Friday, 24 June 2011 00:00
1. Throughout the night and the morning this is being written, European and Asian news services are nearly wall-to-wall news about Greece. At the same moment, our region’s major tabloid newspapers contain not a word about it, and neither do most major media outlets. Total disconnect.
2. In 2002, Goldman Sachs, the firm that just keeps on giving back to the world, engineered a “cross currency swap” that, basically, allowed financiers to bundle faulty Greek national debt securities much the same way they bundled faulty mortgage debt here. These debts are maturing, swelling Greece’s deficit. Greece can’t pay its debts (330 billion Euros). Unlike the U.S., the Greeks are locked into the Euro system and cannot create money or inflate their way out of debt. If they default, it may sink some of the world’s important banks, and where the dominos will eventually fall no one knows. It may turn out just fine, which scares the bankers very much.
3. International banks are willing to a loss on some of what they are owed as long as the Greeks don’t call it a “default.” The Greek government teeters.
4. As part of the austerity imposed on Greece by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a bailout fund is created not for the Greek people, but for foreign banks and other international investors, many of whom have been buying the falling securities on the cheap. They will make a fortune. Greece will take two-year loan at 25 percent interest. Its economy and the standard of living of its people already kneecapped by draconian budget and pension cuts, Greece is being told to sell off just about everything to investors.
5. Two weeks ago, the Greek government sold part of the state-owned telephone company to Deutsche Telekom of Germany. The postal office, ports, airports, everything, are all on the block.
6. Financial austerity and mass privatization only deepens debt and intensifies recessions. The Latvians, Lithanians and Estonians have wrecked themselves doing what the financiers wanted. In Argentina, they still call their last economic meltdown “the IMF Crisis.” The United Kingdom’s austerity measures have foundered any recovery they were having.
7. Unemployment in Spain is hovering around 21 percent, and in Greece its about 16 percent. In both countries, unemployment among young people is over 40 percent. The squares in both of these countries have been filled for weeks.
8. Spain’s “Indignados” or Indignant Ones movement (also called M-15 or May 15th Movement) took over 60 city squares across Spain, calling for economic democracy and political justice. Regional legislators in Catalonia, Spain are now using police helicopters to get to parliament without facing demonstrators protesting severe austerity measures. Greek protestors are adopting the Indignados moniker. Many are also identifying with “Democracy 4.0.”
9. Democracy 4.0 refers to going beyond having a single small group of representatives call all the shots. Seeing their legislative bodies as bought off and weak, they look to Iceland for inspiration. Iceland, which stood up to the international financial bullies, is now writing a new constitution through “crowdsourcing,” using the Internet and social sites to get ideas and direct input from citizens. Democracy 4.0 says that citizen participation doesn’t have to be limited to voting every few years.
10. They are calling for a rejection of failed austerity policies and fairness in how public debts are paid off or restructured, even if it costs banks money.
11. Soon, the usual voices will say that the young people in the streets are Communists or Socialists or Kenyan-born elitists bent on the destruction of America. They will say that Greece proves that we must scale back Social Security and Medicare.
12. Indignados is the movement much of the Tea Party pretends to be. Indignados is truly unaffiliated with any political party, truly drawing from across the political spectrum, truly driven from the grassroots (in Syntagma Square, in front of the Greek Parliament building, scores of thousands of people listen to speakers chosen randomly from the crowd), truly standing in opposition to the agenda of powerful corporate and financial interests. They are truly peaceful, and violent rhetoric is not tolerated.
13. I am rooting for them.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org