Any lingering hopes that the debt crisis was put to rest are brutally dashed. Investors are bailing out: Greek stocks down 20% in three days.
Apparently, it has been impossible to sell Greece any weapons at all, not even a water pistol, without bribing officials at the Defense Ministry. But it takes two to tango. And in holier-than-thou Germany, the defense industry has been all too eager to dance with Greece.
No debacle is allowed to interfere with Chancellor Merkel’s efforts to hang on to her job, and debacles get swept under the rug at least until after the elections on September 22. Every time uppity opposition voices stir up some controversy, it’s brushed off, denied, ridiculed, or minimized – and it has worked admirably well so far. But suddenly there’s Greece again.
When going overseas, Chancellor Merkel doesn’t leave home without planeloads full of executives from Germany’s most coddled companies – exports being the core of foreign policy. And if these deals get snagged on the rusty nails of payment risks, it’s up to the government to help out with guarantees, even if they’re infested with conflicts.
The ominous term “competiveness” is bandied about as the real issue, the one causing Eurozone countries to sink deeper into their fiasco. To address it, “structural reforms,” or austerity, have been invoked regardless of how much blood might stain the streets. And a core element of these structural reforms is bringing down the cost of labor.
“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes,” said Georg Pieper, a German psychotherapist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorders following catastrophes, large accidents (including the deadliest train wreck ever in Germany), acts of violence, freed hostages…. But now he was talking about Greece.
“Private sector” is a rubbery term. Most of the bondholders that lost their shirts during the first Greek default last March, and during the second one currently underway, were banks, including banks in Greece, Spain, and Cyprus. They are now getting bailed out by the public. After nearly all of Greece’s debt was shifted to the public, a third haircut was announced. Now Portugal wants the same deal. The can has been opened.
“I cannot be disillusioned because I no longer have any illusions about Europe,” muttered Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker last week after the horse trading over Greece’s bailout had failed once again. But he isn’t the only one who lost his illusions. “There are better alternatives to the bailout policies of Chancellor Merkel,” declares the man who’ll run against her in 2013; alternatives that “protect taxpayers and don’t only benefit the banks.”
Young educated Greeks face a wall of unemployment. With little chance of finding a job in their field, they’re competing for any kind of job. Wages have plummeted. The economy has shriveled by 19.4% since 2007. Promises that education would open doors to a better future have evaporated. And Germans march around, telling Greeks how to run their country. Because the euro has become a religious dictum.
Bailouts have become known for their so-called “unintended consequences”—however intended they might have been. And now, unintended consequences strike again. The ECB’s purchase of decomposing Greek debt—an under-the-radar bailout of banks and insurance companies—are making the favorite solution to the Greek crisis, namely another deep haircut, legally impossible, says Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann.