07.07.2015 07:48 AM

Why does the NDP regard Greece as a democratic success? Why?

Because – as frightened Greeks line up, right now, for basics like food – it isn’t a success. It is an abject failure. It is, as they say, a failed state.

A sampling of things you may not know about Greece, from a newspaper not noted for its fondness for austerity measures:

  • Tens of thousands of unmarried or divorced daughters of civil servants collect their dead parents’ pensions, weighing on a social security system that experts say will collapse in 15 years unless it is overhauled.
  • [Greek] law protects civil servants from dismissal, [and] it allows them to retire with a pension in their 40s.
  • Greek pension spending is expected to rise by 12 per cent of gross domestic product by 2050, according to European Union data. That compares with an EU average of less than 3 per cent of GDP.
  • Some civil servants are paid extra for using a computer. Some get a bonus for speaking a foreign language and others for arriving at work on time, while many foresters get a bonus for working outdoors.
  • Half a month’s extra salary is paid at Easter and another half during the summer. The 14th salary is paid to civil servants at Christmas when the whole economy is geared to consuming it. Taxis, restaurants and hairdressers are legally allowed to charge extra as a “Christmas present.”
  • The state owns 74 companies, mainly utilities and transport firms, many of which are overstaffed and loss-making, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The main rail company employs about 9,000 people and reported losses of 800 million euros ($1.06 billion) in 2008.
  • Hundreds of state-appointed committees employ staff though it is not clear what they all do. Greece has a committee to manage Lake Kopais, which dried out in the 1930s. One Greek newspaper estimated that committees employ more than 10,000 people and cost over 220 million euros ($292.6 million) a year.

Are you starting to see why the other Eurozone countries aren’t enthusiastic about propping up a state that has been so reckless, for so long? Are you wondering how any sane person could hold up Greece as some sort of a democratic success story?

Not Canada’s New Democrats, apparently.  They think Greece has been run well.  And they applaud the saturnalian current Greek government, which has made a bad situation much worse.

To wit:

Ashton, who is no mere anonymous backbench MP, is not alone. Others in the NDP – including someone who should know better – have been similarly foolish.

Democracy, of course, is always a good thing. But what is happening in Greece is going to lead – inevitably, inexorably – to less democracy, not more. In the next few days, the Greek government will start to impose further measures that will limit how (and if) Greeks can house and feed themselves, and provide for the future. By any standard, callously restricting the ability of millions of panicked citizens to put food on the table is not democracy, Team NDP.

It is the absence of it.

41 Comments

  1. Jon Powers says:

    Reap what you sow. I’ve spent much time in Greece and one thing you notice is how much business is done “in the black”, meaning cash money, under the table to avoid paying the high taxes. For years they demanded all these laughable social programs, but didn’t want to pay for them. They have no one to blame but themselves.

    • eric weiss says:

      Yep, tax evasion is the Greek national pastime. If vendors don’t flat out refuse to take a form of payment that leaves a paper trail, they’ll give you a discount if you pay cash so they can pocket the money without declaring it. I don’t think I’ve used my credit card for any transaction there.

  2. Joe says:

    Trying to explain economics to the NDP is like trying to teach a pig how to play the violin. You wind up exasperated with a broken violin and an irate pig.

  3. Marc says:

    I totally agree with Niki Ashton’s response. By the way this is not the NDPs position but that of individual members’ . There may be some hardship and some confusion but 61% of Greek voters decided they’d had enough of the usurious bastards. These lenders demand new policies that do little to alleviate the crisis but help them to control even more wealth, and as Ashton says, subvert the democratic rights of the populace in favour of greater control for the money lenders.

    The Greek economy may have ben poorly managed and Greeks may have only themselves to blame for the current crisis but that doesn’t mean they should bow down to those who want to take advantage of the crisis for their own gain.

    In any case deadlines are artificial, nothing real changes from the day before to the day after, and negotiations will continue.
    .

