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As economic uncertainty continues to take its toll on people in Europe, I am reminded of a quote attributed to Leona Helmsley during her 1989 tax evasion trial. According to housekeeper Elizabeth Baum’s testimony, she had the following exchange with Helmsley shortly after being hired in September 1983: “You must pay a lot of taxes,” said Baum. Helmsley’s ostensible reply? “We don’t pay taxes,” she answered. “Only the little people pay taxes.” What does Helmsley’s quote have to do with the current economic conditions? It parallels the view of economic, financial and political elites whose economic policies are currently playing themselves out in Europe and America. To wit: Austerity is for “little people.”
When one views the latest Greek bailout through this prism, it makes far more sense. The European Union, the transnational entity which orchestrates the parameters by which industrious Germans and French will bailout out profligate Greeks, has no particular concern for the people of the individual countries involved in this drama. In fact, the people subject to the conditions of the bailouts — on both ends of the equation — want no part of the deal. On one end, Greek unions are calling for a 48-hour general strike on June 28 and 29, to protest further austerity policies that must be enacted if the government, facing what amounts to a “take it or else” ultimatum from the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, aka the “troika,” is to stave off insolvency. And on the other end, while the French citizenry is taking the bailout in stride, the Germans are furious. On both ends, the citizens of the individual countries involved have virtually no say in the matter.
Why? Because in the world of the transnational elite, countries are an anachronistic construct. This is highlighted by the fact that bailing out the Greeks was an impossibility until two people, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, agreed on a “breakthrough” deal last week. Part of that deal involves the European Union underwriting Greek debt. Another part involves funding by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose largest shareholder at 17 percent is the United States — meaning that American taxpayers will also be on the hook for Greek profligacy, to the tune of billions of dollars.
For whom are these sacrifices being made? Elite bankers, bondholders and bureaucrats. Bondholders who can get more than 25 percent for gambling on Greece’s future, but don’t want to take a “haircut” for doing so, along with bankers who continue to prop up the socialist nation in order to protect the transnational construct of the European Union, in which the “little people” have far less of a say in their own destiny than the EU bureaucrats in Brussels. Thus, it is no accident that the air is thick with talk of a “Lehman-type moment.” As far as the internationalists are concerned, Greece has become “too big to fail.”
Yet some people are recognizing the futility of maintaining the EU regardless of the cost. The German Magazine Der Spiegel is calling for a Plan B, noting that the “currency union chains together economies that are simply incompatible.” This is no longer a viable option because “the crises of a few euro countries are a crisis for the euro, as well as a crisis for the European Union, its governments and its institutions.” Furthermore, “that the countries funding the bailouts are lacking democratic legitimization is now becoming the greatest impediment to joint crisis management” because policy decisions are being made “at the behind-the-scenes meetings of discrete central banks…that are then handed to the [national] parliaments to rubber-stamp, even though hardly any of their members understand them.”
American Spectator’s Roger Scruton elucidates. The architects of the EU were people who “had little else in common apart from a belief in European civilization and a distrust of the nation-state…part of a broad movement among the postwar (WWll) political class.” As time went on, Europe became a continent where “[E]ach increase in central power was to be matched by a diminution of national power,” despite the fact that this is “not a direction that the people of Europe have chosen,” but one that is “moving always toward centralization, top-down control, dictatorship by unelected bureaucrats and judges, cancellation of laws passed by elected parliaments, constitutional treaties framed without any input whatsoever from the people…moving always toward imperial government.”
A blow-back against such centralization is already occurring. Political parties such as the True Finns, who bitterly oppose bailouts, won a fifth of the votes in that country’s last election in April. “This was a referendum on EU policy,” said Timo Soini, the True Finns leader, following his party’s electoral gains. “We will keep our money and our right to make our own decisions.” Recent polls show French president Nicolas Sarkozy trailing ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen, and Socialists in Spain’s last election took a drubbing directly related to that country’s need to impose Greek-like austerity measures on a populace beset by 22 percent unemployment.
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