The Real Greek Crisis, – Bryan Gould

The Real Greek Crisis

By Bryan Gould

Most people will feel that they don’t need to look far for an explanation as to what lies behind the Greek crisis. Lazy reporting and racial stereotyping will persuade them that the Greeks – a feckless lot, no doubt – have spent more than they should, got into debt, taken out loans from the hard-working Germans and now won’t repay the loans because they refuse to tighten their belts.

But there is another narrative that tells a somewhat different story. That story is one of a powerful economy enforcing its will on its weaker neighbours and refusing to acknowledge that it has thereby made it impossible for them to dig themselves out of a hole.

The story begins at the turn of the century when the Greeks, along with many others, were persuaded that being part of Europe required them to give up their own currency and accept the euro. A single currency meant a single monetary policy and a single central bank – and guess who decided what that policy should be and what the central bank should do?

Germany, by far the most powerful economy in the euro zone, ran it to serve its own interests, but life wasn’t so easy for the weaker countries. The Greeks, for example, with their smaller and less developed economy, had no chance of surviving the competition from efficient German manufacturing. We do not need the benefits of hindsight to make this point, since many commentators, myself included, foresaw the inevitability of this outcome at the time.

As things began to go wrong, and they had to borrow to keep their heads above water, the Greeks were assured that they could look to the Germans and others to help them out. But this was in the days of cheap and plentiful credit; when the Global Financial Crisis struck and the cheap credit dried up, the creditors who had happily lent to the Greeks wanted their money back.

The Greeks didn’t have the money. But the price they had to pay for borrowing yet more from the IMF and the European Central Bank was to accept a programme of savage austerity. The cuts they have already been forced to make have meant that 25% of the Greek economy has simply closed down and 60% of young people are without a job. Again, as some commentators observed at the time, it was impossible to see how the Greeks could ever – from an already weak economy that is now so much smaller and still going backwards – find the resources needed to repay their debts.

And so it has proved. The price that creditors insist upon for a continued bail-out is yet more austerity which can only mean yet more closures and unemployment. Leaked papers show that the creditor institutions themselves recognise that more austerity will make it even less possible for the Greeks to pay back their debts.

So why are the Germans and other creditors determined to force the Greeks into such a damaging dead end? The answer is that they care little for the travails of the Greek people. Their focus is on those countries that are watching the Greek situation closely – countries like Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, even Italy, that have faced similar problems, and suffered similar penalties, but that have not yet been compelled by pressure from their populations to resist a further descent into even more austerity.

The fear from the financial establishment and from the Germans in particular is that the Greeks might find a way to demonstrate to other similarly afflicted countries in the euro zone that there is a way out – and that those other countries would then follow a similar course. The rational course for the Greeks to take, after all, would be to leave the euro zone, restore their own currency and then print the drachmas needed, as monetarily sovereign countries are able and entitled to do, and repay their debts in devalued drachmas.

The difficulty that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras faces is that he has committed to resist austerity but also to retain the euro. It is doubtful that he can achieve both. In the forthcoming referendum, no one can be sure whether the dislike of austerity or the fear of leaving the euro zone will prevail. The poor and the unemployed – those who have suffered most from austerity – will vote to reject the new bail-out offer; the holders of assets and the pensioners will vote to stay with the euro.

Either way, the outlook for the euro looks bleak. In the long run, the attempt by the financial establishment to over-ride the wishes and interests of ordinary people and to negate the power of a democratic government to protect them will fail. The only question is as to how many more crises there will be and how much more suffering has to be endured before common sense prevails.

Bryan Gould 

“I once contested the Labour party’s leadership myself. The answers to the dilemmas facing British politicians today seem to me to be more clear-cut than was the case in 1992. It is easier now, with a longer perspective on the orthodoxy that has prevailed for so long, to see what has gone wrong, and to see what is needed to put it right. What is needed now is to unlock the intellectual straitjacket in which Labour has been shackled for too long. Where is the leader to deliver that?” Since Bryan Gould wrote these words,  Jeremy Corbyn agreed to stand as leader, and there is hope for a change from the intellectual straitjacket Bryan speaks of.