    • Matt says:

      Well……

      While true it was an individual member of the NDP making the comment, she’s not some nameless, faceless backbencher.

      Niki Ashton is a fairly significant, high profile member of the NDP caucus/Mulcair’s shadow cabinet.

    • dip says:

      So when you go to the bank for loan after loan, and show less and less a capability to pay the money back, the bank should be obligated to give you even more free money?

      Gravy train has to stop somewhere, bud. This isn’t the fault of some evil foreign loan sharks.

      As Maggy Thatcher said – Socialism is great until you run out of other peoples money to spend.

      I loaned money to a co-worker once, because he was in desperate straights. Only later did I find out that he and his wife were doing nothing to live within their means, not practicing an ounce of austerity, if you will.

      Guess what: 15 years later and I never did get paid back. He could have put aside $10 a month to service a debt, and couldn’t be bothered to. So I did what these wicked money lenders are going to do and I cut him out of my life.

    • cgh says:

      That was pure drivel, Marc. No one forced them to take the money in the first place. Greece lied about its entry qualifications into the Euro, and they piled up debt to fund a national living standard rather than working for it. So now the repo man has come ’round to collect.

      No one’s getting rich here. All of Greece’s debt was consolidated into three national lenders through the ECB. The lenders, Germany, France, Netherlands, have already taken large writedowns on Greek debt. True, the EU was stupid to imagine that adding more debt was any way to get out of debt in the first place, but there’s loads of socialists here who share that delusion.

      So now what awaits Greece as a result of their vote is the world’s first departure from industrial nation to 3rd world status. Greece will be forced out of the Euro, back to the drachma which will promptly fall through the floor on international trading. Greece gets debt relief by currency devaluation but now will be unable to afford any imports because of the collapsed currency and debt defaults. Think Greece has hard times now? Just wait to see what the next couple of years brings. Given Greece’s status as an energy importer, it will not be surprising if Greece starts to look like North Korea at night.

      Niki is right in that Greece had a choice to make. What she neglected to mention is that democracy means the right to choose truly stupid things. And the Greeks are about to discover just how miserable things are really about to get.

      And in line with Warren’s comment, the last time that Greece had a fiscally responsible government was under the dictatorship of the Colonels in the 1960s. Folks in Athens are going to start remembering that before much longer. Folks should also remember that bad things usually happen in countries where the Army doesn’t get paid.

      • doconnor says:

        “No one’s getting rich here.” Goldman Sachs got rich by helping them lie to get into the EU and then shorting their bonds.

        Counties that that have had a currency devaluation tend to have a relatively quick economic recovery like Iceland.

        • cgh says:

          Please don’t be an utter doofus. This topic is referring to who if anyone is getting rich from Greece’s liquidation, not from who got rich getting them into the mess in the first place. And you’re evading the point that this was all the Greeks’ own doing. So come out of the closet, Doc. What do you think is the right course here? That they should get a load of free money and continue on their merry way? That democratic voters should be allowed to evade the consequences of when they act stupidly?

        • Bill says:

          Iceland was able to recover because it’s debts were incurred to purchase questionable assets. You write off the debt loans the assets and you are able to carry on. Greece racked up the debts funding ridiculous social programs that could never be funded by the taxes people bothered to pay. You can write off the loans but unless you get the spending back in balance, you will only start digging the hole again providing you can find someone stupid enough to lend you the money.

    • Lance says:

      “By the way this is not the NDPs position but that of individual members’.”

      Oh, come on; a political party IS the “individual members”. That is the line I hear every single time a Conservative sticks his foot in it.

  4. Matt says:

    A frind of mines Dad came to Canada from Greece when he was 23. He’s now 82.

    He started working in Greece at 15. So, he worked 8 years in Greece. He worked 40 years in Canada.

    He still collects a Greek pension, that after working only 8 years in Greece is MORE than his CPP after working 40 years in Canada.

    How did they think that could be sustainable?

