Enough already, it seems the world has a fondness for blaming the economic woes of the planet on Greece. It’s convenient, it’s easy and mostly it allows us to not look in the mirror. I call bullshit!
We have the book-jacket sketch down pat: a small, backwards, southern European country, filled with swarthy, loud people, all named Nick or George who manage to blow their financial brains out borrowing copious amounts of money against the good credit of hard working, honest Germans. Avoiding the payment of taxes is a national pastime, and the country at large is inhabited by people who lack even a whisper of work ethic. Through their rampant financial abuse, their lies and their fraudulent ways, they’ve managed to bring down the financial stability of an entire continent, even threatening the fiscally prudent shores of the United States, imagine! All this with only 11 million citizens, a country about the size of North Carolina, and a gross domestic product based almost entirely upon the export of olive oil and feta cheese, and the import of tourists. Their national airline went bankrupt, their shipping dominance has largely faded and their golden past, one of the most influential in the history of our planet, draws a mere footnote in a forgetful world.
Could this all be true? Could one nation be so irresponsible and self-centred that their sloth and greed permeated the rest of the civilized world, leaving behind a trail of broken hearts, empty bank-accounts and maxed out sovereign credit cards?
I don’t think so; let’s lay out a few facts that we know to be more or less true:
- Before Greece, there was Ireland and Portugal standing at the trough, hands out for some of the free bail-out money.
- Wait, Ireland bailed out their own banks.
- Germany, by agreeing to the bail-out payments given to the Greek government (forwarded or directly-deposited from the ECB, IMF, ESFS-pick your flavor-to the Banks of Germany and France to cover losses from the many stupid loans they made to the Greek government, rendering themselves insolvent) put themselves in a position to lower their exposure to their own banks from 100% like the Irish, to 25% which is the portion of the bail-out funds they are responsible for.
- Nice trick; even Bernie Madoff would appreciate the handiwork in that one.
- Germany, through it’s banks, has in fact been the largest recipient of bail-out funds in the Euro Zone. The Euros loaned to backstop Greece and Portugal were used to pay back loans made in large part by German banks.
- Forty-two percent of the goods exported from Germany in fact make their way to the other 16 countries who make-up the European Union.
- Historically, the smaller economies of Europe could increase their competitiveness by devaluing their sovereign currencies, today under the Euro, their only way to compete is through lower wages.
- Germany benefits from the common currency and does not need to lower their wages.
- Spain, the fourth largest economy in Europe, asked for special terms on their bail-out package: less strings attached and a request to bail the banks out directly rather than tarnish the sterling faith and credit of the government. Fortunately the European Central Bank kiboshed that with a quick nada.
- Many of the debt issues floated by Greece were in fact underwritten by the likes of our old friends at Goldman.
- Italy is not far behind.
- Germany fathered and welcomed the European Union, knowing that it meant a captive market for their factories, while turning a blind eye to the weaker members’ fraudulent book-keeping and over-the-top borrowing exploits (all the more money to buy shiny new BMWs and Volkswagens with)!
So there you have it, my rant, mostly in point form on the hypocrisy and bullshit that goes for the running of global economies. We want a villain in this crises and the Greeks pretty much walked themselves straight into the role. For those who care to remember, blame for the crash of 2008 was laid almost entirely on the shoulders of the financial institutions (American banks) who made the loans, while in the Greek scenario, we find ourselves blaming only the borrowers (Greeks), the lenders (Germans) it seems are but trusting victims.
Lest we ignore our own reflections, many Americans are happy to work for cash and avoid the payments due Uncle Sam. Most global focussed US corporations have figured out how to avoid paying US tax, our public servants are never swayed nor corrupted. Let’s not forget the amount of debt that washes up on our fair shores daily, and the financial catastrophes that we like to call State governments. This is in concert with our dysfunctional, insider-trading, federal government and their unwillingness to put their country before either themselves or their parties; no going down with the ship on Pennsylvania Ave.
It reminds me of small children playing in an expensively decorated living room; happily running and jumping about ’til something gets broken – silence! As the adults rush in to confront them, the children suddenly find their voices and protest their innocence, slowly turning their eyes to the weakest of the group and collectively pointing their fingers at them in mock disgust, only too aware of their part in the accident, but entirely grateful for a sacrificial lamb all the same.