ATHENS – As far as we know, former defense minister and all-around bad guy and the former King of Arrogance, Akis Tsochatzopoulos – he of the eternal sneer – is the biggest crook in Greece, at least convicted.
Serving 20 years in jail for money laundering and corruption for plundering defense contracts at the cost of the taxpayers and bad submarines and weapons that didn’t work, prosecutors weren’t able to pin down exactly how much he spirited away, but it could be close to a billion euros, or about $1.37 billion.
As the late Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, said: “A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” That’s why even the Thieves of Greece such as Tsochatzopoulos, or a raft of bankers and cronies using Greek banks as personal ATMs haven’t done as much to damage to Greece as could Alexis “Che” Tsipras, leader of the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA).
Tsipras, 39, studied engineering in college but the only real job he’s had is engineering people to believe he has a clue how to govern a country. SYRIZA, a motley collection of Communists (Tsipras’ first calling); anarchists, Maoists, Stalinists, Leninists, Trotskyites, and a sprinkling of ecologists, has never had real standing in Greece but now is leading the polls.
Why? It’s because the ruling party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Capitalists, and his fast-fading partner, the PASOK Anti-Socialists of Evangelos Venizelos have taken turns packing public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes.
That’s largely responsible for Greece’s crushing economic crisis and a major reason why former PASOK leader and previous premier, the now-disgraced George Papandreou who was hounded out of office, had to ask international lenders for help in what became two bailouts of $325 billion.
There’s no way – none, zero, nada, nanu nanu, tipota – Greece can pay it back and even that’s not the real total debt, which despite the rescue packages and Greece stiffing private investors for 74 percent losses, is still hovering somewhere around $430 billion for a country of 11 million people.
The money came with tough conditions to insure the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) would get paid back: harsh austerity measures affecting only workers, pensioners and the poor, not the government’s friends in high places
But Samaras boxed himself in. After opposing pay cuts, tax hikes, and slashed pensions when he was out office and said they wouldn’t work, he embraced them to join a temporary coalition when Papandreou quit in November, 2011 and continued to impose them when he was elected seven months later.
Since then, Tsipras has sniped away – with some good reason – at the memoranda Greece signed with the Troika, not because Greece doesn’t need the money but because the wrong people are paying for it.
So are Samaras and Venizelos. The New Democracy leader’s party has now fallen consistently behind SYRIZA in recent polls at the same time PASOK, which got 44 percent of the vote in 2009 when Papandreou won by lying that, “The money is there,” is now somewhere around the 3-5 percent mark.
Tsipras is taking political advantage of Samaras’ hypocrisy but here’s the problem for the loony lefty: he doesn’t have any idea what to do about it if he wins office.
He said that New Democracy and PASOK will be repudiated in May elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament and that he’ll come to power next year, although even if he does it’s doubtful he could win a majority of the Parliament, but that’s another story.
The bailout monies run out this year, and Samaras, after saying he wouldn’t, now wants debt relief from the Troika even while he’s touting a primary surplus and alleged “success story,” that Greece can recover.
That’s what Tsipras wants too, but he wants a lot more. He said that unless the Troika agrees to take a hit – which would force the taxpayers in the 17 other Eurozone countries to pay for generations of wild overspending by New Democracy and PASOK – that he’d renege outright on paying back the money.
That’s a nice ploy if you have $325 billion hanging around to operate the country and at least pretend you want to get back into the markets, but not so good if you’re broke, which Greece is.
Unless Tspiras, so enamored of Communist ideology that his son’s middle name is Ernesto in honor of his hero, Che Guevara, has a secret plan to save Greece, electing him and SYRIZA would finish the country’s ruination.
One of his party’s most eminent members, World War II hero Manolis Glezos, who, with his late friend Apostolos Santas, tore down the Swastika from the Acropolis, said his party leader is “clueless” about how to save Greece if he wins.
So while the likes of low-life like Tsochatzopoulos, formerly of PASOK and former Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, previously of New Democracy and who is serving a life sentence after being convicted of embezzling 51.4 million euros ($70.64 million) think they were big-time, they’re pikers next to Tsipras, who wants to steal $325 billion.
That’s in the name of the people, of course, but just wait until Greeks find out that they just elected Che Guevara and they’ll suffer the same fate.