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Merkel's racist lies

by talos Wed May 18th, 2011 at 09:14:36 AM EST

Chancellor Merkel has decided to chide those lazy Southerners for being well... lazy:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has attacked southern European countries such as Greece where people retire early and take lots of holidays, saying they can no longer enjoy such lifestyles at the cost of other EU members like Germany

Apparently Ms. Merkel is under the impression that Germans work more than Greeks, an impression that could have been easily dispelled were she to turn to the OECD statistics instead of the vile and racist punditry of German populist right-wing rags. The OECD tables show that for Greece the average annual hours actually worked per worker in 2009 reach 2119, versus 1390 for Germany. That is a little over 60% of hours worked by Greeks. Spanish workers worked 1654 hours. Portuguese 1719.

But what about the number of days of paid leave? Surely Germans have fewer holidays than the Greeks. Well, not according to Wikipedia. In Greece the number is +/- 20 days, depending on seniority, while in Germany it's 4 weeks.

Then pensions? It surely is a scandal according to The Local that reports this nonsense, that:

"The current Greek retirement age of mid- to late-50s is to be raised to 65 for men this summer as part of a package of changes to be introduced by the government this year"

But wait, if it is now set to rise to 65, what exactly is the problem? And how about that mid to late 50s myth. The actual average age of retirement in Greece before the IMF and the ECB shock was 61, as testified i.e. in this Reuters story.

Salaries then! What about those enormous Greek salaries. Well according to Eurostat:

...Greece... has the most underpaid private sector employees compared to the rest of the "Eurozone". In Greece, the average gross monthly wage, including social security and taxes, is 803 euros [about £700 or US$1063], while the lowest gross salary in, for example, Ireland is 1300 euros, in France 1250 euros and in the Netherlands 1400 euros

I'm not even considering that the wingnut Austrian policies that the ECB, with the aid of the IMF is implementing in Greece, have resulted in three succesive years of deep contraction (and who knows how many more) - a depression actually, coupled with high inflation, and sky-rocketing unemployment (it's difficult I note to be productive when there are no jobs out there) and that by these policies Germany and the core EU is relegating Greece to colonial status and pauperization, despite the fact that, as JC Junker has admitted, the German government has been complicit with Greek governments in hiding (and profiting I should add as the recent scandals in Greece involving German companies show) and perpetuating the large scale theft of the Greek economy by corrupt politicians and oligarchs...

To hell or the front page ... Colman


There are two more things to note here:

  • First that the barrage of anti-worker developments which led to the stagnation of German wages for a decade now, is heralded as some sort of proof of German economic wisdom and is used to turn the Germans against the workers of the EU south, whose living standards are by any measure far, far inferior to those of their German counterparts. In fact in terms of buying power Greek wages (in the private sector especially) have also stagnated for the past decade, while profits at the same time soared. It is interesting, and instructive in a sense, that this base and racist rhetoric chooses to focus on the imaginary "lazy Greek workers", instead of the quite real corrupt and opulent Greek elites that have made out like bandits during the past decade...

  • Second that this sort of propagation of negative stereotypes by a EU leader is absolutely unacceptable  coming indeed at the exact same moment that Greek society is devoured by a depression that, if the austerity madness inflicted upon Greece continues, will lead the country to irreversible mass penury. The chancellor's rhetoric, one would hope, should rise above catering to the stereotypes of Bild readership. Especially given the "unfortunate" historical load that racist populism carries in relation to the German Right.

Finally: I do not expect the Quisling government of Athens, happily collaborating with the fiscal occupation and plunder of the country to react to this outrage any time soon, except perhaps in the most tepid of tones. They are after all in a partnership whose goals are absolutely compatible with the historical wishes of the Greek Union of Industrialists, in creating an employers paradise on earth, or rather in the EU.

...As the troika yesterday dictated the terms of surrender for the Greek political parties and the rapid sell out of public property, including all of the government monopolies in power, water and trains, the feeling that I am now living in an ECB colony, treated as a non-citizen in my own country, surely is ominous even for German workers, whether they realize it already or not....

Display:
The EU is a disgrace.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 09:09:43 AM EST
It's hard work explaining you've screwed your own voters.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 09:19:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Merkel is truly the Chancellor of the Bildzeitungsrepublik Deutschland.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 04:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
2013 is a long, long, long way ahead. And who knows, if the SPD is really as stupid as to pick Steinbrück, and the Greens don't eclipse the SPD and accept the SPD's choice, an eventual Merkel lection defeat won't bring positive change, either.

If the EU really destroys itself from the inside while the centre-left continues to do the same to itself, fascism will have a comeback: sooner or later one of the truly fascist far-right parties (like Jobbik of Hungary or Chryssi Avgi of Greece) will win an election.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 09:54:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't envision it happening in Greece. I support the Left in Greece, but the reaction to the fascists of the 1970s has mostly righteous, but also in some instances knee-jerk. And it has hurt the left. The vast majority of Greeks do not look fondly on that period, and to a degree Greece is inured from it more than most countries. Greece was not always one of the most left-leaning countries on the continent, not always one of the most Anti-American. There's a reason for what happened. And the reaction to the early 1970s is still strong, and still in play.
by Upstate NY on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:30:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But for how long? The Greek centre-'left' is destroying itself as executioner of austerity, the military dictatorship is no living memory for younger voters, and the target of Chryssi Avgi is not university students but foreigners, and once push would come to shove and the fight would be against leftists, today's shop-burning anarchists would be easier to demonise and marginalise. (What is Chryssi Avgi's relationship to/view on the junta anyway? Is there a clear connection?)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 12:43:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there is a clear connection between them and the junta. Remember, Greece is a society that tolerated a level of violence by domestic terrorists that exceeds what was going on in other European countries. Right now, the business interests and the rich are the ones who are taking the brunt of public opinion. The current chaos already fits into the narrative Greeks were predisposed to believe, which is why you saw more protests and more of a reaction in Greece than you saw anywhere else.
by Upstate NY on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The demise of Socialism is having real consequences in terms of a huge re-distribution of wealth from the poor to the rich all disguised by re-envisaging it through the prism of crude nationalistic stereotypes and blaming the poor for their own fate.  In one sense the stereotype may be justified - insofar as the poor are complicit in their own looting.  

The last time we had this it led to a world war as the elites struggled to retain their stranglehold by other undemocratic means. The EU was meant to put an end to all this.  Now it is becoming the instrument of the globalised ruling elites who have no national allegiance - except for the purposes of PR.  The ECB doesn't even pretend to have a democratic mandate, and its loyalty is to the ruling financial classes regardless of nationality.  And where is the EP in all of this?  Impotent as usual.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 10:02:05 AM EST
Shouldn't we be asking how it is that the Germans are able to be so "lazy" and still well paid, with low unemployment?

I suspect that Merkel's to attached at the hip to her FDP buddies to recognize that the answer isn't "free markets."

It's a sad thing that the Germans aren't promoting the policies and economic arrangements, e.g. the social market economy, that have worked so well for them for the EU as a whole.

For each hour worked, the German economy got $47.56 (2005 constant PPP), while the Greeks only got $30.45, the Spanish $40.34, and in Portugal each hour worked produced $22.18.

If the EU were a sensible body interested in creating convergence towards a higher standard of living, the concern would be about how to increase productivity.  Together with an agreement to restructure debt into GDP linked bonds (only principal) this could have a a real impact.

Fix the real problems in these economies, and give them debt restructuring in return.    

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 10:31:21 AM EST
I am increasingly convinced that the low "productivity" (defined as euros of output per euro of wages or hour of work) is the result of chronic underinvestment in physical plant. German wages are higher than peripheral wages, so the high productivity is obtained with an even higher value of output.

The point is that a worker working with their bare hands is going to produce less output than a worker working with proper tools. So underinvestment in physical capital results in low labour productivity.

But all the Serious People think the problem is the workers.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 10:41:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is an important point. I'd rate it equally with the failure to provide educational opportunity and also to provide the motivation for education (which of course is a complex issue).

And tools includes IT.

I note in a recent world survey (citation needed) that 41% of English workers thought their immediate bosses to be totally incompetent. The figure was less in France - maybe 19% as I recall).

