‘Austerity Has Won’: Greece Submits to Divisive Reforms

‘This is not an agreement but an outrageous imposition on the Greek people,’ Jubilee Debt Campaign

by: Deirdre Fulton

After 31 hours of tense weekend talks—and five years of crippling austerity—Greece and its foreign creditors have struck a deal: an €86 billion bailout that will keep Greece in the Eurozone in exchange for controversial economic reforms that include tax hikes, pension overhauls, and severe budget cuts if the nation misses fiscal targets imposed and monitored by the so-called Troika.

European Council president Donald Tusk made the announcement of what he referred to as an “agreekment” early Monday morning following a 17-hour round of negotiations in Brussels.

The deal was immediately blasted as a “humiliating” surrender of national sovereignty.

An editorial on the Iskra website, which reflects the views of anti-austerity Syriza hardliners, charges that the agreement reestablishes and extends the guardianship of the Troika and solidifies “social enslavement.”

“The Greek people must not become disappointed, on the contrary it must remain stubborn, as it did in the referendum and the countrywide protests for a ‘No’ to the very end,” read the editorial. “A ‘No’ to clash with the bailout, neo-liberalism and austerity which are institutionalized in the Eurozone.”

In a statement on Monday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras admitted the deal “calls for tough measures.”

“However,” he continued, “we prevented the transfer of public property abroad, we prevented the financial asphyxiation and the collapse of the financial system.” And, he added, it calls for debt restructuring, if not relief.

As a result, Tsipras concluded, “I believe that a large majority of the Greek people will support the effort to return to growth; they acknowledge that we fought for a just cause, we fought until the end, we have been negotiating through the night, and no matter what the burdens will be, they will be allocated—we guarantee this—with social justice.”

But selling this agreement to the Greek people, who overwhelmingly voted against further austerity in a popular referendum earlier this month, will be a challenge. On Sunday into Monday, the Twitter hashtag #ThisIsACoup was attached to tens of thousands of angry comments denouncing the Troika’s aggressive demands.

“Clearly the Europe of austerity has won,” Greece’s Reform Minister George Katrougalossaid. “Either we are going to accept these draconian measures or it is the sudden death of our economy through the continuation of the closure of the banks. So it is an agreement that is practically forced upon us.”

Bloomberg reports that Tsipras “will return to face a mutiny within his coalition after he surrendered to European demands.”

With the threat of defections rippling through the Syriza party, Tsipras will “have to change his administration and clear out hardliners and radicals from his party,” as well as rely on opposition support to pass the necessary measures, Eurasia Group analysts Mujtaba Rahman and Federico Santi told Bloomberg. “But it is a tough call to determine how Tsipras will go about doing this.”

The global anti-austerity movement was also quick to criticize the deal’s harsh terms.

“This is not an agreement but an outrageous imposition on the Greek people,” said Tim Jones, economist at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, which advocates for debt cancellation worldwide. “If implemented, it will continue the five-year long crisis in the Greek economy since the first disastrous bailout of European banks in 2010 for another decade or more.”

And Nick Dearden, of Global Justice Now, said the circumstances surrounding the negotiations “rather resemble the imperial politics of the 19th century.”

“Is it so unthinkable to put the rights and livelihoods of ordinary people ahead of threatening the interests of the banks?” Dearden asked. “The European governments and institutions seem to think so. The lives and rights of millions of Greeks, and now the very existence of the EU as a democratic union, come a poor second to the economic fundamentalism of Merkel and the Troika.”

Source: ‘Austerity Has Won’: Greece Submits to Divisive Reforms | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

After 6-Year Tenure Not Prosecuting Banks, Eric Holder Returns ‘Home’ to Defend Them

Critics say new position of former attorney general, known for protecting big banks, is a dramatic example of the revolving door

by: Sarah Lazare

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s return this week to a high-level position at Covington & Burling, a corporate law firm that represents big banks, has some calling it a dramatic and troubling example of the Washington-to-Wall-Street revolving door.

