Tag Archives: Greece bailouts
Part 1 – Three decades of creeping anti-capitalistic social-mania and big government expansion/intrusion collapses Greek economy.
Greece’s massive debt problem didn’t just simply appear overnight due to the Global recession of 2007. This was a tragedy created by over three decades of political battles between the last remnants of the once- principled economic party of the New Democracy (ND) versus the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), a radical party openly opposed to mainstream European social democracy. These battle lines were drawn in the sand after the fall of the Greek military dictatorship way back in 1974.
After Greece’s long-standing military dictatorship government fell in 1974, it created a political vacuum not unlike what we see in Egypt today. In the beginning of this struggle there were two main factions of governmental leaders that were vying for power: Constantine Karamanlis founded the [conservative] New Democracy party, (ND) while Andreas Papandreou had already founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), a radical party openly opposed to mainstream European social democracy. ( I call this the irresponsible and undefined Hope and Change political platform and will expound on that in part 2 )
First let’s take a close look at just what type of government Constantine Karamanlis’ (CK) New Democracy party consisted of in it’s initial creation. CK was elected as the Prime Minister of Greece in 1974 and held that position until 1980. During this time, the Karamanlis-led ND party ran on a platform which consisted of three main planks:
The first plank of the early ND party was the creation of a solid institutional framework meant to produce a two-party system yielding strong governments, and including a new constitution that reinforced the executive in order to enable governments to work more efficiently.
The second plank of Karamanlis’ project was a strong state that was geared towards national economic development. So insistent was Karamanlis on the pursuit of this goal that he dared apply a massive program of nationalizations in the Greek economy which both friends and foes dubbed as social-mania.
The third pland of Karamanlis’ ND party project was Greece’s Europeanization. The problems inherent in what was considered at the time to be a mainly conservative-based theme in the Karamanlis’ style of desired government points to severe contradictions between the three components in his plan. He combines an extravagant increase of governmental power under the guise of creating a strong economic development, all the while moving to nationalize a huge chunk of the private sector. This is a great example of how the supposedly conservative “New Democracy” party was actually heavily rooted in Socio-Liberal ideology right from the beginning. Keep in mind that this all started 37 years ago, thus the reference to Greece’s creeping social-mania in the title of this article. This was the actual start of the Greek erosion of operating on sound economic principles that would rear it’s ugly head in the form of the Greek debt crisis we see today. It is amazing to look back at the main planks of the New Democracy party and see that they basically abandoned all conservative principles while still claiming to represent the conservative style of government at the time of their creation.
Meanwhile, at the root of the Greek social-mania movement at the time, was Mr. Andreas Papandreou and his Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), the very radical anti- European social democracy group. Many economists consider the ND at the time to be actually rooted in left of center ideology ( not conservative by any stretch of the imagination) and the PASOK party, in representing the opposition, as consisting mainly of far left radical social change operatives. That situation could be transposed with America’s current political situation, which we will also explain in parts 2 and 3.
The early PASOK party platform was extremely anti-American and also opposed Greece’s ascension into the EU. ( in the beginning, which they quietly changed later on) As the New Democracy party of Karamanlis won control of the Greek government in 1974 on the three plank platform described above, the PASOK party came out with it’s own platform based on supposedly opposing the ND style of government. The PASOK platform was not well-defined in the beginning, not unlike the Hope and Change platform Americans voted for in 2008. Papandreou was also known as a “brilliant public speaker and political charmer” at the time Greece was struggling to install a new government in 1974. [That should sound eerily familiar to Americans that are today wondering how in the world Barack Obama ascended to his current position of the presidency in America in 2008.]
The first plank in the platform of the PASOK party in the beginning was the elevation of certain people as opposed to citizens in general in which Papandreou promoted the radical economic expansion program based on manipulating the state and it’s resources without giving any thought towards creating a stable tax basis to fund the economic expansion. This was not unlike the ND party’s first plank in which Karmanlis wanted to expand governmental power towards controlling the private sector under the guise of creating a government-knows-best economic system. Both first planks were rooted in the very same socialistic policies of big government expansion while destroying the private sector revenue-creating economy along the way.