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:00:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "peripherals" are well educated. A whole generation of Greeks has studied abroad and is comfortable with new technologies. The Spanish problem is what to do with a "best-educated generation ever" which appears condemned to a combination of unemployment, menial work and mileurism with the IMF recently warning of the risk of a "lost generation".

No, the problem is the bosses.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:07:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.

Spain has educated workers. The real problem is that Spanish businesses often seek to compete on low wages instead of good management and investment strategies.

The Basque Country has been a notable, if partial, exception.

There this is more competition based on quality and specialization, with the attendant investment in plant and vocational skills.  The uncoordinated use of universities to provide workers marketable skills ends badly.  Student leave with a general education and little of actual use in getting a job.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:16:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain has educated workers. The real problem is that Spanish businesses often seek to compete on low wages instead of good management and investment strategies.

That's not the story that the Spanish serious people are telling in serious publications such as this one.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:42:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Might that be because they are neo-liberal pieces of puta mierda?

Seriously. This is around the area of my dissertation.  Spain, varieties of capitalism, etc.

Part of my argument is that at least one part of Spain, e.g. the Basque Country, has been moving closer to the German model, and away from the more liberal UK model. And if you look at the numbers, the Basque country have fared much better in this recession than the rest of Spain.  It's one of, if not the only, part of the industrialized world in which industry as a % of GDP is on the rise.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:07:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When are you next visiting for field work?

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:15:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't really know if I'm going to be able to do field work.  No money, no time.  The university has decided that they aren't going to honor their agreement to 6 years of funding.  So I have a year, and then I have to find a job. I will have to find work then, but I'm not sure if I will have the dissertation done. I've thought about trying to find work in Spain, but academic pay there is ridiculously low.  As I'm certain you know.  I had a friend offered a full time position in Barcelona for 1500 euro a month. With rents being what they are that's an issue.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gotta love the apuntes liberales de un chico de derechas blog.

I need a shower.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:16:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was in no way impugning Spanish education - merely pointing out that in a Just Society various priorities have to be straight.

Education and tools are two priorities. The others are: health and welfare support, low salary differentials, a justice system that treats all equally, regardless of income, and free speech and the right to congregate.

These are the MINIMUM conditions. There's lots more.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:08:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, profits and the real value of net worths need to be protected. That's the only priority at play here.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:10:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migreu:
No, the problem is the bosses.

The problem is also those who select the bosses and the financial and business paradigms under which they labor. The problem is "capital", which is, at its basis, political in nature -- the ability to order and reorder the structure of society in the interests of the ruling elite. Those interests in The WestTM, (the former First World), seem now to be wealth extraction and not wealth creation. And the even larger problem is the evil spell of wealth serving economic theory that has been cast over most of the population of The WestTM so as, as Frank S. noted, to enchant them to become the instruments of their own oppression through the Democratic selection of their leaders.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:14:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is ironic to note that this ongoing process is strongly supporting the emergence of China as the dominant power in the 21 Century and certainly hastening the relative rise of the BRICs. This is almost entirely because we privilege our elites to put the profit to themselves and their international firms far above the interests of the societies and nations in which they operate.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:18:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we take a moment to remind ourselves that the rise in power of states containing, what, half of humanity is a good thing?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:22:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a good thing in that the Chinese seem - so far - to be more pragmatic and less ideological about their economics.

(Ironically.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:29:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]

  And the "so far" is all-important.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 02:36:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Coleman, I agree that the rise of ALL of the BRICs is a good thing, the most positive thing to come out of this debacle. But accelerating that process by looting and tanking the economies of the former First World is not a good thing -- especially for the residents of those societies, the vast majority of which did not benefit from the process.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 05:25:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To ask another question - how much productivity is enough?

At what point will the serious people accept that workers in any country are pulling their weight?

It may be true that undercapitalisation leads to poor productivity, but it's also true that as long as workers elsewhere are being "more productive", comparisons can be used as a stick with which to beat those lower down the hierarchy.

I'm beginning to suspect the only way to stop this nonsense isn't direct action or protest - that's not working so well in Greece - but a persistent and lasting mass international blogger campaign of calling the serious people on their bullshit in every single online and offline forum that's available.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:03:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bingo!

I am increasingly convinced that the low "productivity" (defined as euros of output per euro of wages or hour of work) is the result of chronic underinvestment in physical plant.

Low wages are an inefficient subsidy to management because they discourage investment needed to make best use of employee's working hours. Think of a fast food restaurant.  If wages are high, things become automated.  For example instead of having a fryer manned by a low wage worker, you have machines that only need to be loaded and unloaded. Same thing with filling drinks. But these things cost money. Labor saving devices only make business sense if their purchase and upkeep costs less than paying someone to do it manually.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:10:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read the following the other day from a surprising source:

Allianz CEO warns against Greece default - paper

BERLIN, May 23 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Europe's largest insurer, Allianz, warned governments not to push Athens toward insolvency by blocking further aid to Greece.

...'Greece cannot save itself alone through a debt restructuring. The country must not decouple itself from capital markets,' Diekmann said. 'We need an industrialisation plan for Greece, a type of Marshall Plan. European labour and production need to be shifted to the country.'

A translation of the more detailed original, without linking to the Axel Springer source:

Mit einer Umschuldung allein ist Griechenland nicht zu retten. Das Land darf nicht vom Kapitalmarkt abgekoppelt werden, die Wirtschaft muss in der Lage sein zu gesunden und zu wachsen. Mit Geld allein ist das griechische Problem nicht zu lösen. Wir brauchen einen Industrialisierungsplan für Griechenland, eine Art Marshall-Plan. Es müsste Arbeit und Produktion aus ganz Europa in das Land verlagert werden. Was spricht dagegen, Fabriken nach Griechenland statt nach Osteuropa oder Asien auszulagern. Das würde den Griechen enorm helfen, um wieder auf die Beine zu kommen.Greece can not be saved with a debt rescheduling only. The country should not be decoupled from the capital market, the economy must be able to recuperate and grow. With money only, the Greek problem cannot be solved. We need an industrialization plan for Greece, a kind of Marshall Plan. Labour and production from all across Europe should be relocated to the country. What argument is there against outsourcing factories to Greece rather than Eastern Europe or Asia? This would greatly help the Greeks to get back on their feet.

(The same guy is advocating retirement at 69 in Germany, so he didn't suddenly became a leftie.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:47:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diekmann must actually believe in the EU, unlike Merkel.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:48:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
MfM
If the EU were a sensible body interested in creating convergence towards a higher standard of living, the concern would be about how to increase productivity.

Talos

it's difficult I note to be productive when there are no jobs out there

But every time you lay off a worker or cut his wages you increase "productivity". Could part of the problem be the way in which we understand, conceptualize and use the term "productivity".?

Wiki:

For example, labor productivity is typically measured as a ratio of output per labor-hour, an input.

So, according to this definition, widely used by "mainstream economics" by saving GM and Chrysler a large increase in productivity was foregone. This is a fallacy of composition error. It fails to take into account the knock on effects of losing the US parts manufactures, which could have seriously damaged Ford, the one auto manufacturer that did not require a bail out. Optimize productivity and you end up with no industry in high wage countries.

The Sacred Chalice of Productivity needs to be prominently labeled as "POISON, USE WITH CAUTION!".

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:59:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be clear.

The measure of productivity I'm using is not related to distribution.

It's simply GDP (PPP) divided by the number of hours worked in the country. Wages are presumably somewhat substantially lower than this figure.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I presumed, and I am certainly not faulting your analysis. You are using the standard tools. My criticism is of the particular tool of productivity, which must be used with care. As used by international financial capitalism it will reliably poison your economy when policy decisions privilege productivity over other vital factors for an economy and society.

By breaking down low profitability manufacturing companies and shipping the tools and expertise to China we certainly improved the productivity of the process from the perspective of those who undertook it. But from many other perspectives it has been a disaster. That is why I would like to see the whole concept of "productivity", like its companion "reform" stigmatized in the public mind. The way they have been and are being used is destructive to almost all but a tiny few.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 05:36:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nor, to my knowledge, does the use of productivity in the standard sense, by itself, take into consideration the effect on the size of the over all economy and provide any rationale for assessing trade-offs. I would be pleased to find that there is a flourishing literature on the effects of this trade-off.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 05:47:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder, based on Merkel's own logic, should Americans be incensed at Germans because they have a better social safety net than we do, and yet the USA funneled more than $30 billion in TARP money to German banks?

