The Eurozone’s Agenda
Democracy and Neo-Liberalism = Mongoose and Cobra? Right now, the Greeks are gearing up for an election that will decide how much the people of that nation will concede in the negotiations with the Euro-Zone. If you have followed the talks, you might be troubled at the how the Euro-Zone Bureaucrats are interfering with the internal affairs of Greece. Greece wanted to raise taxes on the wealthy and impose a one-time tax on businesses. They were told no. Greece wanted to increase spending on tax enforcement. They were told no.
But it wasn’t just about saying no. The Greeks were told to increase “value added taxes,” a kind of sales tax. These fall most heavily on the lower classes. And they were told they should cut the number of pension holders and the amount they get (roughly 800 a month measured in American dollars). Needless to say these bureaucrats (technocrats?) are unelected and their preferences strongly tend to the economic prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund. These prescriptions while being applied to Greece at the moment are familiar to any American who follows economic policy discussions. They are privatization, a lessening of regulations, means-testing for government aid, a dramatic reduction in social services to force salary discipline, and lowered taxes on businesses and the wealthy. These in the neo-liberal mind will eventually produce an economic utopia although success has eluded them thus far. .
People given the power of the vote are an obstacle in the path of these kinds of changes. Democratic peoples tend to lean toward the ideas that privatization of commonly held public goods like parks are opportunities for businesses to charge them for things that were once free. That regulations no matter how often they are called drags on the economy are for the public’s protection. And they feel that they have a right to a decent retirement and other government aids in the face of an increasingly unsure economic environment. Many people also believe that businesses and the wealthy are not carrying their fair share of the tax burden.
But democracy is not always an effective obstacle. International organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, and Euro-Zone among many others work to limit the effects of democracy using loans, a legion of technocrats, and literally tons of learned documents explaining that what people believe to be in their best interest is not.
Democracy limited by international treaty to allow corporations to sue in supra-national judicial systems does not have the historical or traditional power of a nation state. This is currently the most significant move by international business to curb human rights and democratic authority. It is epitomized by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secret agreement reaching into every part of business law and strengthening the power and influence of corporations, other business interests and the wealthy.
Democratic values and patriotism are not obsolete because it is in the interest of international business to make them so.
Nations and the societies therein are successful because of the wisdom of the learned, the courage of the brave and the obedience of the citizen. Wisdom, courage and obedience are all irrelevant in a world where monetary interest is the sole measure of success.
Congress Weighs in on Holding IMF Accountable for Damage Caused by Failed Policies in Greece | Mark Weisbrot
It is not surprising that the very idea of a referendum would provoke the ire of the eurozone authorities. Unlike the European Union, which has a different history, the eurozone project has become a fundamentally anti-democratic project. It has to be; the people currently running it want to reverse, as much as possible, decades of social progress on issues that are vital to Europeans. But you don’t have to take my word for it: there is a paper trail of thousands of pages that spell out their political agenda. The IMF conducts regular consultations with member governments under Article IV of its charter, and these result in papers which contain policy recommendations. There were 67 such consultations for EU countries during the four years of 2008 to 2011, and the pattern was striking: budget tightening was recommended in all 27 countries, with spending cuts generally favored over tax increases. Cutting health care and pension spending, reducing eligibility for disability and unemployment compensation, raising retirement ages and increasing labor supply were also overwhelmingly common recommendations.
The European authorities took advantage of the crisis and post-crisis years to impose parts of this agenda on the weaker eurozone economies: Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and most brutally of all, Greece. More than 20 governments fell as a result, until finally, in Greece on January 25, a government was elected that said no. The goal of the European authorities, therefore, is to topple this government. This has been apparent since the ECB cut off its main line of credit to Greece on February 4.