We’re All Greeks Now


One of the joys of being American is that every new day is a clean slate—no history, no memories, no experiences, a complete blank. This may help explain why our national conversations serve their intended purposes while being entirely content-free. Newsflash to self-described liberal economists: austerity works! If your goal is loot nations while putting their populations into permanent debt servitude, austerity is a real winner.

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has been implementing “structural adjustment” programs, AKA austerity, for decades. It has usually “worked” for their bank clients in the sense that wealth extraction from victim nations to international banks took place. And given that victim nations tended to have both culpable leaders and “developing” nation status, the economic outcomes were rarely news in New York or Washington. Needless to say, outcomes were better for bankers than for their structurally adjusted victims.

When the ECB (European Central Bank) began discussing structural adjustment policies for Greece in 2009 there was little pretense that they would benefit the Greeks. European banks had loaded themselves to the gills with peripheral sovereign debt, in some measure to game the regulatory capital requirements in much the same way that Wall Street banks did with “AAA” rated garbage in the lead-up to the most recent financial disaster. And like their American counterparts, European banks had cynically lent money under fraudulent terms to people who could not pay it back. And European banks, like their American counterparts, require ongoing bailouts for the current economic order to stand.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, leader of Germany’s center-right party and de facto head of the EU, faced rebellion by the German electorate over the proposed bailout of Greece before it became openly punitive. The line that austerity was the economic prescription needed to get Greece back on its feet was cynical apologia put forward by the dullard class of EU propaganda hacks. That American economists (Paul Krugman) debated the issue like it was a serious analytical dispute begs the question of where they have been for the last fifty years?

With only six decades of IMF history to draw from, the template being used in Europe (and in America) is (1) install or corrupt a political elite who will support extractive economic policies for the benefit of bankers, (2) indebt, or cause to become indebted, a naïve, oblivious or otherwise captive population who will accept, grudgingly or otherwise, the institutional convention that the debt is legitimate and must be repaid, (3) under a patina of intellectual legitimacy, implement openly extractive economic policies against entire populations for the benefit of said banks, (4) while the culpable elites retire to large houses behind high walls with their portions of the loot.

In the 1980s major New York banks (Wall Street) made loans to South American and African nations using this template. In some fair proportion the proceeds of these loans were promptly re-deposited into these same banks in the names of specific government officials. When the victim populations rebelled, arguing either that the debt was not legitimate and didn’t need to be repaid, or realized that the debt was a de facto form of slavery and couldn’t be repaid, these New York banks were bailed out by the U.S. government under the veil of “Brady Bonds” and the government took over as creditor to collect the debts.

This is the game now playing out in Europe and, in a less visible sense; the U.S. Wall Street bankers (including European banks) are conspiring with corrupt, naïve, duplicitous or powerless peripheral leaders to implement austerity policies on indebted populations. These populations are indebted because of banker duplicity and/or because of the financial bubbles and their aftermath that Wall Street created. These austerity programs are for the sole benefit of the banks. In the U.S. the Wall Street banks were bailed out without being made to write off the bad loans that never should have been made.  This creates a similar dynamic where some fair proportion of Americans will now live out their remaining days in debt slavery to the banks.

In addition to multi-trillion dollar unconditional and ongoing bailouts the Obama administration recently also gave the banks retroactive and future immunity for straightforwardly criminal behavior through the mortgage “settlement” and has expanded the corrupt and usurious student loan business for the benefit of the banks. Add the looting of state, municipal and private pensions, the corporate takeover of the legislative process and full implementation of neo-liberal austerity economics at the state and local levels and the battle lines in the U.S. are clearly drawn. We are all Greeks now.

The difference between current experience and prior history is that the banks have now effectively eliminated the national borders that previously delineated the core-periphery class struggle. What we are experiencing has a long history and known outcomes. The intellectual masturbation behind the Keynesian- Austerian “debate” hides the class conflict that is driving this process. The Keynesians believe that renewed recession in Europe proves their case. But as the saying goes, tell it to someone who gives a shit. The turmoil in Europe is power politics (class struggle) hiding behind a thin veil of ideological difference.  The bankers and their Austerian apologists know what they are doing. Too bad the same can’t be said for liberal economists.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York.

November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate
Julian Vigo
A Brief Genealogy of Disappearance and Murder
John R. Hall
Stuck in the Middle With You
Barbara Nimri Aziz
McDonalds at 96th Street
David Rovics
At the Center of Rebellion: the Life and Music of Armand
Weekend Edition
November 20-22, 2015
Jason Hirthler
Paris and the Soldiers of the Caliphate: More War, More Blowback
Sam Husseini
The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment’s Perpetual War Machine
Mike Whitney
Hillary’s War Whoop
Pepe Escobar
In the Fight Against ISIS, Russia Ain’t Taking No Prisoners
Ajamu Baraka
The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement
Andrew Levine
The Clintons are Coming, the Clintons are Coming!
Linda Pentz Gunter
Let’s Call Them What They Are: Climate Liars
Paul Street
Verging on Plutocracy? Getting Real About the Unelected Dictatorship
Nur Arafeh
Strangling the Palestinian Economy
Patrick Howlett-Martin
The Paris Attacks: a Chronicle Foretold
Vijay Prashad
Rebuilding Syria With BRICS and Mortar
Brian Cloughley
Why US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the Biggest Threat to World Peace