The Real Benefit Cheats of a Twisted Welfare System

The Twisted Welfare System

Who are The Real Benefit Cheats of a Twisted Welfare System?

In a topsy-turvey world  workers suffer on  low pay subsidise Big Businesss

This is the Hidden Welfare State

From John Dutton

Businesses collectively are, by far, the biggest benefit scroungers in Britain! In fact, the biggest retail chains and many other large and small British businesses could well afford to pay their low paid employees higher wages!

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Instead, their executives prefer to inflate the profits of their owners and line their own and top colleagues’ pockets with huge bonuses! Meanwhile the ordinary British taxpayer picks up the bill and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have their benefits cut!

The following benefit scroungers’ latest annual subsidies from taxpayers are:
£67m, Next
£364m, Tesco
£221m, Asda
£182m, Sainsbury’s.

That’s a total taxpayer subsidy, for just FOUR companies, alone, of £734 million!
Some of these figures are even higher than the total amount of corporation tax the companies paid. It may provoke some to reconsider who the real “scroungers” are when it comes to the welfare system?

To add to the lunacy, taxpayers are hit a second time, for housing benefit, as the low-paid struggle to afford sky-high rents. Buy-to-let landlords, like many large employers, are among the biggest beneficiaries of this twisted welfare system.

Tax credits also explain, in part, Britain’s “productivity puzzle”. Why invest in plant and machinery when there is an endless supply of workers available on miserable wages, subsidised by tax credits? It is claimed that £5bn of the tax credit bill alone goes to migrants who fill minimum-wage jobs in Britain.

But the solution is not, as we are likely to see on Wednesday, just to slash the entitlements. Instead we need a phased reduction of tax credits hand-in-hand with a phased major increase in the minimum wage. Citizens UK estimates that aligning the minimum wage with the living wage – £9.15 an hour in London and £7.85 for the rest of the UK – will reduce the need for in-work benefits by £6.7bn a year, which would make a massive dent in the £12bn reduction in welfare spending which the Conservatives say is necessary.

We need a phased reduction of tax credits hand-in-hand with a phased major increase in the minimum wage.

A high minimum wage will destroy jobs, say right-wing, neo-con and libertarian economists, although they peddled that line before the start of the minimum wage, and were wrong then. Arguably, if some jobs disappear because of a higher minimum wage and lower tax credits, they weren’t real jobs anyway. Many employers pay for labour at the lowest price they can, not the price they would pay if wages were higher. And Britain will survive if Tesco or Next open fewer stores staffed by the ultra low-paid.

Return to Doncatrez

Return to Doncatrez

From activist Jay Baker.

@MediaActivist

From the creator of Escape from Doncatraz, media activist Jay Baker, equipped with with cameraphones and a limited budget, the grainy footage of guerilla documentary Return to Doncatraz brings us a look into the rise of right-wing agenda in his hometown of Doncaster, and, sadly, Britain as a whole, as the rich and powerful have kept everything that was wrong about the post-war era, and rejected everything we got right, challenging the Tory claim there’s no money left and showing why it’s an excuse to slash-and-burn.

Starring Peter Tatchell, Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, Richard Murphy, Billy Hayes, and many more expert opinions. All archive material utilised under Fair Use for non-profit educational informative documentary purposes. No copyright or ownership is claimed over the contents of this film. Creative Commons license applied. Credit to BBC Worldwide and The Guardian for archive footage (list not exhaustive). Go to http://www.doncatraz.com for more information and resources. For all the figures, facts and stats on claims made in the film, get The Return to Doncatraz Reader here: https://gumroad.com/l/ReturntoDoncatr…

Faith, Hope and Charity – Contemplating Contradictions

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Contemplating the Contradictions of Charity within Socialism

Concerns about the rights and wrongs of charity often stimulate debate. Is there a difference between the natural desire to help others and organised, impersonal charities? Think Left’s recent blog about philanthropy and democracy addressed this.

