The Futility of Strikes, Protests and Greek Debt Relief Hopes

Not counting this year, or 2010 – when one demonstration drew 100,000 people and three people – including a pregnant woman – were killed in a bank firebombed by anarchist cowards, Greeks struck and protested against austerity 27,103 times. None of them worked.

Six years ago, then-Premier and PASOK Anti-Socialist leader George “The Money is There” Papandreou agreed to a bailout from international lenders who told him it came with big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, worker firings and privatizations.

He took it and began the path to ruin for Greeks – except politicians, the privileged, the rich and tax cheats – and for himself when he left office in November, 2011, hounded out by relentless fury against his acquiescence to the country’s destruction.

Six years and three rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($366.66 billion) later, Greece’s debt has only grown and keeps rising by the minute, some 38,125 euros or $42,815 and none of the cockamamie schemes to save Greece by destroying it are working.

Successive governments: Papandreou’s PASOK, an interim coalition, the partnership of the New Democracy Capitalists and Anti-Socialists and the feeble Democratic Left, and now the Two-Headed Ray Milland-Rosie Greer Monster of the Looney Left SYRIZA and the irrelevant jingoists of the Dependent Greeks would have you believe otherwise.

They’ve all opposed austerity while out of office and embraced it the moment they took power because that’s what matters to them – power – at the cost of everything else, including the common good or the country they profess to love but use like a napkin after a Texas barbeque.

Former Premier Antonis Samaras of New Democracy said he had Greece on the “road to recovery.” Current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who reneged on virtually every promise he made and deluded himself that it was okay because he didn’t want to, said the “Days of Darkness” were over now that he, too, agreed to austerity he had rejected while campaigning.

Tsipras has applauded protests against him and his government even while agreeing to what led to them and even sent out riot police to quash demonstrations, a tactic for which he blistered previous administrations for using.

After agreeing to another 5.4 billion euros ($6.1 billion) in austerity to get more monies from a delayed third bailout of 86 billion euros ($97.31 billion), Greece’s beleaguered government is still pushing international creditors to provide debt relief, apparently still clinging to the illusion it could include an outright cut, or so-called “haircut.” Greece needs a buzz cut to stay viable.

The International Monetary Fund, which, along with the European Union, European Central Bank and European Stability Mechanism makes up the EU-IMF-ECM-ESM Quartet of creditors wants to get paid in full but wants its European partners to take a hit, which isn’t going to happen no matter how it’s spun because no one trusts Greece to pay what it owes.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who sets the rules in Greece since his country puts up most of the bailout monies, has rejected debt relief so that game is over.

The Eurogroup will meet on May 24 in hopes of a compromise that will clear the way for Greece to get another 5.7 billion euros ($6.45 billion) in loans, most of which go back to the same creditors and banks in a perpetual cycle of borrowing money to pay previous loans without money going to the Greek society.

Not only did Tsipras not provide relief to Greeks – while seeking it for himself – he flat-out lied and cut pensions again and is unleashing an avalanche of taxes on people he said he would protect.

Some 1.8 billion euros ($2.04 billion) in higher taxes will begin in July, at the height of the summer tourist season, the country’s biggest revenue hope.

Critics said the higher taxes will bring in far less money than expected and drive even more people to tax evasion in a country where it’s a sport.

The taxes will hit the poor and middle-class – Tsipras’ self-vaunted constituency – the most with an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 23 to 24 percent, the sixth hike in the tax in in six years.

The fuel tax will go up in January, 20167 by 8-10 cents per liter with the average retail rate then about 1.49 euros ($1.69) or $6.38 per gallon.

A new tax on beer is coming as well when the special consumption tax on alcohol, tobacco and electronic cigarettes rises. There will be a new 5 percent tax on broadband Internet connections and a 10 percent tax on pay-TV.

Tourists as of January 2018 will pay a one euro ($1.13) per person per night surcharge to stay in hotels and accommodations, cutting into the industry.

The government will also impose a tax on coffee, coming to over 2 euros ($2.26 per kilo), hiking the overall price about 25 percent for a treasured commodity and the dreaded property tax surcharge called ENFIA that Tsipras said he’d scrap will also effectively go up instead.

The IMF wants the EU to freeze the interest rate on Greece’s debt at 1.5 percent and let Greece wait until 2040 to start paying and have 40 more years to do it, which means it never would and wild spending sprees would start again, with taxpayers in the other 17 Eurozone countries paying the tab. Won’t happen.