OPINION

On ‘the end of Europe,’ the debt crisis, the Greek mentality

Re: The end of Europe as we know it

It’s easy to sit back and blame Greece’s woes on Wall Street or the rest of the world but until the Greeks take a long hard look at their own behavior and mentality there will be no progress. Over the last 30 years the Greeks grew accustomed to the government taking care of them, like children expecting their parents to handle everything while they go off with friends to play. Any sense of responsibility to community and country has all but disappeared. The public sector ballooned out of control and there was a direct correlation between all of those individuals that were placed in nonexistent jobs and how many votes a family gave a politician. While this passive attitude bred dependency, let’s not discount the consequences of lack of vision and responsibility by those in power. Instead of looking forward and investing in a better future with improved infrastructure and business development, the government (here you can insert anyone who happened to be in power) spent its energy blaming the previous party and assuring the masses why the current party was the better option. The next tranche [of the debt bailout] will accomplish little more than buying a few months before the world witnesses a repeat of the same events. Greece needs a serious and viable, long-term business plan that will encourage growth and make the country competitive, and this cannot be done without persuading and assuring the rest of the world that this is a serious commitment. It is time to restore the glory that was Greece. What would our forefathers say upon reading the recent headline «Ailing Greece Tries National Tag Sale”? I found it heartbreaking.

Gina Garis

Greek Parliament backs austerity package

The passage of the austerity package is a very good thing for Greece. I would describe it as a «reset» button for the whole Greek economy. And here is how I see it looking in from outside Greece — the USA. And I am not mixing my thoughts with the Greek political parties and their ideology.

The Greek economy has been based for too long on large public sector employment that did not produce anything for the economy. As a result, it was always funded with money not produced by the Greek domestic product, but by borrowed money from foreign sources. And that could not go on forever! It was good for those who had received those fabulous public benefits and pensions — as long as it lasted, and it is bad now that Greece has to tighten its belt to pay the loans and bonds back.

The new law should help Greece to slowly reset its economy, and focus on future investments and developments that will pay wage earners for their production and their services — not for loafing at public offices. And that is what Turkey has done, and it is developing quite rapidly, while Greece has been sinking deeper and deeper into debt. Our near bankruptcy state of affairs is, therefore, a blessing and a rude awakening that Greece needed really badly. The adjustment will be hard for Greeks, but they really need it. Greece has to become competitive in the global economy, and it will be hard to change the Greeks? attitude that «smart people get a good living by loafing in a public job.» That era has defaulted, and it won’t be resurrected.

We lament that «we gave the lights of civilizations to humanity, and are are still living with the wick lanterns.» We, the Greeks, are responsible, and only we can change that. Let’s do away with «the blame game,» and rebuild Greece on a new «production-based economy,» not on loafing and bragging. We need a new start with a Japanese-type work ethic if we want a better life in the 21st century. The culture of sleaze has failed, and I hope history will not repeat itself.

Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Fat-cat greed obsession destroying worldwide economy

Laws have changed in the United States putting fat-cat greed monsters in full control of everything. This includes Congress, the president, judiciary, news media, cutting product quality, cutting pay, cutting benefits and temporarily wallowing in consumer gouging increased profits.

They are so sick with their obsession of greed that they do not realize that they are destroying the goose that lays the golden egg. Their sickness is the same as drug addicts, alcoholics, smoking etc.

While getting their throats financially cut, their political groupies are going to extremes to help the fat cats make a complete success of their new refound power, «Plutocracy.”

The balance of the public is sick with apathy obsession and political ignorance because the fat cats do not allow political economics in our education system. Therefore, they guide their actions by the phony incomplete news media misinformation quoting «facts» based on political scam rules, some through political ignorance and most are force to appease their advertisers to avoid losing their necessary advertising income, thus helping to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Foreign fat cat greed monsters are copying the USA and are destroying their countries likewise.

I have four books that detail the exact causes of today’s worst unemployment economic disaster in history and the exact corrections that would quickly reverse this disaster. The most pertinent one is my ebook, ?Goolsbynomics.? But, instead of the public being interested in learning how to fix this disaster, they are guiding their actions with news media and political misinformation, not realizing their throats are being financially cut.

