Category Archives: Economy

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.

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:

blog-greece

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.

Chart of day: Rich gain most during post-crash


Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

From the latest Income Inequality Report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report on growing income disparities in the 36-nation group:

Between 2007 and 2010, average real income fell by 2.1% on average, with a stronger decline at the bottom (-5.3%) and the top (-3.6%). While the recovery since 2010 improved average incomes, more rapid growth of top incomes (2.3%) and weaker improvement at the bottom and at the middle (1.1% and 1.3%) increased inequality, although only marginally.

By 2013/14, incomes at the bottom of the distribution are still well below pre-crisis levels while top and middle incomes had recovered much of the ground lost during the crisis.

During the economic downturn, low- and high-income households lost the most. During the recovery, high-income households gained more due
to unequal growth of labour incomes and changes in redistribution.

El País reports on the growing income gap in Spain, one of the nation’s hardest hit by the Great Recession:

Inequality is one of the biggest consequences of the economic crisis in Spain. The latest Income Inequality Update by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that between 2010 and 2014, Spanish workers with the lowest salaries suffered the greatest wage cuts of all OECD member states after Portugal.

“In Spain, despite the prolonged period of strong job creation, stimulated by the 2012 labor reform, persistently high levels of long-term unemployment, falling real wages and persisting labor market segmentation translated into a sharp fall of labor incomes, especially at the bottom,” reads the report, which was released on Thursday.

Spain also has the highest rate of poor workers after Turkey and Chile.

“Higher-income households benefited more from the recovery than those with middle and lower incomes,” states the study. “The fruits of the economic recovery have not been evenly shared.”

In Spain, inequality grew in 2014 even though the economy was growing at a rate of 1.4%. The reports finds that the average Gini coefficient of disposable household income – “a standard measure of inequality that takes the value of 0 when everybody has the same income and 1 when one person has all the income” – reached 0.346. In 2007 that figure was 0.324 while in 2012 it was 0.335, according to the OECD.

In 2014, the bottom 10% of workers in Spain earned just 2% of all income in the country while the top 10% earned 24.7%.

Trump’s not Adolf Hitler, says Noam Chomsky


While Adolj Hitler was a sincere, dedicated ideologue, Donald Trump is a thing-skinned megalomaniac, firing off tweets at 3 a.m. when anyone angers him, says Noam Chomsky in this extended interview with Al Jazeera.

And in some ways he’s worse: “The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. I think it’s dangerous, very dangerous.”

And in many ways, he says, it’s the Republican Party itself that’s the greatest threat to humanity’s future.

Topics covered include the failure of the news media to cover real issues, climate change, Barack Obama’s assassination program, NATO and threats to peace in Eastern Europe, and more

From Al Jazeera English’s UpFront:

Noam Chomsky on the new Trump era

Japan’s Abe says TPP meaningless without the U.S.


Japan’s neoliberal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe overcame considerable domestic opposition to win parliamentary approval of the Trans-Pacific partnership, and he was the first foreign leader to win a sitdown with Donald Trump in the splendor of the President-elect’s luxurious digs in the Big Apple Thursday [a meet also attended by daughter Ivanka and spouse Jared Kushner]:

Official handout photo via euronews.

Official handout photo via euronews.

But all that flesh-pressing didn’t win Abe Trump’s support for the TPP, a pact Trump announced today [via YouTube] that he would kill on his first day in office.

And without U.S. participation, the TPP is effectively dead, Abe said today.

From the Associated Press:

Japan’s prime minister said Monday the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would be “meaningless” without U.S. participation, as Donald Trump announced he planned to quit the pact.

Shinzo Abe’s comment came shortly before the U.S. president-elect released a short video about his plans for his administration, including an intention to have the United States drop out of the TPP pact.

>snip<

Abe discounted the idea of going ahead without the Americans being a part of the deal.

“TPP is meaningless without the United States,” he said at a news conference during an official visit to Argentina.

He also said the pact couldn’t be renegotiated. “This would disturb the fundamental balance of benefits.”

Predicting Trump’s rise in the Weimar America


The late Richard Rorty’s title was Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University, but he was so much more.

He was one of the most brilliant philosophers America has produced, a prodigy who won admittance into the University of Chicago at the ripe old age of 14, when he received by bachelor’s and master’s degrees, then won his Ph.D. at Yale. He was also awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genus award,” and taught at Princeton for two decades before migrating West.

Rorty was also a theorist of consciousness, and his writings on the subject have been cited by numerous psychologists and evolutionary theorists, and provided our own introduction to this seminal 20th Century thinker.

All-in-all, impressive credentials.

But it is a quotation from Rorty’s final book, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, which has captured the attention of many in the days since we were presented with the reality of a President Donald Trump.

From page 89 comes a prescient prediction, a perfecting synopsis both of Trump’s victory and Clinton’s loss, coupled with a stark warning:

Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The non-suburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Sadly, Rorty died nine years before his prediction came to pass. We’d’ve loved to hear his comments on the ascendancy of President Pussygrabber.