Or, should Americans groused at the Marshall Plan after WW2?

by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 10:55:37 AM EST
She won't make those arguments, but likely she would be pleased to bow before the overpowering logic of the business interests who will make/are making that argument.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 05:43:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With another perspective.

Merkel's Leadership Gap Fans Greek Crisis: Schroeder


Chancellor Angela Merkel has failed to lead during Europe's debt crisis and must now rise above German public opinion to offer more help for troubled euro-area states, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said.

Merkel acted too slowly when the crisis unfolded last year, pandering to the "yellow press," Schroeder said in an interview. Schroeder said the chancellor, who defeated him in 2005, should press for banks and other bondholders to take losses and give euro countries more time to cut budget deficits.

Schroeder's comments may jibe with a change that's emerging in Europe's crisis-fighting strategy, as finance ministers in Brussels indicated they may shift some costs to bondholders in a "soft restructuring" of Greek debt. Merkel, as the leader of Europe's largest economy, holds the key to Greece's chances of escaping a restructuring.
....
To end the debt crisis that forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek outside aid, so-called haircuts involving compulsory losses for banks and other investors including the European Central Bank are "absolutely essential," however uncomfortable they may be for vested interests, Schroeder said.

"In the long run, the government can't justify aid programs to their voters unless they force creditors that have made a lot of money on the enormous interest rates for Greece and the others to share the cost," he said. "That risk is already priced in."



"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 10:58:38 AM EST
the Local is worthless as a source of news, so i checked some German language newspapers. Yes, she actually said all that.

The context? She was making a political speech to her party in NRW, so this is absolute pandering to the party. She's going to take another serious hit in the Bremen elections this coming Sunday. (Though we're already SPD/Green.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:56:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
apparently the ECB has nixed the haircut idea forcefully, by saying it will harm the banking system. and who's the advisor to the Greek gov't on asset stripping? you guessed it, Deutsch Bank.

Greek Restructuring Rejected by ECB Officials

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:23:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Merkel acted too slowly when the crisis unfolded last year, pandering to the "yellow press,"

Hehe, this coming from the once darling of Bild.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:06:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A great many European politicians seem to be underestimating the peripheral countries. Greeks and the Irish people have been through plenty of upheavals in the past. They have survived--come what may. This is not even among the gravest threats these countries have faced. It seems that people living high on the hog value materiality so much that they can't imagine another way of living, a way that preserves community even if it means exile from the EU and international banking system.
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:01:37 AM EST
National identities survived, but - particularly in Ireland - many individuals didn't.

And really, we're not talking about money or even about repressive politics, so much as the eventual prospect of serious loss of life here, of one sort or another.

How many people died in the US because the Depression? How many have died since the start of the Bush War on the Have-Lesses?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:06:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was referring to all the upheavals, including wars, occupations, etc. You have to account for a future where the Greek economy is suppressed for decades, especially since the public sector stands little chance of profitability with even its money winners sold off. Greece is thinking of selling off the lottery, for instance.

So, the question would be, how many would die over a few decades of poverty, versus how many died when Argentina's economy collapsed.

by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:20:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Greece is thinking of selling off the lottery, for instance.

At the end of last year the Spanish government announced their intention to partially privatize the national lotteries. The suggested price was ridiculously low. Basically, the government was reacting to "the markets" demanding 5%-7% for long-term lending by selling the lotteries at a 15%+ implied yield. A lot of people made the same back-of-the-envelope yield calculation and were wondering how one would go about buying some stock when this is privatised...

DiagonalPeriodico.net: El coste de la privatización de la lotería

En diciembre, el Gobierno anunció la privatización del 30% de Loterías y Apuestas del Estado. El motivo, según confesó la ministra de Economía, Elena Salgado, a un medio extranjero, era "hacer caja". Sin embargo, los números no cuadran: el Ejecutivo anunció que con ese 30% preveía ingresar unos 5.000 millones de euros, cuando la entidad permite ingresar a las arcas públicas casi 3.000 millones de euros al año. El PP, que se opone a esta venta "de saldo", cifra en 20.000 millones la operación para que esta sea rentable.
In December, the Government announced the privatisation of 30% of the State Lotteries and Bets. The motive the economy minister Elena Salgado's confessed to a foreign media outlet was "to cash in". However, the numbers don't add up. The government announced that with this 30% they intended to raise €5bn, when the public entity produces an income of €3bn a year for the public treasury. The PP, opposing this "firesale", values the operation at €20bn for it to be profitable


Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:38:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who wouldn't want to extend the bailouts until 2013 when you can buy things this cheaply?
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 11:53:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a word for this sort of thing, and it's one of the things that's helped keeping neoliberalism running this long: Asset stripping.

Short term tax cuts which screw the country in the long term.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:10:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Asset stripping is the rage in a great many bureaucracies these days. Our university keeps cutting its productive programs, selling the assets to the altar of the budget cut god. No one seems to mind that the revenues these programs produced is also gone because, of course, students are stupid, and if you take away their options, they will keep giving you money anyway even if your herd them into less appealing (though of course productive) programs.
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.  I thought that you were supposed to get more conservative as you got older, but for me aging seems to be a process of getting franker about my distaste for these people. I've always been standoffish about being real activisty, but anymore I just say do it.  

If you think universities are real messed up right now, check this out.

I've recently had the idea that sit-ins wouldn't work at the university.  So I thought to myself why not shit-ins. They piss you off, you all go in, pop a squat in their office, and then leave.

Seriously though, asset stripping is a huge problem, and we should start to refer to "privatization" schemes that have this effect as such.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:53:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh I remember your diary. Breathtaking.
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:25:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 She: I know!  We'll sell the silverware, dear!

 He:  We sold it--- last year.

 She: Oh, yes.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 02:39:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are you suggesting as a way of living that preserves "Community"?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:19:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Argentina

When you're all in it together, when the balance of things is set aright (i.e. your public assets are working for you), then there's more cohesion.

What Greece has now is producing the opposite effect.

I liken it to Greece coming to the USA to ask that I invest in diasporic bonds. Why in the world would I give money to be funneled to the pockets of bank CEOs in Europe? I already sent some money to distant relatives in Greece.

by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:28:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You beat me to it, I was going to make a diary about this also (even if my time is highly limited)!

This is going around in Portugal quite a lot (so it seems, I write this from the US of A). Obviously comments about Nazism through other means are starting to surface...

I have one more thing to add to your piece.

I think this is another proof that "one size does NOT fit all".

As some know here, I have worked in .NL and there the minimum legal for vacation is 20 days. Because of one thing called collective bargaining and unions nobody that I knew off had less than 25. I had 2 jobs: on one I had 25 days, on the other I had 30 days vacation.

So law saying 20 days + collective bargaining = 25+ vacation days.

Now, take the same legal requirement (20 days) in Portugal: As the unions (outside the public sector) are toothless (courtesy of 48 years of fascist dictatorship) the result would be: 20 days of vacation, no more. Currently the legal framework is 22/25 days and that is exactly what people have. And, by the way, if you work in the new economy, do not even think in turning down your mobile phone during your vacations...

The same formal legal framework, would have different practical consequences...

PS - She is factually wrong on the issue of retirement also. In Portugal the retirement age is "just" 65, but is indexed to life expectancy, so it is expected to raise above 67 well before Germany's 2029 date. Well, maybe not, with the cuts to our national health service maybe we will end up retiring at 60 (assuming the indexing to life expectancy in maintained)

by cagatacos on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 12:30:44 PM EST
...the rapid sell out of public property, including all of the government monopolies in power, water and trains, the feeling that I am now living in an ECB colony...

It does not matter who owns these. Greece can tax the rental value away and there is nothing these robber barons can do.

by kjr63 on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:24:32 PM EST
What about include the taxes in the cost to consumers?
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:25:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tax away all price increase with 100%. And then decrease the labour income tax the same amount.
by kjr63 on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:32:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you sure there are no EU laws against that sort of thing? If there aren't, there will be.
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 02:05:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU cannot do such a thing. They cannot tell how to tax property, or "land values" that i guess the value of natural monopolies are. No one can "buy Greece" or any other country.
by kjr63 on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 02:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't they do just that to Ireland? (search property tax on the article above).

