I'm not greek, i'm a native born north carolinian, sir.
To CF Benz:
Very little research by the looks of it. The Greek average wage is about 900€ per month before the 36% taxes you pay to the government, so that’s now 575€. [ the OECD reports a higher average annual wage, I’m suspecting they also include the very highest earners and the “13th month” pay which is a tad ridiculous, and hence not telling the whole picture] Rent for a studio apartment [and I mean basic] will run you about 200 -300€, if you’re lucky. So now you’re down to about 325€ per month to pay electricity [give or take 30€], water [ another 20 or maybe less], and then food [assuming eating is still considered a human right and not a privilege as argued by the Fox News viewing elite]. Let’s say I like to eat vegetables and maybe some milk, about enough for one week…. So that’s about 30, including a naughty piece of salami in there.– 170€ per month. We’re down to 155€. Now of course, you can’t be a self-indulgent overpaid Greek if you don’t have a beer or two, right? Ok, assuming you want to have one beer out in a bar, that’s 5€ [roughly 7$] a bottle. So you get one and you sip it very very slowly. Say you want to do that once per evening each week; because you’ve just worked about 10 hours [yes, that’s true actually – according to the OECD Employment Database, only Koreans (#1) work more annual hours than the Greeks (#2) – the US is #12 in the list – however this also reflects productivity investments and so forth] so you’re up to 35€ per week for 1 beer. Let’s say you’re trying to be a monk, so it’s 17.50 per week – that’s 70€ per month, give or take. So you’re left with about 80-85€ to get by on. Assuming you don’t have a loved one, kids, ever want to buy presents for a family member, or go on the forbidden weekend trip out of Athens – notably the least crowded metropolis in the world. I’m not sure where you’re getting your image of the Greeks actually.
The monks of Votapedi, to inform the audience if there is one, were implicated in a corruption scandal with New Democracy [the conservative party controlled by familied interests, not unlike the other ruling party] where the government bought 1 billion € of land for 100 billion €. Obviously the fault of all the common Greeks who work at elementary schools and collecting trash. I suppose, as a Catholic, I also share the blame for the misdeeds of my own faith, right? It’s a good thing American ministers don’t suffer from this financial depravity. I'm not sure why you thought that would be the crescendo of your argument. But anyhow.
After 400 years of Ottoman rule, ending in 1830, the Greeks were proxy ruled by all the big economic powers – beginning with the gracious gift of a Germanic king from northern Europe. I tell ya, with friends like these. Throw in a few wars, a civil war no one likes to talk about, a couple world wars, and the massive influx of about a million and a half Greeks from Turkey during the population exchange with Turkey, and you’ve definitely got a stable modern history. It has only been about 4 decades, since the Greeks got their democracy back from the US-backed military Junta in 1974. And as we all know, it only takes 40 years to recover from being a cold-war muppet government [yes I mean muppet], good thing the US never believed in the communist scare.
The point was, the Greeks weren’t ready for the Euro, they weren’t really ready to be in the European union, and it’s hard to believe any of the economists or politicians really thought they were. You can’t really blame the Greeks for wanting to have the opportunity to participate in an organization which would help it out of being essentially a third world country. The Greeks aren’t blameless, and they know this. I know, I’ve asked people on the street here. They have rampant, in-bred corruption of the type an American can’t possibly conceive of apart from a reminiscent thought to Tammany Hall and Big Boss Tweed.
But let’s not get it twisted. When they called for a referendum to see if the people wanted the austerity “package”, they [the real beneficiaries of the Euro] ousted Papandreou and installed an economist of their liking, same thing in Italy. Now they want Greece to take on the type of help that destroyed Jamaica nearly 30 years ago – there’s a great documentary called Life and Debt which I urge you to watch. I do not argue with your synopsis of the woes in the US, but it is NOTHING compared to what this country has had to deal with, and as such, you should not scare Americans by saying "we're going to be the next Greece!!! look at those lazy tourist trappers" [ keep in mind a lot of Greece's natural and historic resources are still owned by foreign powers – the British still refuse to return the pieces of the acropolis by treasure hunters and now show prominently in the British Museum and other locations]. Tourism is the one thing that this country can rely on. Could you imagine if North Carolina was forced to sell off Ocracoke to New Jersey? It's about the same. To that end, I humbly apologize for my nativist outlook, coming from rural eastern North Carolina.
I live in Greece, and I have had the privelege to be here when things were good, and when things got bad. It would be appreciated if you and people like you would quit comparing Greece and other countries to the US, especially as regards "government cheese". First, it was the capital coming back to Europe from Wall Street which went looking for more investments in southern europe, especially Greece. Greece has no real natural resources save tourism. The Germans and French financiers and banks are to blame for a lot of the misery in Greece. It's the same as giving a credit card to a teenager. Sure, you might make a responsible teenager, however more than likely that we all know what usually happens. Such is with Greece. The banks flooded the population with credit which they had no way on earth paying back, and when the crisis hit, they wanted the money back. Well, Greeks didn't have it to giv eback so quick, and they can't control their monetary policy to make things a little easier. Second, it's not the state financing of government benefits which has made things so bad. In fact, if you were to look at the Greek rate of unemployment benefits, you'd notice they are quite low. The truth of the matter is that Greece, like many Southern European countries, like the southern US to a degree, are extremely family based welfare states - compared to the liberal, conservative christian, and social democratic regimes of the other leading welfare states. It was the Northern Europeans who wanted Greece in the EU and in the Euro. There is no way the leaders of these countries could honestly believe Greece erased that much debt to join in that short of time. No. It was opportunist capitalist investors who created the environment for Greeks to fall into the trap it now finds itself in now. It has nothing to do with welfare benefits and everything to do with trying to transpose an alien financial and democratic regime on a sovereign country. The Greeks here are scared, and worried. Many have gone a month or two yet continue to do their work. Many pensioners, your "government cheese" people, are out of their retirement, note the recent suicide at Syntagma Square. And now the same capitalists who made this catrastrophe, and yes they also include Greeks, are moving to syphon off the very source of income which most Greeks rely, tourism, but moving to purchase the property which is the lifeblood of this small country of 11million people. You would do well to look at the mess capitalism has left your own country in and think about what the one thing the christian right wingers have completely gotten wrong: do you really think Jesus would be a Wall Street high roller, or a inequality reducing activist which so many in the US deride as Communist devils? Perhaps you believe refused to heal the blind because of a pre-existing health condition or an inability to pay their premium.
Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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