Jeff Goolsby, Grassroots Business and Political Economist, PhD

USA

Lazy incompetence?

You think lazy incompetent public servants exist only within the confides of Greek borders? Think again! The Greek diaspora has been frustrated for a very, very long time with the lazy, laissez-faire and rude attitude of Greek embassy staff worldwide!

George Anastos

Re: If this is democracy

Irony is not without humor. The founders of democracy now find themselves victims of their own creation.

In its current form, democracy in Greece is nothing but an illusion. An illusion that the people have willingly accepted for decades now. Sure we are protesting against the measures, expressing our anger by screaming and shouting, holding up signs, chattering insults and harsh words in front of Parliament, but in the end every Greek knows that nothing will change.

We put this and past governments in power knowing full well that they were not the best candidates for the job. It all had to do with selling our vote for something. I would hear such things as «I voted for him because he promised me a job in the public sector…», or «I have always voted PASOK/ND because my grandfather supported them, we are a PASOK/ND family!» In the end though, it can be described with a word known all to well to us Greeks: volema.

And for those that didn’t sell their vote, they simply were indifferent and didn’t vote at all.

We all know that the current situation is a product of our lack of vision and complacency. We gave up the control of our country to these people for our own benefit. And as long as things were going well, no one complained. Now that we have run out of money and have our lenders looming over our heads salivating over what part of our country they will get their hands on first, we start to realize that perhaps we should have been more responsible in the running of our country.

In all my years I have never seen anything change in Greece because of strikes, protests or any other form of expression of public discontent. And the reason for that is because it is all a show, just like our democracy. Mr Boukalas says we are «blackmailed, manipulated, discredited and humiliated,» but what he fails to mention is that we have done this to ourselves.

Our version of democracy is as corrupt as the politicians we elected to uphold it. How can we expect them to act honorably now? What motivation do they have to find a real solution? Their bellies are full, and their mattresses filled with money. Why would they give a damn about the common man?

But this is not limited to the 300 sitting in Parliament, this phenomenon has trickled down over the years to all levels of the public sector. Is a doctor telling a patient that they will not operate if they do not provide an envelope with cash in it not a form of blackmail and manipulation? Is a tax auditor stating that they require X euros in order to go away not a form of blackmail and manipulation? For those of us living in Greece, we know this all too well. It is present at all levels of government and the social services, clear as day in plain sight, yet we never took action to correct it. And then there is the private sector; persons declaring an annual income of 10,500 euros, yet they have a different luxury car for every day of the week with an accompanying country home to park each car in.

And the reason that we never sought to change this is because almost everyone believed that they would have something to gain at some point in their lives from this system.

Our grandchildren will be paying their debts while we rot in away in our old age, miserable and poor, consoling ourselves with the thought that we were once a great nation.

John C

Debt crisis

I am saddened to see the opposition to a plan that would finally bring Greece into the new world as we know it.

Unfortunately, ignorance, corruption and incompetence have been the hallmarks of Greek society for so long that any change is unimaginable to most people. It seems that the Greek state is the last third world country left in Europe and is resistant to change right to the brink of insolvency.

I regret that the lesson of bankruptcy was avoided (for now). I feel that if Greece were allowed to slide into that sewer and all banks failed resulting in the loss of all deposits, the public may have finally realized the asinine direction that the country has been pursuing.

You are fortunate to have been saved once again and I am glad to see the positive media image that you have projected for prospective tourists that may have been considering Greece as a holiday destination.

Keep up the good work! At this rate you may yet convince every tourist to holiday anywhere else but Greece.

Anthony Doukas

Re: ?Bad sports?

Eloquently stated.

Two+ years working as a consultant to the South African government regarding the FIFA World Cup preparations has brought me to the same conclusions.

If sport is going to have any significance in the future it must be left in more honest hands.

Kali Simpson

Kastellorizo

A Greek tragedy

Polls show that over 75% of Greek citizens are opposed to the «austerity» legislation, but the Parliament voted for it anyway. Greeks are justly rioting because they are now realizing that in reality Greece is not a democracy. Their «democracy» is a fraud. The will of the people is not being represented. The shadow on the wall of the cave was not merely a classroom thought experiment — the reality really is very different.