  5. John from Saskatoon says:

    Marc, why should lenders hand out more money that they know they will more than likely not get back? Greeks rejected austerity which is their right to do. What they don’t have a right to is having other countries continue to prop them and their inflated social programs up. They got themselves into this mess and now they’re reaping the consequences. I’m not sure why people are cheering and high fiving them.

  6. VH says:

    Warren, with all due respect you are flat wrong on this.

    As you know, democracy is about voting, what you are talking about is running a capital economy.

    I will point out that during the original bailout, back in the Papandreou days in 2008/2009, Greece was the *only* non-Conservative EU gov’t (as far as I could tell). You may recall that Papandreou also tried to call a vote but the 16 or so conservative EU gov’t didn’t want that so it didnt’ happen.

    Cons never want the people to vote. Because that interferes with the permanent behind the scenes puppetmastery that the billionaire class runs in conjunction with elected officials. This way, they get things like the totally disastrous TPP and NAFTA to be passed without a real vote. You may also recall that the E.U. itself only exists using a single currency because no votes were allowed. All the countries that did vote for the E.U. rejected it.

    A world where the people are blocked from voting on important issues is a world where the corrupt conservatives are destroying the middle class.

    Rather than banging on Greece, it would be better to listen to what Thomas Piketty said just recently to Germany:
    “Germany, Piketty continued, has “no standing” to lecture other nations about debt repayment, having never paid back its own debts after both World Wars. ”

    As you may recall from history class, it was the Americans, who in their inimitable spirit of pragmatic generosity, decided back in 1953 to just flat out write off Germany debts via the London Debt Relief Act or whatever.

    • Bill says:

      Of course people should be able to vote on important issues so let’s let the German people vote as to whether they still want to fund the Greek lifestyle.

    • Bill MacLeod says:

      “ As you may recall from history class, it was the Americans, who in their inimitable spirit of pragmatic generosity, decided back in 1953 to just flat out write off Germany debts via the London Debt Relief Act or whatever.“

      Hardly. It was the Americans, British and French, who in 1948 replaced the old Reichmark with the Deutshmark. In so doing, they wiped out 90% of German assets, as the DOMESTIC conversion rate was 1:10. Those debts you say were written off were in fact given a 50% haircut, but that did not include the 1:10 conversion. Also, the
      creation of the DM involved an immediate 15% increase in wages but a 25% increase in prices. Sounds like austerity on steroids to me, especially when combined with the elimination of 90 per cent of whatever cash-based assets Germans held. And, don`t forget. that most of the undestroyed factories and equipment had been packed up and carted off as WW II reparations.

      Is that what you would like the Greeks to endure?

      Further, the debts getting a 1953 haircut were Allied-assessed reparations that had been repudiated by the Nazis, apparently with the consent of 1930s Americans, Brits and French. I struggle to consider those sums as debt.

      Further, while all this was going on, the Americans and Allies were charging Germany $1-billion annually for reparations and $2.4-billion annually for costs of occupation.

      Isn`t history enlightening!

  7. doconnor says:

    They don’t just have themselves to blame. It is also the fault of the people who lent them the money.

    If they have a hope of righting themselves they are going to need debt relief, but the Grexit is probably the best solution (which from the lender’s point of view is the same thing, but with additional benefits like making exports cheaper and imports more expensive that boost the domestic economy).

    Iceland recovered quickly because it had its own currency. Argentina recovered after they unpegged their currency.

    • cgh says:

      No, Doc they starve. Exiting the Euro with drachma devaluation means they won’t be able to afford the fossil fuel to even keep the lights on. The food stocks start running out by the end of another week. Credit card and paypal systems are down; Greece is right now back to a cash-only barter economy. Unless something very drastic happens very soon, the food riots will start by the end of the month.

      Iceland recovered not because of its currency but because it refused to cover the bank account losses of non-citizens. That doesn’t apply here, because any non-resident bank accounts fled Greece long ago, particularly after the Cyprus piracy. And in case you haven’t noticed, Argentina 1 is still a financial basket case and 2 only managed to get this far by seizing assets from the banks. Robbing your own financial system is NOT called success. It’s called pillage.