And changes to the property tax code are also attached to the Portuguese destruction help.

by cagatacos on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 02:41:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...all Irish households face a new £257 property tax from 2012

So they really did, but to right direction. But this is completely ridiculous, a flat tax? That is not a "property tax." These neoliberals are really just charlatans.

by kjr63 on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 05:36:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The minimum wage decrease was reversed by the new government. Not sure what's happening on the property tax front.

The troika only care that we (implausibly) balance the budget, not really about the details of how we do it.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 02:51:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Around here it seems quite differently. They even changed things like mobile phone contracts (actually a nice change - enlightened dictatorship).

Liberalized (private) job market: Easier to fire.

And so on.

by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 03:32:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing that is normally best appreciated by conservative people is that property taxes are the best way to enslave poor and middle class people (especially in rural places).

Imagine the following scenario (of which I know many examples):

Person has a small plot of land (really small, maybe not even enough for subsistence) with a small home. Person is unemployed, cannot make much money, etc. If there is some kind of property tax that this person cannot pay then (s)he might get expropriated. So, from a poor person with a measure of self-reliance we now have a desperate slave.

One just needs a property tax that is designed to hit this segment.

by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:45:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a georgist, so i'm a supporter of property taxes. The idea is that the land taxes don't benefit property owners or creditors, only industry and labour (wealth creation). Unlike most of all other taxes.

I agree that georgism is not without question marks. However your example is not one of those:

Person has a small plot of land (really small, maybe not even enough for subsistence) with a small home.

This person would pay zero LVT, because his plot produces only subsistence. LVT taxes only surplus, not necessary costs of capital or labour.

by kjr63 on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 05:05:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the tax designed to expropriate the smallholder would not have been designed according to Georgist standards.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:07:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly. The devil is in the details.
by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:39:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What would tax collector benefit by capturing worthless land? If one is unemployed, naturally in a civilised society, he receives unemployment benefits.
And do banks design housing prices according to "georgist standards?" Why should a small income family pay labour taxes to benefit them and property owners and only increase their own rents? Are they masochists? Shouldn't taxes create wealth, benefit the real economy and the poor and the sick?
by kjr63 on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 06:35:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What would tax collector benefit by capturing worthless land?

The tax collector could be an agent, not of the people, but of the very rich people. And if such a very rich person can get control of enough "worthless land" in an area and obtain favorable tax treatment for HIS holdings, on whatever pretext, in time the land might become valuable, especially if he successively acquires contiguous parcels.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 08:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The tax collector could be an agent, not of the people, but of the very rich people.

You mean that the tax collector would change the tax code at the moment the ownership is changed? Why otherwise would very rich people pay tax from a plot that does not produce anything? And when the land becomes more valuable, the tax increases even more. You are not talking about land tax at all. You are talking about "poll tax."

The tax collector is an agent of the very rich people now. They tax labour for the benefit of banks and property owners.

by kjr63 on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 08:39:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean that the tax collector would change the tax code at the moment the ownership is changed?

No. More likely would be that the wealthy individual has access to tax credits not widely known or available that would offset his tax, but not offset the tax on the small holder.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 09:20:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just add, that naturally your point is correct. Powerful interests would try to fix property tax for their benefit. But this goal is already achieved much simpler way by taxing labour. When property is tax free, money men can capture rental value simply by creating credit. Or capture the whole ownership by creating property bubble and foreclosures.
by kjr63 on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 09:09:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So pay the fine in Drachma.

Really, short of sending a gunboat to Athens, there's fuck all you can do against a determined push to gank the oligarchs.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 03:36:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But, Jake, you'll have to tell me what the point of all this is if not to stay in the good graces of EU heavyweights. Otherwise, Greece would already be Argentina.
by Upstate NY on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 09:02:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way things are going, Papandreou may soon be De la Rúa.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 09:06:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... can't they just transfer the cost to the users? And in this case the users are everyone...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 01:27:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It matters as ownership gives power, in this case power in Greece. Power that will be used to push for robberbarons keeping what they robbed.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 03:17:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe, we have the politicians we deserve.

Thanks talos and cagatacos for your posts.

Let's see if Europe lasts to Christmas as it was once conceived, or we the southerners split up giving them in their face to the northern banks.

Things are getting very hot, and they only think on elections.

by kukute on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 07:58:28 PM EST
That's the thing, you get punished for the politicians that screwed you... but of course, there have been bad politicians throughout history, in every country. Seems some countries need to be reminded of this.
by Upstate NY on Wed May 18th, 2011 at 09:18:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there's an easy solution to the problem of asset stripping for future governments.

Do a Putin on their asses.

As long as the assets have not left Greece (and the more valuable ones cannot leave Greece), it is a trivial matter to send goons with guns and reclaim them.

Cite force majeure, bribery or even simply compelling national interest.

Less provocatively, tax them until they become unprofitable, then offer to buy them back for the same nominal sum they were sold for, minus any deferred maintenance.

Really, the number of ways to renationalise things you need to renationalise in more or less legal ways is legion.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 03:28:56 AM EST
Hungary's right-populist government re-nationalised pension funds more or less this way. The difference: they focused their punitive measures on the customers, not the companies.

(They also sent the IMF packing, saying no thanks to the continuation of the loan programme on-going since 2008. In a recent speech, the economy minister declared that this was part of an "economic freedom fight". If only (1) this weren't a pandering for the far right in coded words, who think the problem with the IMF was that its head was Jewish; (2), he wouldn't have started his own austerity programme which he refuses to call so.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:18:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurointelligence: ECB goes ballistic on reprofiling, and Strauss-Kahn resigns
Merkel hits out at Club Med on early retirement and long holidays

The euro rescue packages divide Angela Merkel's coalition and the resistance is beginning to have effects on the chancellor. At a party really Merkel hit out at the southern Europeans for going on retirement too early and for staying on holiday for too long, according to Spiegel Online and Handelsblatt. The chancellor's populist comments are applauded by her party but are badly received in Greece, Portugal and Spain where she is criticized for "colonialism". Merkel apparently referred to early retirement schemes in place for certain categories like public officials in Greece.

In a commentary Bild-Zeitung's Dirk Hoeren supports the chancellor: "The good economy (in Germany) has not fallen from the sky but it is the result of hard work", he argues. "It is inadmissible, that there are some who restrain themselves and pay while there are others who have it easy and get the money."

Portuguese have less holidays after all

Portugal rejects Angela Merkel's suggestion that the periphery countries have more holidays and an earlier retirement age than Germany. Jornal de Negocios cites statistics from Eurofund, according to which Germany has effectively not 20 days, the minimum required, but 30 days of vacation if collective agreements are included. This is more than Portugal,where a minimum of 22 can be extended to 25 days. Greece and Ireland can raise their number up to 23 and 24 respectively, also less than in Germany. Official retirement age is not so much different between Portugal and Germany. The only statistics that support Merkel's claim is early retirement. Portuguese can retire early, at 55, while this is limited at 63 in Germany.



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 04:12:19 AM EST
The USA is a Socialist paradise, comparatively, when I read about this rhetoric. Here, our public officials get a pension after one term in office. Our police and fireman retire after 20 years in. My 45 year old neighbor retired. not to mention you can take Social Security at 62.
by Upstate NY on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 09:06:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe has gone insane.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 09:09:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems the ECB is trying to ensure that the ONLY option for Greece is a massive default with or without leaving the Eurozone.  This will have a massive impact on the ECB and central European Banking system and make their current bleatings about a mild restructuring having "catastrophic effects" (Stark) seem like so much bullshit in comparison.

Portugal and Ireland would then also be able to plausibly threaten the same and have the ECB over a barrel - if their political leaders had any balls. Irish financial advisers are increasingly advising their clients to take their assets out of the Eurozone.

Merkel seems to be trying to re-Sovietise the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 06:10:24 AM EST
The ECB is again threatening to withdraw liquidity from the private banking system of a member state in order to put pressure on the state to enact a shock-doctrine fiscal policy and socioeconomic reform package.

Not only is fiscal policy outside the remit of the ECB but I would like to know under what authority the ECB can decide to shut a bank out of its liquidity provision if the bank has eligible assets to repo.