In the initial second plank of the PASOK party platform was a great example of how most politician’s quest for power leads to severe contradictions between promises of a fair government for all, and the supposed PASOK-hated elitist European governmental model opposition. The PASOK party’s second plank turned it’s back on the promised collective national welfare, and instead was heavily rooted in crony-capitalism in which jobs and social benefits were only given to select people, mainly their supporters. That too should sound very familiar to informed Americans today.
The final plank in Papandreou’s initial proposed platform of government is quite difficult to define. It contained an expressed belief in Greek supremacy while at the same time seemed to be rooted in fear of the bigger, stronger nations within Europe. That fear was not unfounded, as we will see the drastic effects of Greece joining the eurozone in 2001 in part 2 of this article. While the ND party seemed to realize early on the importance of joining the eurozone, the PASOK party wanted to rely on what some term protectionism, that would lead Greece to become isolated from doing business with many valuable European markets. Today, when looking back at the Greek debt crisis creation during the past three decades, economists have made cases for both sides of thisa argument. Greece joining the EU opened up eurozone markets for their exports, yet also flooded Greece with products from other European countries, some say at an unfair balance.
During the time of Karmanlis’ ND party rule from 1974-1980, Greece prospered under the new government , as Karamanlis could claim considerable success in all three aspects of his political project. Within a relatively short time, Greece became transformed into a pluralist polity with a democratic constitution, brand new political parties, and a working party system. Its state-led economy brought the country a real GDP growth of 4% a year between 1975 and the second oil crisis of 1979. Crowning his achievements, on January 1, 1981, Greece became a member of the EU, well ahead of her southern European competitors, Spain and Portugal. ( Whom are both also teetering on the brink of insolvency today) We must also keep in mind that pretty much all of the world’s major economies also enjoyed increased prosperity and robust economic growth during the late 70’s. In 1980, Karmanlis resigned as Premier and moved to the presidency of the Rupublic, he had what most people thought to be the prefect successor lined up to replace him in the highly acclaimed moderate George Rallis, who at the time was stated to have impeccable democratic credentials and whom promised the people he would continue the Karmanlis plan of government. Low and behold, the people turned their backs on the recent prosperity they enjoyed under the ND government and instead voted for Andreas Papandreou and his PASOK party’s promise of “allaghi” or the great change. In a very American-like political platform, Papandreou had campaigned on the platform of a policy plan that was a binding “contract with the people.” Americans should be very familiar with that political motto. Even as Greece and America are separated by thousands of miles of ocean, we see their political campaigns running quite parallel all to often. The political soundbites and media trickery used to get elected to powerful governmental positions have no boundaries, as is proven throughout world political history. The PASOK party platform of “allaghi” ran along the very same rails as FDR’s New Deal progressive big government expansion, and Barack Obama’s “fundamentally transforming America” statement of 2008. The PASOK party’s fundamental transformation of the Greek economy now has them begging for bailouts from the EU today to avoid a total collapse of their economy.
How did Greece fair under the far left radical Socialist PASOK party and Andreas Papendreou of the 80’s? PASOK remained in power throughout the 1980s and, save a brief interval during 1990-93, for most of the 1990s and early 2000s. Papandreou had meanwhile died in 1996 and was succeeded in PASOK leadership by Costas Simitis, a mild-mannered technocrat who desired to replace Papandreou’s populism with a new reformist spirit. He consistently pursued convergence, so that in January 2001 Greece was able to join the eurozone, but failed miserably to reform his party, which was eventually defeated at the polls in 2004. What was to be proven to be even more remarkable, however, was that when the ND came back into power in 2004, led by Costas Karamanlis, the very nephew of that party’s founder, far from trying to restore some of the latter’s project, they instead followed PASOK’s well-charted path of irresponsible populism and free-spending ways, patronage politics and toleration to corruption, along with further divergence from Europe. It was the combination of those three factors that, irrespective of party in office, simmered for a long time until it exploded in the form of the fiscal crisis that has recently hit Greece. Carefully consider the following chart of Greek debt and GDP spending from 1970 – 2010. The only reason we see a hint of a decrease in big government debt near the end of 2010 in this chart is due to the austerity measures forced upon the Greek government by the EU, in which resulted in bloody riots due to the massive budget cuts and increased taxes suddenly laid upon the shoulders of the working class. Eventually, America will also collide with that debt-wall, and trouble will ensue in the form of civil unrest. The green line represents total gross external debt as a percentage of GDP. ( most important figure)
Who are “The PIIGS”
The PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) have been in the news, but the econo-geek phrases being thrown around sometimes make it difficult to know why anyone in the U.S.A should care what happens if Greece, Italy or anyone in the Eurozone goes under.
