Category Archives: Banksters

Troika agrees to modest debt relief for Greece


Greece, the European nation hardest hit by the Wall Street-sparked Great Recession, has been granted some modest debt relief, but conditions set the Troika [the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission] mandate that the regime of austerity continue.

That means that cutbacks in pay, pensions, healthcare, and other social programs will continue, along with privatization of national resources and higher taxes on necessary consumer goods.

But the conditions set also require that the government maintain a high surplus, a measure ensuring that austerity pains will continue.

From Ekathimerini:

Monday’s decision at a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels to approve short-term debt relief measures for Greece was a “decisive step towards stabilizing the Greek economy and restoring trust,” the government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Speaking to the press, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that the government will continue negotiations with its eurozone partners for longer-term measures to reduce Greece’s huge debt pile, but stressed that Athens will “under no circumstances” agree to more belt-tightening once the bailout program is complete.

Tzanakopoulos was referring to the International Monetary Fund, which has demanded more structural measures in order to join the Greek program.

“The IMF cannot pressure the Greek government for new measures and not its European partners for lower primary surplus targets,” Tzanakopoulos said, referring to a demand that Greece maintain a primary fiscal surplus of 3.5 percent after 2018, a factor considered crucial by the IMF.

His comments echoed those of Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos who warned international creditors, including the IMF, on Monday not to pressure Athens to implement measures it had not previously agreed to.

But the IMF isn’t as happy with the deal as Tzanakopoulos indicated and has called for a halt to further austerity measures, as well as a lower GDP surplus, reports To Vima:

The International Monetary Fund welcomed the short-term debt relief measures that were announced at the Eurogroup, however it noted that they are not sufficient.

An IMF officer reportedly told Bloomberg that the Fund insists that the primary surplus targets after 2018 must not exceed 1.5% of the GDP, since anything higher is unrealistic.

As the officer commented, the targets set must not require austerity and argued that the fewer years the high targets are maintained, the lesser the impact will be on the country’s growth, since the 3.5% GDP target will require additional reforms in the pension and tax system.

The officer also called Athens and Brussels to present measures to be taken, should the primary surplus target of 3.5% be maintained after 2018.

The Troika’s official statement is posted here.

Quote of the day: A call for resistance in Greece


As the austerians demand yet more draconian cuts as a condition for further financial assistance to a Greece reeling from the Wall Street bankster-created Great recession, a call for action comes from Stavros P. Psycharis, president of the Lambrakis Press Group, publisher of the influential newspaper To Vima:

It is clear that we are faced with the most serious financial crisis that Greece has ever experienced. For the past seven years the country cannot move forward aside from within the economic paths set by our foreign “rulers”. The United Europe is losing respect for Man and its political leaders are seemingly turning into second-rate cash lenders.

Against this situation, Greece must resist, fight and win. It is unacceptable to be blackmailed by a mob of “technocrats” who propose and impose measures like the village doctor hands out aspirin!

But what is done, is done. It is time to refuse the humiliation of the poor relative being humiliated by his own family.

One quick example. Greece cannot implement labor laws other than what is provided in the European acquis.

It is time for Greece to demonstrate that it has the power to ask and receive fair treatment from the people of Europe family. Otherwise the country’s political leadership must be united in facing the crisis that has brought poverty to Greece for the past seven years.

Disabled Greeks oppose new austerity regime


We should give austerity a new name: Call it the Reverse Robin Hood Doctrine.

Austerity is the regime imposed on the world’s debt-ridden poor nations to qualify them for loans to pay the corporations and banksters of the world’s richest nations.

To make those payments, the debt-plagued countries are forced to slash programs designed to help the nation’s afflicted, poor, sick, and otherwise afflicted.

The latest crisis, the Great Recession, brought Greece to its knees, and the government sought loans from the Troika, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Needless to say, austerity was imposed, forcing drastic cuts in the national healthcare system, the selloff of public assets [including power companies, transit systems, ports, and much more], as well as drastic cuts in public pensions and paychecks, as well as reduced social benefits payments imposed on those who could least afford the loss.

The austerity regime prompted voter to elect a government which promised them an end to austerity, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has knuckled under, and new rounds of deprivation are underway.

Some of those most deeply impacted are now expressing their outrage.

From Kathimerini:

Disabled people and patients with chronic illnesses from around Greece protested in central Athens Friday against austerity measures as the government races to clinch a new deal with bailout lenders.