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 06:15:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The ECB has clearly overshot its mandate. They try to become the most powerful EU institution, above the EC, the Council and the EU Parliament. "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."
Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

Some points that show this:

  • Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi said in a speech last January: "The experience of recent months has shown that governments tend to take unpopular decisions only under pressure from the markets. Action by the central bank that would eliminate such pressures would risk becoming counterproductive and creating moral hazard. Thus, there is a fine line between the goal of maintaining sufficient pressure on the authorities of the Member States and that of avoiding destabilising market dynamics that ultimately hinder the conduct of monetary policy".
  • Jurgen Stark on the FT, March 31, 2011: "implementing the necessary reforms not only benefits the countries concerned, but is also an obligation for all governments so as to ensure that their economies function smoothly within our monetary union. It is in this sense that one size fits all". This is outrageous. What he actually says is that the ECB doesn't take orders by the governments (central bank independence) but that the governments should more or less take orders indirectly from the ECB.
  • Jean-Claude Trichet said on March he would appeal the commission to the EU Parliament: "I would sum up our own understanding by saying that the Commission did not go far enough. The governments have even weakened the position of the Commission. And, we are counting on the Parliament."


"Eurozone leaders have turned a 50bn Greek solvency problem into a 1,000bn existential crisis for the European Union." David Miliband
by Kostis Papadimitriou on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 07:25:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears that the 1992/3 crisis of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism was used by the Bundesbank to assert itself as the most powerful institution in Europe, already. In a recent diary of mine I quoted
this third-person account by the Bundesbank itself:
Crises in the ERM. In 1992, investors lose confidence in the stability of the pound sterling, in particular, and then, in 1993, in the French franc, resulting in speculative selling of the pound and franc; in 1992, the United Kingdom and Italy leave the ERM; in 1993, the fluctuations margins around the bilateral central rates are expanded sharply. The Bundesbank with its commitment to price stability had refused to lower interest rates massively. The partner countries are forcibly reminded of their responsibility for their currencies; the process of convergence needed for monetary union is strengthened.
also
I came across two interesting pieces. One by The Independent [UK]: The Sterling Crisis: The bank that likes to say realign: The Bundesbank (17 September 1992) and a cognitive-linguistic analysis of the press coverage: THE BUNDESBANK AND THE MAKING OF AN ECONOMIC PRESS STORY by a certain Michael White of Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
From The Independent:
The Bundesbank appears to have several reasons for its views on the EMS. Massive intervention on the foreign exchange markets to defend EMS currency parities threatens seriously to compromise German money supply growth targets, by increasing the quantity of marks circulating in the economy. At the same time, the Bundesbank also has to overcome the impression in Germany that it buckled to international pressure in cutting rates.

The Bundesbank also believes that until eventual monetary union in Europe, the EMS is a fixed, but adjustable, system. The Bundesbank case reflects its belief that it may be impossible for many EC countries to meet the convergence criteria of the Maastricht treaty, including a sharp reduction in budget deficits and national debt levels.

...

But underlying the Bundesbank's views is a deep- seated worry that its independence is under fire. When EMU first became a serious Community objective, Karl-Otto Pohl, Mr Schlesinger's predecessor, often warned of its high economic costs to the weaker countries. Bundesbank officials were concerned that their strict anti-inflation policies could be compromised by a European central bank sensitive to the less hawkish attitudes on inflation of some other European countries.

From Michael White:
One of the essential tenets of cognitive linguistics (which is the theoretic framework informing my analysis) is that thought is metaphoric and that consequently our conceptualisation makes natural and constant recourse to metonymy and metaphor in its processes.  Two immediate consequences immediately follow:  firstly, the fact that the use of metaphor and metonymy is to a very large degree highly conventional and secondly that it is so conventional as to go unnoticed in ordinary use or naturally occurring discourse ...

...

1) Bundesbank warns Bonn on federal debt (FT1:1-H)  -

very decidedly carries certain implications and not others.  In fact, it carries a wealth of these, for example:

  • the Bundesbank is in a position which commands a certain authority: it can warn.
  • if the Bundesbank warns, it probably has a stricter outlook on and a sharper awareness of the potential danger of the question at issue  than the recipient  of its warning.
  • Bonn has a certain degree of responsibility for the existence of federal debt.
  • Bonn is either unaware, or at least less aware than the Bundesbank of the potential danger of this debt.
  • there is a certain degree of independence between the two institutions.

...

  1. Many voices go into a Bundesbank utterance. (FT 11:3-H)[6]
  2. ... the Bank makes its views known to the outside world in a bewildering multiplicity of ways.  This is primarily because of its pluralistic way of making decisions. (FT11:3-L)
  3. When in recent weeks, a variety of Bundesbank's views ricochet onto the foreign exchange markets from several different angles, the Central bank can stand accused of inconsistency. (FT11:3).

...

Fourthly, my questioner at Debrecen, Torben Vestergaard, raised the issue as to the innocence or otherwise of the metaphors appearing in my analysis. If all discourse can carry and indeed conceal ideological positionings[14], metaphor, which typically highlights one/some aspects of phenomena and downplays or altogether hides others, could potentially provide a very powerful weapon for ideological manipulation. In light of metaphor's rootedness in conventional reasoning, this view has much to comment it: metaphor seems "naturally convincing" and is extremely difficult to argue against (see Lakoff 1992, Lakoff and Turner 1989). Thus, it is not surprising to find a proliferation of metaphor use in contexts where persuasion is at a premium - political partisan discourse, for instance or publicity (see Forceville 1995) In the array of metaphoric expressions presented in this article, there is little doubt, but there are cases where their force alone is particularly persuasive and it would be extremely difficult to counteract the message entailed. For instance, if the currency crisis is conceptualised as war and in that war the Bundesbank is held up to be orchestrating coups or practising plotting, sniping and sabotage, the position of the bank is certainly infinitely less defensible than it would be if it were referred to as being caught up in self-defence which would be considered highly legitimate. I have already mentioned that stereotype (which we have seen tapped for metaphorical purposes) is considered by Bell (1994:157) to be in itself a news value - that is, the closer a news item conforms to stereotype, the higher its chances are of getting into print. While stereotype is not to be written off completely as a valid component in argumentation (see Lee et al., 1995), nevertheless it should demand a critical perspective on the part of informed participants.[15] In short, then, with respect to this question as to the innocence or otherwise of metaphor, it would seem that the critical approach warranted by all discourse could be called upon to incorporate an extra effort in the presence of metaphor use.



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 08:58:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like Mike! (White)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 11:17:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What Trichet actually said: Eurozone eyes new deal for Greece; ECB issues threat
ECB officials have warned for weeks that a debt restructuring would have catastrophic consequences for the euro zone and stepped up their rhetoric this week after Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker suggested the bloc was open to a voluntary extension of Greek debt maturities.

"For the ECB, according to our statutory obligations, a debt restructuring would undermine the collateral adequacy of Greek government bonds," the ECB's Stark said.

"This means that a debt restructuring would make the continuation of large parts of central bank liquidity provision to the banking system of Greece impossible."

The comments, and a report in the Financial Times Deutschland, that ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet had issued the same warning to euro zone finance ministers in a heated meeting of the Eurogroup on Monday, weighed on the euro, which slipped to $1.4235.

This may have a simple solution: the Greek commercial banks are put through a special resolution scheme. Good assets (not including Greek sovereign bonds), deposits and branches are put into "good banks"; bad assets (and Greek sovereign bonds) are put into "bad banks". The bad banks are given equity stakes in the "good banks".

Then the ECB cannod deny liquidity to the "good banks".

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 11:06:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ECB officials have warned for weeks that a debt restructuring would have catastrophic consequences for the euro zone

From this I conclude ECB officials believe debt that cannot be paid back will be paid back through restricting and constricting the ability to pay the debt back.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 11:53:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we assume they're not suffering from fungal brain rot - a stretch here, admittedly - we have to accept that they understand the consequences will be default and further contagion.

The real point here seems to be "reform", through destroying what's left of the welfare state in Greece and lowering wage expectations to a Victorian level.

If you accept that "the economy" being talked about here includes the people who own it, but not the people who work in it, the project looks likely to be a success.

The other alternative, or complementary factor, is simple fascist Northern racism.

