but the 99% was not in solidarity. Perhaps some believed the propaganda that Greeks are lazy and corrupt or that Greek culture is to blame for their economic crisis. Certainly reinforcement of that image abounds:
Greeks are lazy. They don’t work. They’re profligates who are taking down Europe. The caricature has become so common that a recent TV commercial in Slovakia used it to sell beer, drawing a contrast between the virtuous Slovak and the paunchy Greek indulging himself on a beach.Outrageous things are being done to the Greek people; a crushing economic pogrom is being imposed by banking, corporate and government elites on the Greek people:
The "austerity package", as the newspapers like to call it, seeks to impose on Greece terms that no people can accept. Even now the schools are running out of books. There were 40% cuts in the public health budget in 2010. Greece's EU "partners" are demanding a 32% cut in the minimum wage for those under 25, a 22% cut for the over 25s. Already unemployment for 15-24-year-olds is 48% – it will have risen considerably since then. Overall unemployment has increased to over 20%. The sacking of public sector workers will add to it. The recession predicted to follow the imposition of the package will cause unbearable levels of unemployment at every level. linkImposed, you ask? Doesn't Greece have a sovereign government?
Greece’s dire economic condition can hardly be overstated. After two years of tax increases and wage cuts, Greek civil servants have seen their income shrink by 40 percent since 2010, and private-sector workers have suffered as well. More than $75 billion has left the country as people move their savings abroad. Some 68,000 businesses closed in 2010, and another 53,000 — out of 300,000 still active — are said to be close to bankruptcy, according to a report by the Greek Co-Federation of Chambers of Commerce. link
When the first international effort to impose an economic austerity regime upon Greece was completed, George Papandreou, the prime minister, surprised and infuriated the negotiators from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank by proposing that the draft agreement be submitted to a popular referendum in Greece. The negotiators and their governments knew very well that the Greek people would reject it.Apparently, democracy could not be allowed and an unelected offical was "appointed" Prime Minister of Greece for a transitional term. The unelected appointee is also, notably a long-term former European Central Bank Vice President and served as Senior Economist at the (US) Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
Mr. Papandreou was hustled out of the limelight, and foreign leaders, the EU, international financial officials, and right-thinking commentators in Europe and the United States all deplored his proposal, since democracy was not part of the deal.
Interestingly enough, now that the term of the unelected technocrat appointee is coming to a close and elections are due, there are ongoing negotiations that are considering demanding that a foreign overseer be appointed by the Troika (European Commission/European Central Bank/IMF) in Greece to ensure that the Greeks take the full measure of their punishment and that the bailout monies should be placed in an escrow account where they will flow directly to Greek creditors. Most outrageous of all though is the following suggestion attributed to Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who proposed that Greece should suspend elections and install a non-political technocratic Government, to help Greece’s unelected banker technocrat Prime Minister.
The people of Greece and their democratic processes are seen by the powers that be as an obstacle to their ambitions. Clearly, this should cause warning bells to ring.
When we casually use a term like "bailout", it is important to remember that it is not people who are being bailed out, or at least not the Greek people. The bailout will not save a single Greek life. The opposite is the case. What is being "bailed out" is the global financial system, including the banks, hedge funds and pension funds of the other EU member states, and it is the Greek people who are being ordered to pay – in money, time, physical pain, hopelessness and missed educational opportunities. linkIt is unlikely that, even if the Greek government is permanently subjugated by the Troika and the Greeks are made to pay that this won't spread elsewhere in Europe and the world. The 99% are being divided and conquered.
Or as this guy puts it:
Forget farce. Forget tragicomedy. Frankly, we are out of words to describe what is happening in Greece, Europe, and, actually - the world. Luckily, Kathimerini has just the headline, and associated story, to help us through this moment of verbal crisis. In one year this headline will be appearing in all insolvent countries (pretty much all of them), who will have pledged all of their sovereign assets as cash collateral, promptly used up by creditors to pay their interest payments using "escrow accounts" which make the debtor nation merely a fund flow intermediary with a seasonally unadjusted beggar-to-population ratio of 100%.But, we in America shouldn't worry about this stuff. Some variant of what's happening in Greece couldn't happen here...
"Funds found to help Greece's homeless"
but then again, isn't it? Yes, that's right, you're soaking in it:
Like Greece, we've also got the propaganda that poor Americans are culturally incapable of working and that the financial crisis wasn't caused by bankers, but rather, by greedy poor homebuyers and Congress.