If the banksters are allowed to enslave the people of Greece, it will set a precedent for suppressing people everywhere, in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and eventually in America. It will create a precedent for the beginning of a corporate-state type of feudalism, where people’s children and grandchildren can be bound to pay for the debts of a country because they are «attached» to a country as citizens, just as serfs were attached to the land of aristocrats. This is absolutely no different than when «serfdom included the forced labor of serfs bound to a hereditary plot of land owned by a lord.» «Lord» has merely been replaced by the word «international bank.”

America should have learned this same lesson three years ago, when George Bush pushed through the Bank Bailout against the opposition of 90 percent of the American people. America is also a faux democracy, run by a cartel of banksters and corporations, just like Greece and Europe. Some Americans woke up at the point, most didn’t. It is refreshing to see that the Greeks have the spine to be fighting back. Americans were too busy gossiping about the latest teen idol or ?Dancing with the Stars? contestant to take notice that they had been sold down the river to Wall Street.

The Greeks, by fighting, will deserve their country if they can win it back. It is not clear that the Americans, other than the very activist Ron Paul followers, the anti-corporate libertarians, the few non-authoritarian progressives, and a growing number of independents, will deserve anything other than what is soon to come. Now that, ironically, is a Greek tragedy.

Seth Kristol

Chicago

I am embarrassed to call myself Greek

How can a once proud nation do this to themselves? It?s not a matter of who’s fault it is, but a matter of how we can fix this, no matter what government is in power. These people rioting and making a mockery of the Greek flag should hang their heads in shame. What I saw on TV, people smashing buildings with hammers, throwing bottles of petrol at police, is a barbaric thing to see, and what tourist is willing to come see one of the most beautiful countries on earth now?

Mihalis Pagoulatos

Re: The end of Europe as we know it

Kudos to Petros Papaconstantinou for a well-written article that reveals a lot of truth about the rocky foundation and flaws of the eurozone. I do, however, take issue with his statement of «demonizing the ‘wasteful’ ways of the periphery.» Do you deny that Greece has mismanaged its finances? How can you expect a country to prosper when tax evasion is rampant and dishonesty and corruption are rewarded? How can a country prosper when even the most basic laws (i.e. no smoking in public places, wearing seat belts in cars and helmets on motorcycles) are not reinforced? It’s time for Greek citizens to stop being arrogant and stop denying that they have a problem. It’s time for them to become advocates for constructive change; not advocates for the status quo. To say that Greece hasn’t been oppressed by greater powers to the northwest would also be a denial, and unfair. But one cannot deny that Greece allowed itself to fall into the state that it’s in by priding itself on a «xalaro» and complacent lifestyle that often reminds me of Aesop’s fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper. Greeks should stop complaining like spoiled children who are losing their allowance and start demanding of themselves that they become competent and competitive players in the global market.

Eleni Philos

Why this brand of Europe is a failure

The model for European unity set up now is a failure because the focus has been on the German question. How can the country that is the economic giant of Europe be safely integrated with the remainder of the continent and keep its focus strictly on economic progress instead of hegemony? The model has never looked like it has been concerned with how countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland or Spain will fit into the same unified entity as the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria or Germany. Instead, it has been set up to facilitate exports and trade surpluses through a common currency from north/central Europe into Mediterranean Europe, with little chance that most products from the Mediterranean countries will be able to compete with those from the north. The trade surpluses build for the north and the trade deficits increase for the south. Having a common currency looking more like the former German mark than the Greek drachma facilitated borrowing in the Mediterranean countries because of lower interest rates, which further spurred private consumption of German products and public borrowing to finance government Mediterranean-style. German banks did the most lending, making large profits from interest earned and further draining euros from the south into the north. Yes, German tourists have brought many of those euros back into the Mediterranean countries, but not enough to call it an even exchange. Even the bailout of Greece looks like it is designed to help cushion German banks from taking huge losses in the event of a Greek default or restructuring. So when a model is set up where one section of the union benefits far more than and at the expense of another section, eventually things will disintegrate. 