It matters – greatly.
The entire mess is centered around entitlements and debt. Greece promised a load of social safety nets (government programs intended to do for those who could not do for themselves) to their population without considering the cost or ability to pay said cost. It has come to this point because Greece now owes almost 50% more than the entire Greek economy takes in each year. In economic terms, they are at 149% of debt-to-GDP.
Greece has been in-danger of defaulting on its debt for quite some time. That would be the same as if someone in America suddenly figured out that they were spending too much money and would not be paying their car payment, rent, student loan, and credit cards – EVER. Their debtors have already given them the money. Now, those agencies have little hope of recovering the investment and will have to write-off some or all of that investment. That money.. is gone – forever. Never to be loaned again. Missing from the economy – kaput.
Even the obviously left-slanted Washington Post put together a graphic that illustrates the dire situation that the EU citizenry have allowed their leaders to get them into.
The most obvious way that this matters to housewives, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cats, dogs and even MSNBC watchers in America is that our ratio is now 99.71% and climbing – we are eerily close to facing the exact same situation as the Greeks. The United States economy will take in an estimated $15.01 trillion dollars while it owes a projected $14.97 trillion . In a matter of months, we may see the point where our own government follows Greece and starts spending more than the entirety of the economy can produce.
The second major issue with a possible Greek default is U.S. financial sector and investor exposure. I know, economist-speak. Basically, American banks and investors have sunk quite a lot of money into the Euro Zone (the European countries that use the Euro as currency). If Greece defaults, a huge portion of those investments will be lost. It will make American banks weak and possibly cause some to become cash-strapped or fail.
The Bailout, the referendum and the retirement
Greece has been bailed out time-after-time by the European Central Bank (ECB) and EU member nations. The most-recent bailout package requires that Greece accept a series of austerity measures. These measures cut government programs and re-privatize government assets and services to get Greece back on the proper financial footing. Unfortunately, the Greek PM belongs to the socialist party and wouldn’t accept them. So he turned to the people.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou had last week offered to push the idea of severe cuts to government programs (similar to food stamps, medicare, medicaid, social security, etc) on to the people to decide. Without the reforms, the ECB would not give Greece the money it needs to keep the country going. The vote by the people is called a referendum. It is an Athenian or pure democratic approach to a policy consideration. The problem? The people, when given a choice to raid the treasury or lose an entitlement will .. raid the treasury – an excellent example of why pure democracy fails.
In the end, Papandreou had to rescind his call for a referendum and has now consented to leave the government upon the formation of a new coalition or “unity” government. In other words, he’s been forced to let someone else replace him and re-organize the quarreling masses in the Greek parliament.
No, not the movie. If Greece defaults, Italy will surely fall next and Spain may not be far behind.
Just Tuesday, Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi announced that he would step down as soon as a new government could be set up in his country. In Italy, it’s a North vs. South battle that closely parallels the Northern European vs. Southern European differences. The north is heavily commercialized and productive while the south tends to be less so. Spending cuts are necessary in order for Italy to receive badly needed aid from the European Central Bank (ECB). Failing to hold a majority during the recent parliamentary vote, Berlusconi offered his resignation to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Spain has a cash problem as well. Home of the “toma la bolsa” or take the market movement that inspired the Occupy Wall Street protests, Spain has entitlement issues of their own. A population that is used to retiring early, working less and getting taken care of cares not that it is not a sustainable model.
The “So What” of it all
So why does a mother, father, kids or Grandma care if Greece defaults on its debt?
First, the exposure to Greek debt in EU and American banks is significant. Recovery rates (the percentage of original investment an investor can expect to get back after default) would likely be less than 40%. It could be even less if loans weren’t originated with a currency contingency built in. Those banks then run the risk of becoming under-capitalized and perhaps failing.
If a large number of banks fail or look like they might, one of two things might happen. Either the central banks (ECB, Fed, IMF, etc) start propping them up with liquidity (bank bailout 2.0) or they fail and there could be a run on the banks to pull out assets – which would cause a more widespread liquidity crunch and a death spiral for the financial sector and the economy overall.