  8. Lance says:

    Yeah, the NDP said that Greece has been an economic success. It is obvious that it has been anything but.

    I spoke before about the NDP’s tendency to double-down. They are saying this because if they backtrack, they know how bad it looks and how it reflects on their economic acumen. Carrying on and keeping silent in this case can be less damaging tactically, but considering the timing this close to the election, could be just AS damaging strategically. So why waste the time and effort to backtrack when the outcome is essentially the same?

    If Harper and the Tories wanted to take Mulcair and the NDP down a peg because they’ve sucked too much out of the Liberals and endangered the vote split, this could be one way.

  9. davie says:

    Sometimes when I see an attack on a people and their state, as in the list above, I wonder ho wonder countries and peoples would fit into that list. For example, count the numbers of committees and consultants we have in Canada at all levels of governance taking in tax payer funded payments. A couple of the points in the National Post list are so trivial as to throw a bit of doubt on the list as a whole (pay civil servants for language skills is a no no? Pay civil servants for high tech savvy is un economic? What’s economic? TFW”S rotating through?)

    Try to figure out who a country belongs to. Doe sit belong to the people who live there as citizens? Or to mostly foreign financials and local obscenely wealthy parasites?

    There are more Europeans than just Greeks who have doubts, growing doubts, about just who their homelands belong to. If the Liberals and liberals figure that local people and democracy should not be allowed to make local decisions, then they should come clean on what system they are for.

  10. Russ says:

    The problem with democracy is that as soon as people realize they can vote themselves largesse from the treasury, they will.

  11. cynical says:

    Meh.
    When you offer people the choice of the certainty of a bad outcome (accepting unrelenting austerity as far into the future as is foreseeable), against the high probability of a bad outcome (status quo, with a descent into economic chaos), it is no surprise that they pick the option with the least likelihood of short-term pain.

    It seems to me somewhat parallel to the choice made by voters in the Greater Vancouver Area (can we call it the GVA?) regarding a PST increase to support public transit. The comparison fails, obviously, in view of the vast difference in the direness of the consequences.

    Sometimes the responsibility of a government is to do the right thing, even when it hurts, and I have NO idea what the “right thing” for Greece is. Any course of action is going to hurt the people those pensions are meant to protect.

    I do agree with some of the leftist economists, though. The agenda right now is being set by large financial interests who have no accountability to the people upon whom they wish to impose their policies.

    Just goes to show you what a bad idea a currency union can be where the members have differing economic philosophies.

  12. Kelly says:

    The recently former finance minister of Greece has said Syriza’s goal is to break the oligarchs who currently control much of the economy. Greece will return to the Drachma or at the least run a parallel currency without exiting the EU. The average person — who had nothing to do with Goldman Sachs cooling of Greeces books — are telling the IMF to stuff it. That is democracy. In a real democracy citizens vote, not dollars.Later today look for a deal between Greece and Russia, including provisions for a big new Russian naval base. The USA…er…IMF will crack.

  13. Peter says:

    This is a good example of leftists thinking they are smarter than everybody else and qualified to express opinions when they don’t have a clue. Even leaving aside rampant Greek corruption and fiscal mismanagement, this is an extremely complex issue with political and economic aspects that are in many way opposed. There is an inherent logical contradiction in the positions of many of the parties on both sides and some dramatic potential consequences for all of them. Yet it seems all Ashton and many others think they need to know is that people are out in the streets giving banks the finger. And not just any old banks, but German banks!

    I’m sure all those Greek pensioners who will be running out of money shortly will take comfort in knowing Niki is tweeting messages of solidarity.

  14. Steve T says:

    If I were the CPC, I would be thanking Niki Ashton for writing my next attack ad against the NDP.

