It's the principle of the thing

Submitted: Jun 30, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 In late October, 2011, during a previous Greek finance crisis, former Prime Minister George Papandreou called for a referendum on the terms of a bailout to the horror of the heads of state of Germany, France and the US, retreated from it and resigned, leaving political and economic chaos in his wake.

The stakes are high. If the Greeks vote to stand up to the "troika" (European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF), the "OXI KREOS" option, they may inspire other peripheral European Union countries to follow suit -- Ireland, Spain, Portugal and, largest of all, Italy.

The creditors want another austerity-based bailout package. The present government, for the moment less compromised than the reign of the third in the Papandreou dynasty, resists and calls for a vote of the people, and stakes its entire future on the result.

Monopoly Finance v. Democracy: this is more about power and precedent than just money, as Joseph Stiglitz clearly puts it. -- blj

 

 

 

 

 

6-29-15

Project Syndicate

Europe’s Attack on Greek Democracy

Joseph Stiglitz

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/greece-referendum-troika-eurozone-by-joseph-e--stiglitz-2015-06

NEW YORK – The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the program that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands.

We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece.

But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies.

But why would Europe do this? Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy?

In January, Greece’s citizens voted for a government committed to ending austerity. If the government were simply fulfilling its campaign promises, it would already have rejected the proposal. But it wanted to give Greeks a chance to weigh in on this issue, so critical for their country’s future wellbeing.

That concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the eurozone, which was never a very democratic project. Most of its members’ governments did not seek their people’s approval to turn over their monetary sovereignty to the ECB. When Sweden’s did, Swedes said no. They understood that unemployment would rise if the country’s monetary policy were set by a central bank that focused single-mindedly on inflation (and also that there would be insufficient attention to financial stability). The economy would suffer, because the economic model underlying the eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers.

And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalized those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: Many European leaders want to see the end of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate.

It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on July 5. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shriveled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.

By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

I know how I would vote.

 

 

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Air pollution: profits and costs

Submitted: Jun 29, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

“Agencies have long treated cost as a centrally relevant factor when deciding whether to regulate,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. “Consideration of cost reflects the understanding that reasonable regulation ordinarily requires paying attention to the advantages and the disadvantages of agency decisions.” ... Mercury emissions from power plants fall into water and accumulate in fish, while other toxins like arsenic and hydrochloric acid also poison the environment and endanger public health. Regulators estimate strict emissions controls can prevent between 4,200 and 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 non-fatal heart attacks annually.

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Water lawsuits scream overhead

Submitted: Jun 28, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 There have been a slew of articles this past 10 days about California water-rights lawsuits following the state's announcement of its intention to "curtail" the rights of senior water-rights holders. There have also been articles that try to explain California water rights. And there have been articles about cities and towns under mounting water-supply stress and about farmers ignoring various orders to stop using various sources of water to which they believe they are entitled. Throughout is stated the generally agreed upon ratio that agriculture uses 80 percent and municipalities 20 percent of California water resources.

 

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Vineyard expansion in Malibu curtailed -- quelle horreur!

Submitted: Jun 26, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

The ban was opposed by vineyard operators.

“It seems like we’re being targeted for vines, whereas other things that might actually lead to more significant drought reduction are not even being mentioned in this -- agriculture, housing, horses,” said Malibu resident Dan Fredman, who has been operating a vineyard for about five years. “All of those things use significantly more water than grapes do. -Paige Austen, Patch.com, June 17, 2015

 

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Thanks, guys, for your rendition of "I hear that huge, old suckin' sound"

Submitted: Jun 24, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Thanks guys, for another rendition of that same-old/same-old Country favorite, "I hear that huge, old suckin' sound"(the Trans-Pacific- Partnership version). Thanks for all the bribery and corruption enabling  our cowardly, venal and crooked members of Congress to vote to blind themselves from what's in the trade agreement.  Thanks for all the lies and corporatist "rules" of secrecy. Thanks for helping further close the American mind -- what's left of it -- for your profits. Thanks for shrugging your shoulders about Global Warming. Special thanks in advance for all the jobs this trade "agreement" will cost the US -- surely many entrepreneurs and dues-paying members of the Chamber of Commerce will arise from all that involuntary leisure.  Thanks for your treason, all bunted up in the red, white and blue.

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The pope and the water gurus

Submitted: Jun 23, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

The world's water challenges are technical, economic, political, and social issues, but the Vatican Encyclical reminds us that ultimately they are ethical and moral issues as well. This is a valuable and timely reminder. -- Dr. Peter Gleick, Huffington Post, June 18, 2015

 

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The Pope, capital, environment & water

Submitted: Jun 21, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The pontiff later denounces past failures to enact bolder environmental policies. “The failure of global summits on the environment makes it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected,” he writes. -- Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rattle some sabers, kills some whales, etc.

Submitted: Jun 20, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Keep in mind that this sort of far north drilling can only go on because the past drilling and burning of fossil fuels has helped melt Arctic sea ice and open up its potentially vast energy reserves to exploitation.  It’s a little like watching the proverbial snake eat its tail. -- Tom Engelhardt, Tomdispatch.com, May 21, 2015

This time, in other words, the bombs will be falling far closer to home. Whether it's war-torn Iraq or "peaceful" Alaska, Sunnis and Shi'ites or salmon and whales, to me the omnipresent “footprint” of the U.S. military feels inescapable. -- Dahr Jamail, Tomdispatch.com, May 21, 2015

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Finest young minds confront California drought

Submitted: Jun 18, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences recently developed a tool to quantitatively evaluate these water management options. Working with the Nature Conservancy, we designed the model to assess strategies for restoring populations of native fish on Mill Creek, a tributary of the Sacramento River. -- Jenny Ta, Joshua Viers, California Water Blog, June 14, 2015

 

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The horror! The horror!

Submitted: Jun 16, 2015
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 

 

6-13-15

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