Also like Greece (and many other countries) we've got banking elites blackmailing the government to impose austerity measures. The government has responded with President Obama supporting cuts to the social safety net and recently at President Obama's urging, as Tom Harkin aptly put it, Democrats voted to begin the unravelling of Social Security.
The wealthy elites are well on their way to owning our government outright. Senator Dick Durbin in a surprising moment of candor, when discussing the likelihood of passage of regulations that would affect the banking industry, said, “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”
With the advent of Citizens United, however, the wealthy are positioned to soon own more than just Congress. One of our keen observers of the political scene here on Dkos noted with regard to President Obama's recent capitulation over super pacs:
Obama did the right thing by quitting his efforts to stymie Democratic Super PACs. We all want those abominations gone from our politics, but only a political moron would think that taking a principled stand and eschewing them was the route to go. Politics is a contact sport, and you don't tie one hand behind your back...This is actually quite a remarkable observation in that it points out that super pacs will be indispensible to the success of the winner of the presidential race. In a recent article about super pacs, Ari Berman writes:
At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation -- drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99% -- electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063%. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80% of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.So, when President Obama announced that he is going to need his own super pac, he essentially made a tacit admission that the very wealthiest people in this country will choose the next president.
If 2008 was the year of the small donor, when many political pundits (myself included) predicted that the fusion of grassroots organizing and cyber-activism would transform how campaigns were run, then 2012 is "the year of the big donor," when a candidate is only as good as the amount of money in his super PAC. “In this campaign, every candidate needs his own billionaires,” wrote Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.
President Obama and his campaign are already making conciliatory promises to these wealthy folks:
A day after the announcement that the campaign, like its Republican rivals, would super PAC it up, Messina spoke at the members-only Core Club in Manhattan and “assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign,” reported Bloomberg Businessweek. “Messina told the group of Wall Street donors that the president plans to run against Romney, not the industry that made the former governor of Massachusetts millions.”So, get ready to hear a lot more from President Obama about how he and his administration are "business friendly" and Wall Streeters are "savvy businessmen" who work hard and we shouldn't begrudge rewards for their "success". Based upon his track record it is a fair prediction that Mr Obama, if elected, will continue to install Wall Street insiders and business friendly hacks into important administration positions and he will continue to appoint commissions packed with people like Alan Simpson and Jeff Immelt to create austerity policy and toxic memes in order to demonstrate the President's fealty to the monied interests that help him retain the presidency.
It's not clear yet what Citizen's United will do to congressional, state and local elections but, the mix of large donors to small donors in those elections is already massively skewed in favor of large donors:
Typically, these days, incumbent members of Congress raise less than 10% of their campaign funds from small donors, with those numbers actually dropping when you reach the gubernatorial and state legislative levels.So, given that the floodgates have been opened much wider, it looks like a system that is already gamed to the point of being unresponsive to the 99% is about to get worse with the advent of Citizens United. A cynical person would say that the price of various office holders is about to have a market readjustment, but such a criticism is probably not far off the mark.
Given the difficulty that the progressive community has had in electing "better democrats" in the past (not to mention focusing their attention on progressive actions once elected) it appears that Citizens United is only going to tip the balance away from our attempts to work inside of the political system to meet the needs of the 99%. Certainly we should vote, but we should also realize that it is akin to applying a tourniquet to a bleeding limb, it's going to have limited results and if something more isn't done soon, far worse things will happen.
While it remains to be seen whether the elites that are dominating governments and spreading poverty and misery among the 99% will settle on a political ideology, they are certainly an anti-democratic force at this point and while traditional totalitarianism is not exactly what seems to be happening now, the concept of inverted totalitarianism seems applicable. Our conditions seem to fit the definition of the "managed democracy" envisioned in the concept, "a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control."
Which brings me (at long last) to the point of this rambling discussion, the reason for the title, "First they came for the Greeks." I chose the title because it comes from perhaps the most eloquent lamentation of a failure of solidarity in the face of a campaign of the gradual imposition of tyranny written in the 20th century.
It is time for some solidarity now. The unemployed need help now. The generation of kids that will be sent to schools with far fewer teachers and resources will only be young once, their time is now. The enormous numbers of people for whom a lost job means that they have in a practical sense lost their access to adequate health care and the millions who never had it need help now. These folks can't wait for a series of elections to have their lot improved. It's time for us to cast a cool, appraising eye on our options for pressing this fight and come up with a new strategy.