Sue Fairweather, a socialist and a Christian ponders whether there is a congruency or conflict between these with regard to “charity”. She shares her thoughts here.

Thinking more about these justifiable concerns about ‘charity’ when this video appeared on my Community page.

A training weekend for the Volunteer Action for Peace organisation. https://vimeo.com/131963750

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Every year for more than 40 years we have had VAPs from all over the world working in our Community for a period of two to three weeks. Othona, is  a charity,  which welcomes different charitable workers from afar. Without doubt ‘we’ are very glad to welcome the ‘administration’. Would I, or ‘we’, hold out the same hand of friendship to let’s say the Bill Gates Foundation?

I am reminded of a documentary discussion where a member Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) challenged a CEO of the aforementioned BGF as to their philanthropic works in the early days of conflict in war torn Libya. The doctor had two objections; the formation of a ‘safe corridor’ for the fleeing refugees of war which in fact left them as easy targets; that the ‘aid’ provided, despite being ample for much humanitarian need, was selective (some would say in the manipulators’ hands) and should be directed to, and more importantly, by the ‘troops’ on the ground like the MSF.

There is a difference in the perspectives of these two organisations. I would suggest that the ‘wealth’ of MSF’s difference comes with their direct humanitarian aid to the people from the people of all nations. Where the Bill Gates’ Foundation functional aid worth millions of dollars goes to is unclear. It comes from ‘on high’ (not quite ‘high’ enough for a spiritual sounding me) and appears to run a manipulative path. I have no time for an entrepreneur, Bill Gates, who openly lectures that he can reduce (present tense) the world population by his inoculation programmes and health programmes. There are children in many developing nations who are left disabled, sometimes dying, having been the recipients of such ‘charity’.

Building a world where worth and not wealth is the primary function of society can be the only way forward. Work is a natural by-product of that aim…more about that much later. I have mentioned earlier my faith and political grounding for anything I write (somewhat reluctantly for it is difficult for me to marry my brain as holistically as my being) which leads me to the two JCs.

JC1 gives us ‘the greatest of all is Love’.

JC2, Jeremy Corbyn, busier as us humans are, says this in answer to a question of where his optimism is based, “In the fundamental good in people, and [a belief] that you can create a society where people do feel valued, do feel involved and can make a contribution”.

It was with joy that our discussions led me through ‘war and peace’ to a closer definition of Charity, albeit a necessary biblical definition for me. Wrongly I gave three WW2 Spitfires as bearing the nicknames of Faith, Hope and Charity’…the names were right but the plane was wrong. You cannot imagine how I feel presently that these craft were in fact three Gloster Gladiators that were unpacked and assembled as the only original air defence in the bombardment of the home of my youth, Malta. My cup runneth over. The use of the word Charity has inbuilt memories of benevolence and malevolent situations. Nothing changes, or does it?

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Yesterday I consulted more than one bible in my search for the meaning of that elusive word ‘charity’. I knew the exact text where it was coupled with faith and hope. My surprise came that my usual modern version gave faith, hope and…Love. I’m rather saddened, being a conceptual dinosaur, that the loving name of charity has been left behind with King James!

Now to stretch between the spiritual and the political. A wise councillor once told me of the limitations of our language. Greeks, and we must all spare another moments thought for them here, had several different words for love. If I remember correctly the anglicised three were Eros (well we know where that one’s going!), Charisma (of the Spirit), and Agape...the most important perhaps for our purpose…the love between all people. Using the same procedure Greeks had a second set for that simple item, the chair. The first you could see, the second you could measure, the third, the one where both my faith and my politics reside, is the one that ‘we know you can sit in’ and bear your weight! The chair will support you, the choice is yours when you’re doing the window shopping of ‘looking and measuring’.

Mine is assured by both JCs but so that I’m not ‘too heavenly minded to be of no earthly good’ (a favourite concern for a Christian) my vote is to be cast for Jeremy Corbyn and no other on the voting slip.