Protesters in wheelchairs carried black balloons while deaf demonstrators wore white gloves as they used sign language to join chants of anti-government slogans.

Disabled groups are seeking exemptions from budget austerity measures imposed under the country’s international bailout agreements.

Unemployment among people with disabilities was more than double the national jobless rate of 23 percent with poverty levels also sharply higher, according to Yannis Vardakastanis, head of the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece.

“We want to live in dignity,” Vardakastanis, who is blind, told the AP. “It’s the obligation of the government and European institutions to stop us from being further isolated, impoverished and discriminated against.”

Greece is currently finalizing a new package of economic measures that would make home foreclosures and business firings easier. The measures are required in exchange for new bailout loan payouts and talks on debt relief measures.

Shame on the Troika, and shame on Tsipras.

Headlines of the day: Oh, isn’t that rich? Really rich


“That” being the Trump cabinet.

First from the Washington Post:

Donald Trump is assembling the richest administration in modern American history

  • Trump is putting together what will be the wealthiest administration in modern American history. His announced nominees for top positions include several multimillionaires, an heir to a family mega-fortune and two Forbes-certified billionaires, one of whose family is worth as much as industrial tycoon Andrew Mellon was when he served as treasury secretary nearly a century ago.
  • Rumored candidates for other positions suggest Trump could add more ultra-rich appointees soon.
  • Many of the Trump appointees were born wealthy, attended elite schools and went on to amass even larger fortunes as adults. As a group, they have much more experience funding political candidates than they do running government agencies.

And from BBC News:

Trump assembles America’s ‘richest cabinet’

  • US President-elect Donald Trump took a populist tone on the campaign trail, pledging to stand for a beleaguered working class abandoned by the elite.
  • Mr Trump, of course, brings immense wealth to his new role. The property tycoon’s worth is estimated at $3.7bn (£3bn) by Forbes magazine, with more than 500 businesses in his empire.
  • But he might not be the richest member of his team. His nominee for education secretary, Betsy Devos, is the daughter of Richard DeVos, who founded the Amway retail giant. Forbes puts their family wealth at $5.1bn.
  • Next up is Wilbur Ross, the president-elect’s pick for commerce secretary. Forbes puts the wealth of Mr Ross, who headed Rothschild Inc’s bankruptcy practice before starting an investment firm, at $2.5bn.
  • Mr Ross’s deputy will be Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, who has an estimated wealth of $1.75bn.

Finally, the front page headline on the New York Times:

Trump Cabinet Choices Signal Embrace of Wall St. Elite

  • Donald J. Trump picked Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, to run the Treasury and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a billionaire investor, to head the Commerce Department.
  • The choices have been cheered by investors, but they stand in stark contrast to the populist campaign that Mr. Trump ran.

And while not headlines, two of this morning’s tweets from Sen. Bernie Sanders add some perspective:

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As does the editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

David Horsey: Trump gets comfy in the Washington swamp

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Economy: Spain’s Millennials live with parents


While Eurocrats have hailed Spain’s “recovery” from the Great Recession, lauding themselves for accomplishing a miracle with bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund, and European Central Bank, the reality is quite different.

The draconian austerity regime dictated by the by the financial oligarchs effectively destroyed the futures of millions of young Spaniards.

From El País:

For the first time in 12 years, less than 20% of people aged between 16 and 30 are living outside the family home. In the second quarter of 2016, the figure was 19.6%, a 4.84% increase on the period in 2015, says Spain’s Youth Council. It adds that of those who have managed to leave their parents, only 16.7% are living alone.

The official unemployment rate among the under-30s is 34.4%, but the reality is that only two out of every 10 under-24s is working, and more than 55% of them are on short-term contracts, while 60% are earning less than €1,000 a month.

Victor Reloba, of the Youth Council, says that while unemployment has fallen slightly, young people are unable to leave the family home because even if they are in work, they will likely be on zero-hours contracts, short-term contracts, or earning money from a number of different activities. “One in four young people is poor,” he explains.

Most under-30s who have managed to leave home are living in shared accommodation with two or more other people.