It's obvious the motivation isn't Europe-building and mutuality - which it might have been, with different leaders.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 12:02:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Game, as she is writ:

A cake exists.  There are two players and their goal is to get as much of the cake as possible.  The Play is to use a knife to cut the cake into two pieces.  Both players have perfect forecasting¹.

The approved min/max strategy deduced by Game Theorists is for one player to get the knife, cut the cake, and have the other player chose which slice they want first.

The ATinNM min/max strategy, given the stated Rules and Goal, is for one player to grab the knife, stab the other player, and keep all the cake.  Given both players have perfect foresight the Game is a death match over who controls the knife.  

Right now the German Banks have the knife; they aren't afraid to use it; in fact, they are using it.

Where this strategy fails is: once the cake is eaten, it's gone and the other player will "Cake No More."  Which becomes semi-critical if situation is a series of Cakes, a series of on-going Games, whose existence is dependent on the existence of the other player.  

No such thing as Solitary in Game Theory.

The ECB, et. al., seem to realize this and so are grabbing the knife, cutting the cake, and choosing which slice to take, graciously allowing Greece to continue to live.  The problem with this strategy is, eventually, the other player - Greece - after rounds of getting shafted eventually decides, "Bugger this for a game of soldiers," takes their cake, and walks.  This leaves the ECB, et. al., with the knife and no cake to cut.

-------------------------------------------

¹ Yeah, I know: we're into 'orthogonal to Reality' territory but bear with it, for a moment

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:18:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem (at least here) is that the options available are (local EPP and PES) are pay and shut up.

The narrative is completely controlled by the moneyed class media and default is a thing only communists and trotskysts talk about (they are down in the pools, to a combined ~14%)

We are far away from "serious people" thinking about a default (I only heard one serious guy talking about it, sooner or later, being inevitable).

So, it won't happen: narrative and elites are in the "obidience" direction.

by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:18:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem (at least here) is that the options available are (local EPP and PES) are pay and shut up.

As we say here in the States, "And people in Hell want ice water."

The SeriousPeople© can talk, shout, scream, lie, and obfuscate to their little heart's content.  The fact was, is, and will be: debts that cannot be paid will not be paid.  The looters and parasites can suck the Greek economy dry and they STILL won't get their money back.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:54:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No disagreement here. But the harm done in the process (which can take years) is massive.
by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 02:04:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Accepting talos' polling as accurate - and I have no reason to think it's inaccurate ;-) - the majority in Greece:

  1.  Don't trust the current political leaders

  2.  Think there are other ways to solve the crisis

  3.  Want to re-negotiate The Deal

  4.  Think "deep changes" needs to happen

In my ignorance of Greek politics, I think that means it isn't going to be "years."  A year, maybe two, before things explode.

I agree the harm done in the process will be massive.

If it's any comfort, I submit the rest of the world is not that far behind you.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 02:38:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's only months away

"Eurozone leaders have turned a 50bn Greek solvency problem into a 1,000bn existential crisis for the European Union." David Miliband
by Kostis Papadimitriou on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 05:22:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While Merkel may have campaigned in front of a local audience, what she said was apparently instantly turned into ECB policy, as Trichet's likely successor sang to the same tunes:

FT.com / Brussels - Row within Europe over Greece

The ECB fears a soft restructuring would be seen as a precursor to a "hard" restructuring and spook markets across the eurozone. ECB officials instead want Greece to accelerate its privatisation programme. Mr Bini Smaghi said Athens needed to "convince its citizens to pay taxes" and "retire at 65 as everyone else does in the western world".

There is, however, this, too:

Separately, Jürgen Stark, another ECB executive board member, criticised "vested interests" in the UK and US who were hostile to Greece's reform efforts - an apparent attack on investors who have bet on a Greek default. In a further sign of European policy divisions, it emerged on Wednesday that the ECB and some eurozone countries are at odds with Germany's determination to involve private creditors in any future debt restructuring, for fear of scaring investors.

What is the last bit about?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:27:45 AM EST
My guess on the last bit: if interest goes up to fast, then the Greek default will come faster and less reform will have time to be distributed.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 04:56:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't even parse it. What does involving private creditors in future debt restructuring entail, what does not involving them entail; and is it Germany's government or those at odds with it who fear scaring investors, scare with what, and why fear a scare?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 05:04:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that what Stark fears is that numerous banks in France, Germany and the UK will have losses that will expose the state of their balance sheets, precipitating a contagious collapse of the financial house of cards. If your balance sheet is underwater, not only do you not want to see more losses, but also you cannot accept exposure of previous losses. The fear is that a restructuring would lead to a series of events that leave them all exposed as bankrupt.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:20:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a hard time buying it. If this fear were legitimate, then why are they forcing Greece to default?

If this were at all a possibility, why didn't they grant Greece the money (at an IMF % rate) and then come back to flay Greece through well practiced EU methods and fines a few years into the future?

by Upstate NY on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 11:11:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps it is not all rational. See the link below from naked capitalism.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 12:54:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because they reckon that they can delay it until 2013, which is estimated as the date when the German banks will have more or less managed to pass their losses to the public (by selling rotten assets at nominal value, mostly).

At least that's been my understanding so far. On top of that indeed, there may be lack of full rationality, or rather of proper evaluation of the situation.
Plus, maybe (I know, that's a long shot) some apologists for neo-liberalism actually believe in their crap.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 05:10:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, so they are gamblers no better than the folks sitting at tables in Atlantic City, NJ.

The idea that back in early 2010, they could foresee that the Greek people (and Germans and Finns etc.) would be committed to this program into 2013, that's quite a gamble.

by Upstate NY on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 09:38:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they were underwater in 2010, they would lose nothing by making that bet. You can only go bankrupt once - there is no such thing as "double-plus insolvent."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 12:34:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IfSince they were underwater in 2010, they would lose nothing by making that bet.

Fixed it for you.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 02:45:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They could have always nationalized the banks.
by Upstate NY on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 04:00:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From the point of view of upper-echelon bank management, bankruptcy and nationalisation come to the same thing: They go out on their asses, because they're incompetent dickweeds.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 06:34:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps this will help.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 12:51:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm surprised Juncker's public call for privatisation in Greece wasn't discussed in this thread. Here are some parts of it:

Juncker calls for 'soft restructuring' of Greece's debt | EurActiv

"Greece does not entirely respect the economic adjustment programme which we had agreed upon when we have put at the disposal of the Greek authorities guaranties to the amount of €110 billion. Therefore Greece needs to adopt, in the next few days, additional corrective measures concerning the budget deficit which continues to aggravate, instead of diminishing," he said.

This is as in Neoliberalism 101: if the prescribed cure doesn't work, it is never because the diagnosis or the cure was wrong, but because it wasn't implemented radically enough.

Juncker added that Greece should adopt measures "of very large scope" to address the problem of its weak growth potential, and that the country should conduct privatisation "in a measure exceeding imagination, even Hellenic imagination".

Greece should rapidly privatise assets from its public sphere to the amount of €50 billion, as well as its national heritage, in a way that would bring its debt to sustainable levels in the medium and long term, Juncker went on.

Words fail.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:31:58 AM EST
It was posted in the salon by afew.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 10:39:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a call for plunder. And Papandreou went along with it 100%.

Meanwhile as the conservative leader Antonis Samaras seems less than willing to commit his party to following the perscriptions of the troika (a bluff: he wants his own version of pretty much the same policy, just like DoDo has described happening in Hungary), the Serious People have ganged up on him, with the goal of forcing him into a coalition government that will, they assume, strengthen the political support and serve as a mandate for austerity. This under the auspices of the MSM. This is the sort of rhetoric that 95% of Serious news sources is innundated with...
Despite this, Public Issue, a polling company published the results of a survey that reported that:

62% of Greeks think that the memorandum with the troika has harmed the country and the same percentage is against it (13% it benefited the country - 15 support it), 16% think that there is no alternative (69% think there are alternatives). 77% do not trust the Prime Minister to manage the economy (22% trust him). 75% have a negative view of the IMF (69% last year), and 74% of DSK (49% last year). 69% believe that the IMF must leave Greece now (up 4% from 6 months ago). Only 52% have a negative view of the ECB (vs 33% positive) and 61% of Trichet. 59% have a positive view of the EU (up three points from 6 months ago). 53% want to bargain and default on at least a part of the public debt. 17% want to default completely and unilaterally. 33% think that the country needs a revolution and 56% deep changes. Greeks support strikes (74 - 20) and protests & marches (69 - 25) and are marginally not supportive of electoral abstention (45 - 54) and public deprecation and jeering of politicians (43 - 54)... 78% vs 21, believe that a social explosion is impending...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:38:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IOW, the perfect ground for a Right Wing Populist political party to take control of the government.