    “The NDP admires Greece, and believes that government can spend without consequence. The NDP believes that it can bum money off its closest allies, like those guys you knew in high school who always were short cash, yet always had a cool car and flashy clothes. Is that who you want running Canada?”

  15. davie says:

    One source I saw said Greece needs just short of $400 billion.
    But, I am not sure taxpayers want to do this because passing on their money to fairly well fed, well heeled people doesn’t leave much for ordinary types.

    Citigroup-$2.513 trillion; Morgan Stanley- $2.041 trillion; Merrill Lynch- $1.949 trillion; Bank of America- $1.344 trillion; Barclay’s PLC- $868 billion;; Bear Sterns- $853 billion; Royal Bank of Scotland- $541 billion; JP Morgan Chase- $391 billion; Deutsche Bank- $354 billion; UBS- $287 billion; Credit Suisse- $262 billion; Lehman Brothers- 183 billion; Bank of Scotland (again) $181 billion; BNP Paribas- $175 billion; Wells Fargo- $159 billion; Dexia- $159 billion; Wachovia $142 billion; Dresdner Bank- $135 billion;…and assorted lesser beneficiaries of tax money the past few years.

    (RT, ever mischievous, has a crawler saying the Greek government is flirting with BRICS.)

    • cgh says:

      How much of the bank loans from the 2008 financial crisis was paid back? All of it. What’s Greece’s ability to pay back its loans even after the original bank lenders reduced the amount owing by 53%? Zero.

      You communists are all the same, you want money for nothing and your chicks for free.

    • Kelly says:

      Not flirting, they WILL join BRICS. They’ll have to because the European Central Bank is abrogating its responsibility which is to ensure liquidity. They are threatening to create economic collapse. The troika rejected Tsipras’ proposals which included military spending cuts (vetoed by the IMF), tax increases on high income earners and large businesses and instead insists that labour is taxed and pensions are cut. The goal is to cause a firesale of public assets to oligarchic rentiers while lowering the overall cost of European labour. The Troika is fighting so hard because they don’t want the Spanish, Portuguese, Irish and Italian citizens to get any ideas (for example Spain had a budget surplus and lower debt to GDP ratio than Canada before the 2008 crash after which banks were bailed out while citizens paid. Same in Ireland. I always thought the Irish where tougher but they just rolled over. They should have strung up the bankers from the lamp posts but they celebrate their own enslavement in opinion columns. Why are people in the English speaking world such chumps?

      Greece has nothing to worry about. The BRICS bank with Russia leading the way will ride to the rescue. NATO will $#!+ themselves.

      • Peter says:

        My, Kelly, but you do love your dramatic doomsday scenarios, don’t you? Hope springs eternal? The Greeks may have to wait a while because the total BRICs capitalization is just over a quarter of Greece’s debt, most of the money is earmarked for the five founding members and they say they won’t be ready to loan anybody anything for a few years. NATO really shouldn’t s*#t itself over this because by then we’ll all be dead from climate change, no?

  16. Mike Adamson says:

    Whom to serve is the only freedom. Or so it seems.

    • Torontonian says:

      P.S. Make sure to read Krugman’s column for an explanation of why austerity in Greece now is different from austerity in Canada in the 1990s.

    • Peter says:

      I wonder what Stiglitz would say if Merkel announced a German referendum on whether she should offer Greece better terms.

      This is the second major article in two weeks where Stiglitz refers to Greece’s “strong democratic tradition”. He seems to have bought into that inspiring party line about their having invented democracy. He and they ignore the troublesome detail that they took 2,500 years off to try out absolute monarchy, theocracy, occupation, military dictatorships and even brigand feuding. They have one of the shortest democratic legacies in Europe, but I suppose only a cantankerous Teutonic banker would be so rude as to point that out.

  17. Liam Young says:

    Caveat emptor, buyer beware.
    The lenders (banks primarily, not citizens of Germany) continued to lend money at high rates DESPITE knowing that Greeks have had economic issues for decades.

    I know the Greeks have dug their own graves, but who lent them the shovels?

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