Characteristically, the protagonist in Greek tragedies fell victim to hubris. Ajax, Oedipus and Orestes all shared such a fate. One day, bards will add Barack Obama to that list.
Greece is in the throes of economic death. An era of obscene pensions and spending profligacy has left the country at war with itself.
In Greece, two major unions went on strike and tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday. It is a public protest against government plans to toughen the country’s austerity measures and save the country from financial ruin.
More than 20,000 people took to the streets of Athens, and in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, another estimated 20,000.
They were protesting against government plans to raise taxes and cut spending.
Greeks are up in arms about the draconian demands from the government:
The reform cuts benefits, curbs widespread early retirement, increases the number of contribution years from 35-37 to 40 and raises women’s retirement age from 60 to match men on 65.
Greek unions view this as a massacre:
“The draft pension bill … is slaughtering fundamental pension rights,” public sector union ADEDY said in a statement.
It’s a slaughter?
ATHENS — Vasia Veremi may be only 28, but as a hairdresser in Athens, she is keenly aware that, under a current law that treats her job as hazardous to her health, she has the right to retire with a full pension at age 50.
“I use a hundred different chemicals every day — dyes, ammonia, you name it,” she said. “You think there’s no risk in that?”
“People should be able to retire at a decent age,” Ms. Veremi added. “We are not made to live 150 years.”
Perhaps not, but it is still difficult to explain to outsiders why the Greek government has identified at least 580 job categories deemed to be hazardous enough to merit retiring early — at age 50 for women and 55 for men.
Greece’s patchwork system of early retirement has contributed to the out-of-control state spending that has led to Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Its pension promises will grow sharply in coming years, and investors can see the country has not set aside enough to cover those costs, making it harder for Greece to borrow at a reasonable rate.
As a consequence of decades of bargains struck between strong unions and weak governments, Greece has promised early retirement to about 700,000 employees, or 14 percent of its work force, giving it an average retirement age of 61, one of the lowest in Europe.
The law includes dangerous jobs like coal mining and bomb disposal. But it also covers radio and television presenters, who are thought to be at risk from the bacteria on their microphones, and musicians playing wind instruments, who must contend with gastric reflux as they puff and blow.
The damage in Greece is self-inflicted:
For successive governments, power has been used to dispense patronage and reward voters with jobs – a practice that increasingly triggered labour unrest and dragged down the economy. In the shadow of bloody civil war, the state was the great connector.
By the time the modernising socialists were elected last October, the civil service was not only bloated but at bursting point with even the finance minister George Papaconstantinou admitting in an interview with the Guardian that he was “clueless” as to the real number of employees.
“Until now the only dream of nearly every Greek has been to get a state job,” says the author Nikos Dimou. “Because they knew that it was not only a job for life but involved little work.”
Greece and its unions want to give up nothing and still want a bailout. Germany is being asked to provide the funding for that bailout and it has the Germans displeased:
“The Greeks go onto the streets to protest against the increase of the pension age from 61 to 63. Does that mean that the Germans should in future extend the working age from 67 to 69, so that the Greeks can enjoy their retirement?”
Sound familiar? Think “unions.”
Now the other shoe drops for Greece. The bailout delays the inevitable.
AN IRREVERENT official at the International Monetary Fund recently installed a jarring ringtone on his mobile phone. It is the sound of cans being kicked down a road. That, alas, is what Europe’s politicians and the IMF look set to do with their latest rescue plan for Greece. Though the details are still being hammered out, it is already clear that the package—likely to involve an extra €85 billion ($125 billion) or so—goes only part way, at best, towards dealing with Greece’s economic woes.
Bailouts delay the inevitable. Who woulda thunk it?
Which brings us back to the US and another stupid Obama program.
After pouring billions down the HAMP hole, Obama has decided to dump in another billion.
Homeowners facing foreclosure can now tap into a $1 billion program of emergency loans to help tide them over a temporary financial crisis, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced.
Beginning today, homeowners in 27 states can file preliminary applications for the Emergency Homeowner’s Loan Program (EHLP). Eligible homeowners can obtain interest-free loans of up to $50,000 to help cover mortgage expenses for up to two years.
And you might not even have to pay it back!
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the nonprofit NeighborWorks America said the program will provide hundreds of local borrowers with interest-free loans of up to $50,000 over a two-year period. In some cases, the money will not have to be paid back.
Democrats are idiots who never learn.
Subsidize failure, get more failure.
Subsidize poverty, get more poverty.
Subsidize ignorance, get more ignorance.
And it is utterly contemptible that those who did not deserve these mortgages and would not and will not pay those mortgages are rewarded while those of us who have conducted ourselves responsibly get to pay for those who do not. We are paying for the Clinton-Rubin-Cuomo socialization of the housing system. Ironically, the three of them have profited immensely since pushing this country over a cliff.
The constant housing bailouts only delay the inevitable. They delay a housing recovery.
Out of control spending. Absurd pensions. Unions working in collusion with government. The echoes are unmistakable.
How does one say “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” in Greek?