Shit.

HOW MANY times does this have to happen before the Left wakes the ^@#$^! up?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:46:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact 48% of respondents believe that the ground is fertile for an extreme right wing party (vs 27% for an extreme let wing party)...

The powers that be are using immigration and the fear of immigrants as a barrier to a shift towards the left. Thus they are fanning the flames of fascism. And it seems that the elites are not completely uncomfortable with that...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 01:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Historic evidence suggests the monied interests do rather well under Fascism.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 02:01:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have quoted Michal Kalecki before: Political Aspects of Full Employment (1943)
One of the important functions of fascism, as typified by the Nazi system, was to remove capitalist objections to full employment.

The dislike of government spending policy as such is overcome under fascism by the fact that the state machinery is under the direct control of a partnership of big business with fascism.  The necessity for the myth of 'sound finance', which served to prevent the government from offsetting a confidence crisis by spending, is removed.  In a democracy, one does not know what the next government will be like.  Under fascism there is no next government.

The dislike of government spending, whether on public investment or consumption, is overcome by concentrating government expenditure on armaments.  Finally, 'discipline in the factories' and 'political stability' under full employment are maintained by the 'new order', which ranges from suppression of the trade unions to the concentration camp.  Political pressure replaces the economic pressure of unemployment.



Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 05:04:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is probably a difference with us.

The anti-immigrant narrative is mostly absent. Mainly for 4 reasons:

  1. African immigrants are a thing of the past. They are here for many decades.
  2. East Europeans are normally highly praised (e.g. learning Portuguese in months)
  3. Brazilians. Brazil is seen as the proud part of the Portuguese speaking work. In fact now and then people start talking about our "tropical vocation" (as opposed to "European vocation")
  4. Retired Northern Europeans. Treated as superior race.

On the other hand, some nostalgia of the old times (no debt, no austerity, everybody knew its place, ...) can play well into the hands of the hard-right.

Around here the fascists pool around 0.1% . But if there were, in a couple of years, a military coup - it might easily be received with apathy.

by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 02:11:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No other traditionally weak group to pour hatred and blame at - ethnic, religious or sexual minorities?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 05:00:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope.

There is blame, alright.

Politicians, unemployed drawing on benefits, civil servants...

by cagatacos on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 06:32:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a call for plunder. And Papandreou went along with it 100%.

Note the dates: Papandreou's promise in your link was on 14 May, Juncker's call on 17 May. Papandreou was reacting(?) to earlier reported behind-the-scenes ECB/IMF pressure. Juncker was apparently saying "not enough".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 02:12:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are two dynamics at play.

  1. Often, for political purposes, people will say things they know are not true. "Greeks need to implement austerity measures..." as though Greece hasn't. "Greeks need to change the retirement age..." as though it hasn't.

  2. Papandreou promised privatization, whereas Junker wants collateral. Big difference. With privatization, Papandreou and Greece can refuse to sell if they don't get their price in the market. If you put up collateral, however, you allow a creditor to seize your assets.

The Greeks are refusing to put up collateral.
by Upstate NY on Thu May 19th, 2011 at 05:00:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From a commentary by Daniel Bax, editor of alternative-left (Greens-close) daily die tageszeitung (short taz):

Die Aussagen der Kanzlerin könnten antideutsche Reflexe auslösen: Die Mär von den faulen Südländern - taz.de The statements of the Chancellor could trigger anti-German reflexes: The myth of the lazy Southerners - taz.de
Gehen die Portugiesen zu früh in Rente? Dauern die Ferien der Spanier zu lange? Und versaufen die Griechen unserer Oma ihr klein Häuschen? Nein, das sind alles haltlose Klischees. Warum aber wärmt die deutsche Kanzlerin, die es besser wissen muss, sie dann auf? Und warum jetzt? Do the Portuguese go in retirement too early? Do the vacations of the Spaniards take too long? And do the Greeks drink away the little house of our our grandmother? No, these are all untenable clichés. But why does the German Chancellor, who should know better, warm these up again? And why now?
......
Doch statt ihren Wählern und Steuerzahlern endlich reinen Wein darüber einzuschenken, dass solche Finanzhilfen kein generöses Geschenk an faule Versager, sondern im wohlverstandenen deutschen Eigeninteresse sind, setzt sie lieber auf populistische Rhetorik.But instead of finally coming clean in front of their voters and taxpayers about the fact that such financial help is not a generous gift to lazy losers but in line with the well understood German self-interest, she rather relies on populist rhetoric.
Kollateralschäden am europäischen Projekt nimmt sie dabei in Kauf. Denn solche Sprüche sind gefährlich. Schon jetzt ist das Sparprogramm, das etwa die griechische Regierung ihren Bürgern aufbürdet, brutal. Merkels Bemerkungen eignen sich da nur zu gut, um von Griechenland bis Portugal antideutsche Gefühle anzufachen.In doing so, she accepts collateral damage in the European project. For, such talk is dangerous. The savings plan imposed for example by the Greek government on its citizens is already brutal. Merkel's comments are just too good to fan anti-German feelings from Greece to Portugal.
Auf der anderen Seite zeigt die Erfahrung, dass es nur Rechtspopulisten nützt, wenn man ihre Parolen aufgreift. Bislang ist es Merkels Union gelungen, keinen Raum für eine Partei rechts von ihr zu lassen. Und man darf vermuten, dass ihre platten Sprüche über angebliche südländische Arbeitsscheu vor allem dazu dienen sollen, rechte und euroskeptische Wähler an die Union zu binden. Die nächsten Wahlen in Bremen und in Berlin werden zeigen, ob dieses Kalkül aufgeht - oder ob nicht vielmehr rechtspopulistische Splitterparteien davon profitieren.On the other hand, experience shows that it is of benefit to right-wing populists only if you take their slogans on. Merkel's CDU/CSU has so far succeeded in leaving no room for a party to the right of it. And one may suspect that her platitudes about alleged Southerner work-shyness were to primarily serve the goal to bind right-wing and Eurosceptic voters to the CDU/CSU. The next elections in Bremen and Berlin will show whether this calculation adds up - or if, much rather, it will be right-populist splinter parties who'll profit from them.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 10:11:25 AM EST
On the same subject, the main centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeizung (short SZ) doesn't mention the suffering of the people, but dissects the lies:

Merkel: Kritik an verschuldeten Euroländern - Ausflug ins Populistische - Geld - sueddeutsche.de Merkel: Criticism of indebted Euro countries - Excursion into populism - Money - sueddeutsche.de
...Merkels Anregungen haben ein Problem: Sie sind arg populistisch. Gesetzlich festgelegt sind in Deutschland mindestens 20 Tage Urlaub - weniger gibt es in der Europäischen Union nirgendwo. Allerdings stehen vertraglich den meisten Beschäftigten 25 bis 30 Urlaubstage zu, wie Umfragen zeigen....Merkel's comments have one problem: they are terribly populistic. In Germany, laws prescribe at least 20 days vacation - nowhere in the fEuropean Union is it lower. However, for most employees, 25-30 vacation days are contractually guaranteed, as shown by polls.
Mit ihren Aussagen lässt Merkel allerdings die Interpretation zu, dass es in den kriselnden Euro-Ländern erheblich mehr Urlaub gebe, und das trifft so nicht zu. In Griechenland sind gesetzlich 25 Tage vorgeschrieben, in Portugal und Spanien jeweils 22 und in Irland 20 - so viele wie in Deutschland. Andererseits sind es ausgerechnet so vielgelobte Volkswirtschaften wie Finnland oder solche EU-Kernländer wie Frankreich, wo der Gesetzgeber die größte Zahl an Urlaubstagen ermöglicht (jeweils 30).Merkel's statements, however, allow for the interpretation that there is considerably vacation in the ailing Euro countries, and that is not so. In Greece, 25 days are legally required, 22 in both Portugal and Spain, and 20 in Ireland - as many as in Germany. On the other hand, it is just highly lauded economies such like Finland or core EU countries such as France where the legislature allows for the highest number of vacation days (both 30).
...Auch beim Renteneintrittsalter schwingt bei Merkel eine Propagandahaltung mit, die man schon für überholt glaubte. Der Satz "Bisher betrug das Renteneintrittsalter 65 Jahre, doch im Zuge einer langen Diskussion ist es kürzlich auf 67 angehoben worden" trifft auf Deutschland zu - aber auch auf das von Merkel kritisierte Spanien.... On the issue of retirement age, too, there is a propaganda undercurrent in Merkel's talk which one would have believed to have become outdated. The sentence "In the past the retirement age was 65 years, but in the course of a long discussion it has been recently raised to 67" is true for Germany - but also for Merkel-criticised Spain.
In Portugal liegt es bei 65, in Griechenland neuerdings ebenso. In Athen laufen gerade im Zuge des Sparpaktes die Bemühungen, nicht nur das gesetzliche, sondern auch das tatsächliche Renteneintrittsalter anzuheben: von derzeit 61,3 auf 63,5, was in etwa den deutschen Zahlen entspricht. Und in Irland, das vor einigen Wochen unter den Rettungsschirm schlüpfte, wurde das Renteneintrittsalter sogar auf 68 angehoben.It is 65 in Portugal, lately in Greece as well. In Athens, just now in the wake of the savings pact, efforts are on-going to raise not only to raise legal but also the actual retirement age: from the current 61.3 to 63.5, which is similar to the German figure. And in Ireland, which slipped under the rescue umbrella a few weeks ago, the retirement age was increased even to 68.

SZ also quotes the Spanish government reaction. As for why Merkel went right-populist, SZ thinks it is because of the threat to government majority in parliament by rebels who'd vote against another rescue package for Greece (as quoted in an earlier thread, SZ knows about 14 FDP and 5 CDU/CSU potential rebels, only two more would force Merkel into damaging her authority by relying on SPD and Green votes; SZ also quotes again an FDP guy still fuming about the FDP-pursued tax cuts), but doubts that such talk will convince the rebels.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 10:41:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As for why Merkel went right-populist, SZ thinks it is because of the threat to government majority in parliament by rebels who'd vote against another rescue package for Greece

How does it make sense, then, for Merkel to propagate xenophobic clichés against the supposed recipients of the "rescue"? That's just likely to strengthen the resolve of the rebels within the CDU/FDP majority as they can now expect the public to support them.

Unless Merkel is framing it as "we want to force those lazies to reform and the only way to do it is with the carrot of a rescue". Is she?

Economics is politics by other means

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 05:14:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Paraphrased, Merkel didn't say 'Southerners are lazy', she said 'Southerners, stop being lazy if you want our tax money'. So no carrot there, this is the pretence of a stick (a rhetorical stick in the imaginary right-wing framing of the situation, unrelated to the actual stick). Whether this will work on the rebels, in particular on the more numerous FDP rebels (who still believe only tax cuts will boost their poll numbers and feel existential angst even more after their party dropped from yet another regional parliament), is questionable. Merkel is likely to achieve more with standard fall-in-line-or-else appeals to conservative submission to authority. Which again underlines the fact that Merkel will risk sowing the seeds of hatred in millions and make big strategic and policy sacrifices for the most insignificant of political position power gains.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 10:31:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should add: in the meantime, Merkel upped the ante. Her spokesman reacted to opposition criticism by insisting that what she said wasn't campaign rhetoric but a serious proposal (at a local party event?...). And also declared that 'Everyone in Europe has to put in effort to remain globally competitive, Germans too' – so 'reforms' will continue domestically, too?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:02:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I continue the review of the German media reaction going further right, to SPIEGEL. First from an op-ed by Jakob Augstein (the adopted son of the magazine's onetime founder), who is decidedly to the left of SPIEGEL editors:

S.P.O.N. - Im Zweifel links: Merkel tauscht Europa gegen Stammtisch - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik S.P.O.N. - In case of doubt left: Merkel exchanges Europe against bar room - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International
...Merkels chauvinistische Parolen sind gefährlich. Sie können den ohnehin erstarkenden Rechtspopulismus im Land befördern. Darüber hinaus sind sie aber auch bigott. Die Exportüberschüsse, auf die sich die Deutschen so viel einbilden, bedingen die Leistungsbilanzdefizite der anderen geradezu. Andersherum: Entweder die Deutschen erzielen Exportüberschüsse - oder die anderen tragen ihre Schulden ab. Beides gleichzeitig geht nicht. Da ist eine große Unaufrichtigkeit am Werk, die das Wesen des Populismus ist. Es wäre die Aufgabe der Kanzlerin, hier für Klarheit zu sorgen. Und nicht das Ressentiment zu befördern.... Merkel's chauvinistic slogans are dangerous. They can advance the already strengthening right-wing populism in the country. In addition, they are also bigoted. The export surplus of which Germans are so smug about downright necessitate the current account deficits of the others. The other way round: either the Germans achieve export surpluses - or the others reduce their debts. Both at the same time won't go. There is a great dishonesty at work that is the essence of populism. It would be up to the Chancellor to provide clarity in this. And not to advance the resentment.
Deutschland hat seine Löhne und seinen Lebensstandard rabiat gesenkt und sich dadurch Wettbewerbsvorteile verschafft. In Frankreich sind die Löhne in den vergangenen zehn Jahren um 14,5 Prozent gestiegen. In Deutschland sind sie um sieben Prozent gesunken. Es ist schon schlimm genug, dass die Deutschen zu dieser sonderbaren Selbstkasteiung bereit waren. Gewerkschaften, Sozialdemokraten und Medien haben hierzulande versagt, als es darum ging, die Interessen der Beschäftigten zu vertreten. Daran sind die Deutschen selber schuld. Aber es ist abwegig, im Ernst zu glauben, Deutschland könne seinen unsinnig asketischen Lebensstil ganz Europa aufzwingen. Am deutschen Wesen will die Welt nicht genesen.Germany has reduced its wages and its standard of living brutally and achieved competitive advantage thereby. In France, the wages in the last ten years have increased by 14.5 percent. In Germany they fell by seven percent. It's bad enough that the Germans were ready for this strange self-flagellation. Unions, Social Democrats and the media in this country have failed when it came to represent the interests of employees. For this the Germans have themselves to blame. But it is absurd to seriously believe that Germany could impose its nonsensically ascetic lifestyle on all of Europe. The world won't recover on the German character.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 04:29:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am i discerning Der Spiegel shedding its neo-lib recent history?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 07:53:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Far from it, that's just the quota lefty columnist. They also have the other side of the spectrum (deep black) and some mixed up people in between.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Fri May 20th, 2011 at 10:03:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Before, they did not even have a quota lefty columnist, so I definitely sense a shift. But true, overall, they are still neolib and neocon. (Just read the Emmanuel Todd interview quoted in the Salon: some of the questions could have been asked by Daniel Pipes.)

The other article I wanted to quote last night was actually just a press review, and what caught my eyes originated in this:

Merkel -- populism never takes holidays | Presseurop (English)

In arguing that Greeks, Portuguese and Spanish shouldn't have more holidays, Angela Merkel is not only spreading disinformation based on cultural stereotypes, but undermining the very foundations of the EU, argues a Portuguese columnist.

Other than that and the Jakob Augstein piece, there is only an article on the SPD and Greens criticising Merkel, there is no factual debunking like in SZ and taz.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 21st, 2011 at 03:39:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I found a de-bunking article in Spiegel. It is even more thorough than SZ's. However, the debunking is preceded by a dissection of irrelevant economic weaknesses of the three countries (among others, unit labour costs), so that they can answer their own question, "Is Merkel right?" with a "Jein" (combination of Yes and No that doesn't translate)... This may be worse than not doing any debunking.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 23rd, 2011 at 11:22:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Germany they fell by seven percent.

And then they "allocated" the generated surplus to irish and spanish housing market. Now they want to rob irish and spanish labour as they have done to germans. And "the left" drives these policies..

by kjr63 on Sat May 21st, 2011 at 04:50:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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