Mar 10, 2014
Will Greece Be Ruled by the Bankers or Its People?
Posted on Mar 3, 2012
By Peter Bratsis, Truthout
Whether voiced by German politicians or by Greek academics, the argument against popular democracy hinges on two key points: that Greece’s problems fundamentally derive from politicians pandering to the demands of the citizens, and, even more importantly, that the only proper judge of what is prudent and proper as policy is “the markets.” Only by appeasing the so-called markets can Greece hope to emerge from otherwise certain ruin. As such, dispassionate and pragmatically minded specialists are the ideal policymakers. Common people, blinded as they are by their self-interests, cannot be trusted, nor are they fully capable of understanding the policy necessities of the moment. The more autonomous that policymakers can be from popular pressures, the better.
The first wave of actions taken by the Papademos regime gives a very good indication of the kinds of policies such a detached and dispassionate group of policymakers would institute. One of their first innovations was to modify a policy first proposed by Papandreou in November of last year, a set of cuts to the pensions given to the disabled. The Papademos administration, in addition to deepening the previously proposed cuts, added a list of additional potential disabilities that included pedophilia and pyromania, among many others. Many foreign newspapers featured reports on this as, once again, a symptom of Greek pathology and mania for pensions and wasting money. Government representatives quickly corrected such reports by noting that it was simply a list of possible disabilities, not disabilities that would be eligible for public pensions. One can easily imagine the meeting where Greece’s top policy gurus, likely armed with advanced degrees in management and finance, came up with the cynical idea that such a modification would deflect any serious discussion about the merits of cutting pensions to the disabled. This obvious, clumsy and despicable attempt to foreclose any serious discussion and criticism of the proposed law clearly demonstrates how the many are viewed by the few.
Far more significant, however, are the laws passed just a few days ago, February 12 (at midnight, so that the results were out in time for the Asian “markets”). In addition to the latest austerity package demanded by the troika, with its many cuts to wages and pensions and its plans for decreasing the number of public employees, there was also a repealing of many of the labor laws that existed at the time. Most of the protections and regulations that working people had fought for and won in the last four decades were eliminated, without discussion, in one night. As tens of thousands of protestors were tear-gassed and chased from the center of Athens, decades of laws were undone on behalf of the markets.
These policies are foolish because not only is it a mathematical certainty that such cuts to wages and employment will result in a greater economic downturn, fewer tax revenues and the deepening of the debt crisis, but it is also a certainty that a happy “market” does not equal job growth. The experience of the United States and most of Europe in the last 20 years has been of a great expansion of financialization and speculative capitalism, together with rising rates of unemployment and underemployment. Through automation, there has been a continuing and relentless decrease in demand for labor by capital.
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