Chart of the day: The collapse of Greek retailers


From Elstat, the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

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While Greece’s retail trades, the bulwark of the middle class, have continued to fall since the start of the Great Recession, the lenders of the Troika continue to battle over terms of the next round of bailout cash, even though Greece has already sold much of its public holdings [rail and transit systems, ports, and even islands] while imposing draconian pay and pension cuts while downsizing its civil service.

From Greek Reporter:

The “serious disagreement between the IMF and European institutions” puts the chances of Greece’s economic recovery at risk, said Bank of Greece governor Yiannis Stournaras on Monday.

Stournaras spoke about the Greek economy at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference and talked about the crucial negotiations on the second bailout program review. He warned that “a possible failure to reach an agreement could halt the upward trend of the economy, resulting in the return to uncertainty and would undermine confidence.” He said that the disagreement between euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund on debt relief measures is pushing back decisions.

The central bank chief urged Greece’s European partners to make decisions on the measures that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the state debt and reduce the target for the primary surplus to 2% of GDP from 3.5%, in order to enhance the prospects of growth.

Stournaras said that,  Despite the mistakes and setbacks, despite the significant economic and social costs of the crisis, Greece has made significant progress over the last six years in terms of budget adjustments and external imbalances.”

However, he said, the harsh measures Greek governments have implemented and the burden Greek people have shouldered are at serious risk. “Despite positive forecasts for the second half of 2016 and 2017, serious risks for the Greek economy still lurk. The main danger is a possible failure to reach an agreement for the second evaluation of the program and delays or setbacks in the implementation.”

More from To Vima:

The head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem argued that European lenders should be “realistic” in the fiscal targets they set for Greece after 2018, when the program of financial aid will end.

“We need to be realistic” Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the economic affairs committee of the European Parliament, saying that the International Monetary Fund has a point when it says “running a primary surplus of 3.5 percent for a very long time is a huge thing to ask”.

Dijsselbloem’s remarks come a few days before a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on 5 December, when Europe’s Finance Ministers are set to decide for how long Greece should maintain a primary budget surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs – of 3.5% after 2018, when its current program of financial aid expires.

Even Barack Obama, who has otherwise shown himself a faithful apostle of neoliberal “reforms,” is calling for the banksters to back off and give the beleaguered Greeks some measure of debt relief.

And well he should, considering that it was the avarice of Wall Street banksters who caused the crash in the first place.

A tale of two indigenous land protest movements


The Dakota Access Pipeline [DAP] is a 1,600-mile pipeline being built to carry high-grade petroleum from North Dakota’s fracked-up Bakken Shale proposed across North and South Dakota and on through Iowa to Illinois.

The only problem, besides all the environmental worries connected with oil, fracking, and constructing a pipeline that could leak into some of the nation’s most environmentally sensitive landscapes and waterways, the project is being driven through land considered sacred by several of the nation’s indigenous tribes.

Native American take a different view of land that do the statutes of states and the federal government, which see land as property, susceptible to “improvements” — usually those proposed by folks looking out to make a fast buck.

Indigenous people tend to see land different, as a living thing of which they are a small but significant part.

Mother Earth, in other words, is more than just as advertising slogan.

The DAP passes through landscape — a better term than the purely utilitarian land favored by legislators, banksters, and corporateers — considered sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux, and it was a woman, tribal Historic Preservation Officer LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who formally launched the protest movement against the project by opening the Sacred Stone Camp on April 1.

The protest has been joined by other indigenous groups, environmentalists, and scientists concerned about the ecological impacts and threats to endangered species.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that protesters blockading pipeline construction must end by 5 December or mass arrests would follow, and the Obama administration shows no sign of intervening as of this writing.

Which brings us to the story of another protest, and a successful campaign launched by women to thwart a housing development of scared landscape north of the U.S. border.

From the National Film Board of Canada, a 2009 documentary film by Sara Roque:

Six Miles Deep

Program notes:

A documentary portrait of a group of women who led their community, the largest reserve in Canada, Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, in an historic blockade to protect their land. On February 28, 2006, members of the Iroquois Confederacy [also known as the Haudenosaunee or People of the Longhouse] blockade a highway near Caledonia, Ontario to prevent a housing development on land that falls within their traditional territories. The ensuing confrontation makes national headlines for months. Less well known is the crucial role of the clan mothers of the community who set the rules for conduct. When the community’s chiefs ask people to abandon the barricades, it is the clan mothers who overrule them, leading a cultural reawakening in their traditionally matriarchal community.