 

Peter Kates

You can’t have it all

Lamenting the past, in which the present situation is deeply rooted, while at the same time criticizing the change that might rejuvenate Greek society exposes the mentality that has perpetuated politics in Greece.

Whether it was forced upon him or he did it out of love of country, Papandreou was the instigator of change. It has taken 30 years to dig the hole Greece is in, so why do people expect to get out of it in one or two years? Is it because in the past they were used to devaluating their currency when the results of their mismanagement caught up with them? Greece had devalued its currency five times since its inception.

For decades Greeks have been electing politicians who told them what they wanted to hear and this is the fruit of their choices.

Before the present crisis, Papandreou or any other politician in Greece would have seen worse strikes, protests, riots, outrage, and indignation had they proposed a fraction of the changes that have been enacted in the past year. Preventive actions that would have addressed the country?s problems before they became a crisis would never have happened because the voting public would have removed any politician who attempted them.

Greek politicians have been incompetent at best, corrupt and immoral at worst in their administration of the country, but so have the public that put them there.

Who is at fault, the dealer or the addict?

Take responsibility, take the medicine and stop complaining.

Let?s prove ourselves worthy of our link to the ancient Greeks and not the corruption and decay that was the Ottoman Empire.

Peter Hassoulas

What happens next?

So the next tranche of 12 billion euros is probably on the way to Greece. What next? This will carry Greek government spending into the fall, and then what? All the experts keep saying that the debt load is simply not sustainable and that Greece is insolvent. It doesn’t sound like Greece’s creditors are going to bankroll the country indefinitely as their constituents are running out of patience. How many more cuts will they expect Greece to make, and how much longer can the Greek economy be leached to feed the public sector? How much more can the Greek public tolerate the cuts and higher taxes? The economy, which is healthier than the public sector, is becoming sicker because of the spending cuts and higher taxes. The only way out is a debt restructuring, which will be treated as a default by some rating agencies and could have further unwanted consequences as well. Who will shield the Greek banks and pension funds that hold a lot of this government debt? I certainly hope that officials in Athens, Brussels, Frankfurt and other European capitals are working feverishly to come up with something other than bailouts that prolong the agony. News yesterday that it was Mr. Venizelos rather than Mr. Papandreou who was taking charge was not a very encouraging sign.

 

Peter Kates

Unless….

Unless people stop blaming everyone except themselves (illigal immigrants, the government, America, now Germany and the list goes on and on)

Unless Greeks treat the whole of society as their family (because they literally will give their shirt for a family member or friend, but leave the neighbor down the road bleeding in the street)

Unless laws, which do exist, are enforced (a stop sign, as a very simple example, is simply decoration and the police, too — the supposed good example — pass without stopping just the same)

Unless public servants? protection from being fired is removed and people are hired as well as fired according to their work ethics and qualifications (and not if you are the son of a friend of a friend of your brother to be hired and you go grocery shopping or to the dentist during working hours, read the newspaper or talk to your girlfriend while 100 people are trying to get their bureaucracy stuff done without being afraid of losing your job) and that those that do deserve to work for the public are paid accordingly (doctors, nurses, just to name a few)

Unless we refuse to make under-the-table payments to get ahead of everyone else, and wait our turn (that of course goes for every line there is here, someone always has to push in front, because everyone else just loves to stand in line and wait, except of course that person)

Unless taxation becomes fair (no, those that have earned their money with hard, hard work, 20-hour days and weekends, should not be forced to give up everything they own just to pay the taxes on their houses, because the one who sits at home or in the ?kafeneio? chose a more relaxed way of living), it is then no wonder that companies and other capital take flight right out of this country

Unless officials actually start doing their job and stop exhibiting only hunger for power (see the opposition)

Unless people start understanding that striking at the drop of a hat and continous protests will not change anything but are extremely counterproductive and just make a bad situation worse (tourist season is one time of the year where foreign money is spent in Greece and with the strikes and riots, well, if I was a tourist I wouldn’t want to come here)

Unless Greek society understands that these are dire times and that we have to pull hard together, that it will take sacrifices from everyone, that we have to think about what we can do for Greece and not what Greece must do for us…

Nothing will change

Michaela Toth