The Greeks Are Being Unfairly Maligned by Global Financiers: The Truth Is Very Different

Beyond the anti-Greek media campaign lies the story of a weary people caught between a corrupt political system and rapacious financiers. Sound familiar?
October 17, 2011  |

Photo Credit: AFP
Yiannis manages a small inn in Crete. The 50-year-old from Heraklion with salt-and-pepper hair and a hefty moustache has a son just graduating from college.

“We tell the young people to leave,” he says quietly. “There’s nothing for them here.” Protests and strikes are sweeping the nation, but Yiannis doesn’t like talking about the economy. I sense a feeling of pride holding him back. But he does offer this insight: “We know that it is the ordinary people, not the rich and the powerful, who pay for this.”

The Lazy Greek Meme

Greece is a land of ancient myth. But more recent myths have made Greeks like Yiannis cringe when foreigners start asking questions.

Greeks are lazy. They don’t work. They’re profligates who are taking down Europe. The caricature has become so common that a recent TV commercial in Slovakia used it to sell beer, drawing a contrast between the virtuous Slovak and the paunchy Greek indulging himself on a beach.

Most foreigners know Greece from holidays spent lolling on its beaches and drifting around its magical ruins. You could easily take it for granted that everybody here is just chilling out. They aren’t. The Greek labor force, comprising 5 million souls, works the second highest number of hours per year on average among countries in the Organization for Economic Development (OECD), right after South Korea. Greeks work 42 hours per week, while the industrious Germans toil just 36.

The average Greek worker earns a bit over $1,000 a month. Private sector employees are the most underpaid in the EU. Even before the harsh austerity measures imposed by the EU and the IMF, the Greeks had already cut the real average wages in the private sector to 1984 levels. This week the Greek parliament is expected to vote on measures that would place 30,000 public sector workers in a “labor reserve” at slashed pay – up to 40 percent.

Greeks retire a bit later than the European average. And the average pension, $990, is less than that of Ireland, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Thirty percent of the labor force works with zero Social Security or protections, while in the rest of the EU only 5-10 percent of workers are in this precarious situation.

So much for the myth of the overpaid, lazy Greek.

The reality is simple, though rarely admitted – except maybe by Yiannis, who seems to know exactly what’s happening. The “bailout” of Greece is really a bailout of big European banks. A game of smoke and mirrors leads us to think that Greek indolence led to financial ruin. The Greeks have done some things wrong, to be sure. But it was a dangerous mix of stupid economic theories and high-flying finance, fueled by a corrupt government, that exploded the economy. If all this sounds sickeningly familiar, it should. We’re witnessing Round 2 of the Great Global Shakedown by the banks.

Mini-History of the Modern Greek Economy

In modern history, southern economies have typically been weaker than those in the north. They industrialized later and only fitfully; large landowners often dominated them far into the 20th century. Economic growth was painful, marked by big deficits, bloody political conflicts and instability. You can see this in the history of Italy, Spain, and even France to a degree, but especially in Greece. The Greeks got socked in WWII and then creamed again by a brutal civil war (1946–1949), in which American military aid to the Greek governmental army ensured the defeat of the Greek Communist Party.

After WWII, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan determined relations between the U.S. and Europe. The economic recovery of Germany—designed to benefit American multinationals like IBM, Ford and General Motors – was a high priority. (Watch a fascinating lecture by economist Joseph Haveli here.) Greece mattered to the U.S. as a strategic barrier against the USSR in the Cold War, so it decided to support Greece with economic and military aid, fearing that another communist domino would fall.

Gerald Celente: The Entire System Is Collapsing

The number of people filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped last week after three straight declines, another sign that the pace of layoffs has not slowed. Gerald Celente says that there is no way governments can just keep pumping money into the economy and it will only get worse, with an eventual crash.

Food Riots Have Begun All Over The World

Extermination proceeding as planned. Nobody suspects a thing. Like taking candy from a baby. There is a global food crisis developing and the Third World Countries are being hit the hardest. However, this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As the middle class in Western Societies are progressively destabilized through unemployment and poverty, this trend will spread at an alarming rate all over the world.

World Wide Riots

Just putting “some” of the recent riots around the globe into perspective.

2011 Global / World Wide Riots and Protest Have Started

Riots and protests have begun world wide! This is only the begining. With food prices skyrocketing and inflation setting in along with austerity measures in countries people have had enough. Egypt has been protesting for nine days and already the world is calling for Mubark’s resignation. As the year progresses food and fuel will increase in price along with other basic living essentials Expect to see more of this.
2011 – Riots in Assam, Meghalaya, Northeast India, 4 dead.
2011 – Riots in Arusha, Tanzania, 2 dead and nine people injured
2011 – Riots in Algeria, 2 dead and four hundred people injured in riots linked to food price increases and unemployment
2011 – Riots in Tunisia, at least 78 killed
2011 – Riots in Jos, Nigeria, more than 30 people dead
2011 – Riots in Tirana, Albania, 3 killed, 17 policemen and soldiers were injured, including three seriously, along with 22 civilians
2011 – Riots in Lebanon, following the fall of Saad Hariri‘s government
2011 – Riots in Egypt, at least six killed
2011 – Riots in Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria, 4 killed