If banks are under-capitalized, loans will be impossible to get for businesses and consumers. Just like after the 2008-2009 U.S. financial mess, banks will tighten lending rules, revoke lines-of-credit and preserve capital.
Lastly – inflation – a lot of it. Eventually the central banks and governments will try to alleviate the liquidity crisis by pushing more cash into the system through bailouts, stimulus, quantitative easing or issuance of a devalued currency. Depending on the amount of “help” given, it could cause prices on everything to skyrocket.
To control the massive inflation that results, interest rates will be rapidly raised which will make borrowing much more expensive. Manufacturers that borrow will have much higher debt service costs and that will be passed on to consumers through higher prices. Prices up + weaker currency = strained family and business budgets.
That will put the economy into full reverse as families, banks and businesses tighten their belts to weather the storm.
Now imagine how things magnify if Italy then defaults, or Ireland, or Portugal or Spain or …
Many Americans were kind of surprised when German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived for what was largely an unannounced White House visit recently. While many self-proclaimed political experts surmised that the main topic of discussion would be the ongoing three wars the U.S. is currently in, the real agenda has come out recently via thegatewaypundit:
President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged European countries and bondholders to prevent a “disastrous” default by Greece and pledged U.S. support to help tackle the country’s debt crisis.
Obama, whose political prospects have suffered from persistently high unemployment and ballooning U.S. debt, has pinpointed the euro zone crisis as one foreign “headwind” hitting the U.S. economy.
After a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he stressed the importance of German “leadership” on the issue – a hint that he expects Berlin to help – while expressing sympathy for the political difficulties European Union countries face in helping a struggling member state.
“I’m confident that Germany’s leadership, along with other key actors in Europe, will help us arrive at a path for Greece to return to growth, for this debt to become more manageable,” Obama said.
“But it’s going to require some patience and some time. And we have pledged to cooperate fully in working through these issues, both on a bilateral basis but also through international and financial institutions like the IMF.” (emphasis mine)
If that little tidbit doesn’t get American taxpayer’s blood boiling, this next one is certainly going to blow open some eyes and ears. Not only is Obama pledging stealth U.S. bailout dollars to be sent to Greece, who already has been bailed out numerous times, but the fact is that the money will mainly go to German and UK banks, not Greece itself! Big bankers, just like our very own wall street, have made irresponsible financial decisions, yet will not be held accountable for the losses they incurred by those actions in bailing out Greece with no real plan to fix Greece’s debt problem. Yes they called for the cutesy “austerity” measures, yet those measures are obviously either a huge failure, or this is all just a stealth plot to enable more never-ending Socialist wealth redistribution. Either way, we should be asking since Speaker Boehner supposedly holds the American taxpayer’s purse in the U.S. House of Representatives, just how can Obama decide to bailout big bankers in Germany and the U.K. under the guise of bailing out Greece without it passing through Congress? What say you Mr. Speaker?
Our friends over at birdflu666 exposed the fact about just who has been raking in the billions of bailout dollars that supposedly went to Greece, Portugal, and Ireland:
Peter Böfinger, an economic advisor to the German government, said that the Berlin should come clean about the fact that the billions in eurozone bailouts are going primarily to German banks.
”[The bailouts] are first and foremost not about the problem countries but about our own banks, which hold high amounts of credit there,” he said.
Well, Peter, I do think more many people in Germany realise that Deutsche Bank and co are making record profits because of the money it is sucking out of the tax payers of Greece and Germany.
But I don’t think it is going to be of much cheer up to Germans already fed up with having to hand over their money to Deutsche Bank and co via national bailouts to find out that the rest is going to Deutsche Bank and co via international eurozone bailouts that violate the Lisbon Treaty (emphasis mine)
So the German people are not happy to hear that their tax dollars are being redistributed to the corrupt, in-bed-with-Merkel Deutsche Bank, while they make record profits. Kinda sounds like Bush/Obama and Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley , BOA and Citigroup here in the U.S. doesn’t it? Now that Obama’s crony-capitalism with those supposedly-Liberal-hated U.S. bankers has been exposed, I believe Obama has taken his Socialistic wealth redistribution overseas to try to disguise it as bailing out Greece. Oh what a tangled web we weave….when voting for the hope n change thieves. Wake up folks.
At least we now know the real reason Obama welcomed Merkel to the White House in a ceremony fit for a “Royal Queen.”