Addendum, Part I: The Big Fat Greek Swindle
You either know things, or you don't. You either accept reality, or you live in a fantasy world in which reality is so cruel to you, and there must be a conspiracy of bad Jews, avid bankers and cruel Freemasons against your good, innocent self.
Undoubtedly, the Greek belong to the latter group. They just do not accept reality. They actually never did, seen how they could get away with it for so long. This time the game is (more or less) up.
If you know things, you know as a fact (something, therefore, with which I will not waste my time) that the Greek governments – of every colour – have swindled both their entrance in the euro – faking a compliance with Maastricht criteria that was never there in the first place – and their continued adherence to the same criteria for a long, long time.
The swindle continued – had to continue – in the following years, because if a swindle brought you certain advantages you won't suddenly become honest because you got away with the swindle; and if the new situation forces you to behave differently you will prefer to do what you already did: cheat. The Greek Governments – of all colours – kept beautifying for years the statistical data in order to reduce the scale of their deficit in absolute numbers, and to inflate the growth of the economy in order to let the deficit/GDP ratio appear compliant, more or less, with the EU criteria.
As for every account swindler, reality sooner or later had to catch up with them. For Greece, the moment of truth came in 2009, when Brussels officials decided to get to Athens en masse and conduct a thorough review of how much Ouzo went in the official accounts of the Greek government.
The Greek Government, always faithful to themselves, prevented the scandal as much as possible with The Big Fat Greek Surprise: the announcement that (cough) there was, in fact, some (cough) slight mistake and the Greek deficit did not amount to 3.7% of the GDP, but rather to (cough) 12.5%. Read these figures again. And again. And again. This 2009 announcement was nothing less than the open admission (as much as a Greek would make it) of the biggest public accounts fraud ever perpetrated by a sovereign state against other states, and allowing it to swindle their entry into an exclusive club giving right to, inter alia, extremely low interest rates due to the fiscal responsibity of… other people. A swindle that went on for many years, certainly a decade.
What the Greek government did for many, many years is worthy of a tin-pot African Country, and yours truly does not doubt in the least it would have gone on forever if they had been allowed to do so. Never was one so-called civilised country so determined to have their cake, eat it, cheating as they do so, and blame everyone else for their lack of basic integrity. And no, don't blame government officials. An entire country, collectively considered, is obviously playing this game.
Don't insult your intelligence pretending that there was only one Greek voter who, in 2009, did not know what had happened and why. Do you think they chose to finally enter the path of financial virtue and fiscal seriousness that was required of them, now, very urgently? Do you think they would accept the fact that if you want to be in the Strong Currency Club you have to follow the Hard Membership Rules? If you do, you don't know the Greek (I do, out of both business and private dealings. They just take your breath away. No, I don't care if you're offended, either. I choose reality).
The game of blaming others for their frauds, and of accusing others of being “cruel” because they urged them to stick to the rules, now began in earnest. As the word “Grexit” became to be pronounced worldwide, starting from 2010 the Greek began the usual game of stalling, lying, crying, deceiving, and threatening bankruptcy. The game of every debtor who can't cope with the simple, brutal fact that he is spending too much and he must reduce spending. But then again, this kind of debtor can never reduce spending. It is indispensable to spend too much. It's your fault, not his, because you insist in being repaid.
“I can't do what you ask of me. I am poor, you see, and so little. But you, Germany, and your friends, you are so big, and so rich. I will be able to live out of you and your friends indefinitely, surely? Yes, I will do what I am absolutely forced to do. But it will be too little and too late, because I still expect you, rich Germany and friends, to pay for my swindles, my corruption, my populism, my lack of responsibility, and my fight against reality”.
Unfortunately, the like of Merkel made everything they could to help the swindlers. In part, they certainly thought they could bend them to their will. In part, they feared the loss of credibility for themselves if the EU project (remember: the Euro is part of a far bigger machine) had been exposed as a dream, or rather a nightmare.
But mind, it would be the height of folly to blame them for the sin of the Greeks, now bearing – again – more threats and more vague, useless promises. Realistically, immediate kick out was not in the cards. An epochal change like that would have never been countenanced by the mainstream voters; least of all, by those who say, now, that the Greek should not have been helped then. I am, actually, glad we only needed five years to come to this point, and I give the merit not to the German representatives, but to the German people: the honest workers and taxpayers who have had enough of this scandal, and won't (hopefully) allow this sort of collective scrounging anymore.
Again: it was utterly unrealistic to expect Greece to be kicked out in 2010. The same hypocrites who now say that Greece should not have been helped for so long are the same ones who said in 2010 that Greece could not be so cruelly abandoned. You know the drill: it's either too soon to act, or too late. With people who live above their means it is always so: you are cruel if you don't help them, and when you help them it is your fault that you did. That they need to repay their debt, will never be admitted.
Unfortunately for the Greek, their basic strategy (I will get away with an awful lot, because the other Euro Governments will not risk the end of the project and the financial earthquake for little me; so they will just pay for the wayward little brother as he reforms himself as little as strictly necessary) did not pay out. Years of extremely painful financial discipline (Italy brought down its deficit from around 10% to around 3% of GDP in just a few years, and has been on the whole fiscally virtuous since; at the cost of great sacrifice) have now trained even traditionally undisciplined Countries to think that if they (the Italians) can other (the Greek) can, too; and if they cannot or want not, they should say it and be done with it; and let's see if the world outside of the club is kinder to them.
Greece could have been helped if the Greek voters had been willing to help themselves; but this would have involved a measure of re-adjusting themselves to reality that they were never ready to accept because hey, I am so little, and you are so German.
This mentality was demonstrated (motus in fine velocior) in 2015, when things finally came to a head. First, this bunch of deluded children sent to power a bunch of deluded leftists, thinking in best Greek tradition that if you deny reality, reality will certainly change to accommodate you. Then, they even voted for the “no” to the EU plan, showing a huge finger to those who have been footing their bills for fifteen years and are doing – and have been doing – far more than they should to help them. Only scarcely 40% of the Greek seem to look at reality straight in the eyes and recognise that the time of swindling, crying, accusing and even insulting has gone. For the others, it is denial to the end. Germany is so rich, it's unjust they should not profit of this.
Will the Greek get away with it again? Unfortunately, I fear that they will get out of this (their) mess infinitely more than they deserve. The fact is, if Greece is kicked out of the Euro and (very possibly) of the EU, the nightmare of One Europe will be gone for good. To the extent that the electorate in countries like Germany allow their representatives to get away with it, some kind of make believe that the Greek are truly doing their homework and have learnt their lesson might well suffice; after, of course, the drama necessary for the Greek Government to force his own voting children to accept the strictly unavoidable, and for the Kanzlerin & Co to show they really, really mean it, when they actually don't.
It'll never work, of course. The Euro will continue to brutally grind inefficient, corrupt economies poisoned with populism like the Greek one. Expect more pain down the way. Expect more pain even if the Greek should have their gift of – absurdly – 30% of a debt contracted by lying and swindling simply forgotten. They are in this mess because they are inefficient, populist, corrupted and at war with reality. The more gifts you make them, the more they will feel justified in keep behaving as they did.
Long term, Greece only has two alternatives: shut up and do what they are told, and try to become a better Country; of go back to the Drachma and sink in an ocean of South American inflation, overspending, Bergoglian rhetoric, and more corruption.
Forty percent of them seem to have got the message. The vast majority continue to dream.
Good luck, Greece.
And (hopefully) good riddance.