greece is going to hell in a hand-basket, the apocalypse is coming when the switch to the drachma, a la Paul Krugman and the NYT, or a la Frau Merkel, save and cut until blood runs in the street and families starve. So I figured if I thought I should put my money where my mouth is and elaborate for esp, the Americans who get very little coverage of this issue and when they do, it’s just dire predictions, that don’t help to enlighten the viewer.

I do encourage debate though and am more than interested in what other have to say about this matter, as long as they can bring something more than moral posturing to the table.

Here’s an example from John Stewart. You need to go to the website, but trust me, it’s worth it, in the very least for his shock that Greeks through yogurt as a sign of protest! Also it’s a telling comparison between the US/Greece deficit. Grecian Crisis on John Stewart The only difference of course is, that the US Federal Reserve (and our Chinese Frenemies) guarantee the value of the dollar, and therefore our deficit, is less of a risk, than that of Greece, where precisely the opposite is the problem. Who will underwrite and guarantee the value of European currency when bad bonds have been passed around (thanks to US style unregulated banking practices, a la Goldman Sachs)? See this NTY article if you want to understand more.

That’s why we are back to our discussion of Eurobonds! First off, will Greece leave the Eurozone. I’m going to put myself out there and say NO WAY. Most Americans will disagree, and even England apparently has little confidence. Thanks guys. But here’s what the European Central Bank seems to think about that.

The ECB’s “preference is that Greece remains in the eurozone. That’s the Plan A, that’s what we’re working on,” executive board member Jörg Asmussen told a conference in the German capital. Asked whether the central bank also had a “Plan B”, Asmussen replied: “There’s already been criticism that there is none. But as soon as you start talking about ‘plan B’ or ‘plan C’ then
‘plan A’ is automatically thrown out of the window.”

Then there’s this from ekathemerini.com comparing Greece to the Argentina and Asia rebound:

Economists doubt Greece could recreate their successes. Argentina and the Asian nations could rely on an otherwise relatively robust global economy, a luxury not afforded to Greece. Argentina benefited from a commodity boom in 2003-2004. “Greece’s exit could itself do such damage that its export markets would suffer,» said ABN AMRO’s Kounis, referring to other eurozone nations which could be hit by a contagion effect from a Greek euro departure.

From other sources I’ve read, another problem that would prevent Greece from recovering quickly if they exit the Euro, is that Greece’s workforce, remains highly mobile, and with such a crisis and the ease of movement in Europe, the very justified brain-drain, would delay improvement for years.

I don’t think this is in the cards. Not in the least because Merkel is a career politician, narrowly focused on local elections, and too worried about the impact of her legacy to go down as the chancellor who let the Euro fail! Although just as I mentioned in my last post, and cited in Spiegel and other Greek sources, now she’s denying suggesting such a referendum to the Greeks about whether they wanted to stay in or not.

Although I am not fond of the party, I completely agree with the quote from Nea Demokratia’s Party leader:

“The Greek people have no need for a referendum to demonstrate their choice for the euro, they have already made enough costly sacrifices to show that,” said Antonis Samaras, leader of the conservative New Democracy party which won inconclusive May 6 polls. Merkel’s suggestion, “above all coming in the run-up to the election, is regrettable and unacceptable,” Samaras said in a statement. “The Greek people have the right to respect from its (European) partners.”

As a historian, think Merkel, as a woman and East-German is an important milestone in German re-unification history. But is that enough to justify her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom? (For that matter, when my Greek kids asked me recently, what Pres. Obama had done to win the Nobel Peace Prize, I shrugged my shoulders and said maybe the committee had turned it into a popularity contest that year.) Nevermind, it seems though that every politician dealing with this Euro crisis is too concerned with their own elections to have a vision for a unified European future. And Merkel with Sarkozy, have led Europe in completely the wrong direction.

I think Merkel will be gone in the next elections. I can’t blame her for wanting a bit of security for Germany, and German industry and German credit, but she was so heavy-handed and preachy. In Germany, when something goes wrong, you say don’t say, oh I’m so sorry, how awful for you, you say pech i.e. bad luck for you, perhaps even sucks to be you. This is how it seems to me that Merkel has reacted to the harsh restrictions the rescue package has put on the Greek people. Not with compassion, but by telling them to suck it up and they had it coming.

Here’s a story: bf’s father went to school til he was 11, then he left for Athens, on his own to meet extended family to work until he could pay for all of his sisters to get married. Once he had done that, he left for Germany to become a guest worker in a factory. Over the years, he supported a family and little by little began to build a house back in the village he came from. This guy does everything by the books. He refuses to bribe construction workers to move up the list, and as such if has taken over 20 years and spades of money to get just now, barely completed. He has recently retired. A few years before the crisis, my bf told him to give up the dream of moving back to Greece and at least sell the house and make a profit. He refused, and now he has a house, he’ll probably never move to, which every year will cost him increasingly more taxes.  Tell me Merkel, did he deserve this bad luck?

Hollande? In a few years he’ll probably be just as corrupt as the rest of them, but meanwhile he got his boys out of Afghanistan. And that takes Cojones. And at least he’s getting the topic turned back to Euro Bonds. What I still find really hard to understand is why all of Europe thinks Alexis Tsipras and his party if elected to the majority, would mean that Greece will automatically exit the Euro-zone. Look what the Guardian had to say about these two:

Snubbing fellow EU politicians has become a bit of a trend lately.

President François Hollande of France, already seeking to set the European agenda, was being refused entry into polite governing company in London, Berlin, Warsaw, and Rome only a few weeks ago. Now the peers and rivals are queueing up to bond with the new French leader.

Tsipras, the moral victor of the Greek election earlier this month, is also being given the cold shoulder by policymakers in France and Germany, restricted to meeting with like-minded comrades on the outside left of politics who are having zero impact on the crisis management in Germany and minimal influence in post-election France.

Here’s something I’ve learned since living in Europe: If you get your news from just one country you have no real understanding of the situation. I read the news from the USA, Britain, Germany, Greece, and beyond, and I’ll read it in whatever language I have to. And only after I’ve seen every angle, will I decide what the heck is going on. What I like most about living in Germany is that they have beautiful in-depth coverage that tries to really get to the truth of the matter, no matter how dryly presented, nor how long it takes. If you understand German look here: DWyoutube

What I hate the most about American journalism is that they try to simplify complicated issues into black and white arguments. If they are confronted with a complicated issue, American readers get bored and start moralizing.

The UK likes to beat up on the Eurozone members, esp. Germany to make them feel better about their own deficit issues, and distract voters from their own ineffective austerity measures.

Whereas the Greek press likes to point the finger at anyone but itself and presents itself as the martyr or distracts its citizens by political infighting that have nothing to do with the bigger issues.

Here’s what the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had to say:

Those who vote for people’s hero Tsipras are voting for the exit from the currency union. Full stop! The leader of the radical left wants to continue the policy that led the country to ruin. He even thinks he can blackmail Athens’ partners. If he gets the approval of voters for that, it’s their decision. But others shouldn’t be made to pay for it. This fiasco must have an end.”

(If you want the full-range of fear-mongering check it out here.)

I gotta say, I love how he responded:

Syriza’s opposition to the terms of Greece’s financial-aid program doesn’t mean the country would have to abandon the euro if the party forms a government after June 17 elections, party leader Alexis Tsipras said. Presenting the elections as a choice between Greece’s memorandum with international lenders to stay in the euro and leaving the single currency is “alarmist,” represents a “vulgar propaganda campaign” against Syriza and is an attempt to “terrorize the Greek people” with a false dilemma

And this at the Paris press conference about the austerity program:

This has driven my country to an unprecedented crisis and a humanitarian crisis. If this experiment is successful in Greece it will be exported to other European countries…. The war we are fighting in Europe is not between people or nations, it is between the forces of work and the invisible forces of finance and banks.

Perhaps the German newspapers should actually read what he says. He actually wants and encourages the Greek people to take action into their own hands.

 I don’t believe there are heroes or saviours in politics. I don’t feel like a saviour: salvation can only be found by people en masse when they understand they have power in their hands. I totally disagree with the notion of a nation looking for heroes and saviours, especially a nation that needs a saviour. Whenever I am in contact with people who tell me of their woes and say “Save us”, I always say that we are the only people who can save ourselves, altogether, when we realise the power that we have in our hands. It is a mistake to put salvation in the hands of individuals.

Right now, I represent a political party that works collectively, and which represents the struggle and anguish of a great part of the Greek people. Someone else could easily represent it. Since I am in this position, I will try to do my best but I know that my power is not dependent on my own capabilities or strengths but on the trust and strength that people will give us through their vote.

For that matter, Obama fans in America could do to read this interview.

I can’t say exactly I’m a fan of his, but I respect him for trying to turn Europe on its head. All this moral posturing is a ridiculous distraction. Listen to the ideas of others. I think someone needs to stand up to the bullies in Europe and demand dignity for the Greek people, so that a solution can be found that doesn’t punish citizens to starvation for the sins of big business and corrupt politicians.

I see my kids every day and when they tell me they want to live in Greece later and have the nerve to hope for a happy future, I tell them not to give up, but keep dreaming of returning, bring some German organization they’ve soaked in here, pay those taxes, invest in solar energy(so you don’t have to import all of yours anymore), protect and cherish your land, your biggest natural resource. Politicians may try to kill their hope, but to me dreams are invaluable compared to money and my pupils deserve to have theirs.

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