That’s because Holder’s six years of service under the administration of President Barack Obama were defined by his refusal to criminally prosecute any of the financial institutions that drove the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent recession.

“If we had a more aggressive media, this would be an enormous scandal, more than thedecamping of former Obama Administration officials to places like Uber and Amazon,” wrote David Dayen in Salon on Tuesday. “That’s because practically no law firm has done more to protect Wall Street executives from the consequences of their criminal activities than Covington & Burling.”

Holder also did a great deal to protect big banks during his tenure at the Department of Justice.

As journalist Lee Fang pointed out in the Intercept on Monday, “The Department of Justice under Holder not only failed to pursue criminal prosecutions of the banks responsible for the mortage meltdown, but in fact de-prioritized investigations of mortgage fraud, making it the ‘lowest-ranked criminal threat,’ according to an inspector general report.”

Moreover, Holder is famous for his ethos and phrase: big banks are “too big to jail.”

It is not clear exactly what Holder will do at his new position at Covington, where he was a partner for eight years before his stint with the Obama administration.

A statement released by Covington on Monday is vague, explaining that “Mr. Holder will be resident in the firm’s Washington office and focus on complex investigations and litigation matters, including matters that are international in scope and raise significant regulatory enforcement issues and substantial reputational concerns.”

Dayen writes that Holder will “never end up as lead litigation counsel for Citigroup, and he can’t be involved in any cases dating back to his Justice Department tenure for two years. But he’ll be able to advise behind the scenes, a compelling prospect for banks in trouble. As we have seen over the last decade, relationships and influence matter more than the letter of the law in determining whether white-collar criminals face justice.”

As for Holder, he said in a press statement that “returning to Covington is like coming home.”

 

Source: After 6-Year Tenure Not Prosecuting Banks, Eric Holder Returns ‘Home’ to Defend Them

On Brink of ‘Irreparable Split’ Between Rich and Poor Nations, European Leaders Scramble

Emboldened by anti-austerity referendum, Tsipras to address European Parliament on Wednesday

by: Lauren McCauley

In the wake of Greece’s historic ‘No’ vote this weekend, European leaders are scrambling to cement a new deal after the resounding rejection of the austerity program that has heretofore dominated fiscal policy and conversation.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz confirmed that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will address parliament plenary on Wednesday morning. Tsipras is expected to put forth a new written proposal for financial aid, one that reflects the wishes of the people—who on Sunday voted overwhelmingly against the latest bailout offer, which would have imposed further austerity and economic hardship.

On Tuesday, European heads of state are meeting in Brussels to discuss the pending economic crisis. According to reports, Tsipras will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande ahead of the evening’s leaders’ summit to discuss his plan. Tsipras is expected to call for the country’s €323bn ($356bn) debt to be reduced by up to 30 percent, with a 20-year grace period, BBC reports.

Also on Tuesday, the newly appointed Greek Financial Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was sworn in, taking the place of Yanis Varoufakis who on Monday announced his resignation. Though European lenders had reportedly urged for Varoufakis’ resignation as a condition for the continued talks, experts expect Tsakalotos to maintain the same aggressive anti-austerity stance as his predecessor.

Greece native Harry Konstantinidis, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says he expects Tsipras to present a program “that re-establishes collective bargaining and shifts the burden of adjustment on the wealthier strata of the Greek population rather than on pensioners and low-income people.”

“Of course,” Konstantinidis added, “the likelihood of such a plan being accepted is slim.”

Meanwhile, Greek banks will remain shut on Tuesday and Wednesday and the European Central Bank further increased pressure on the country’s financial system by refusingMonday to increase the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) for Greece.

As the standoff between Europe’s financial elite and the leftist Syriza leadership—now emboldened by the recent referendum—comes to a head, experts are calling for an “ethical approach” to Greece’s economic crisis.

In a column Wednesday, leading economist Jeffrey Sachs—himself a proponent of global capitalism—argues that, in the interest of preserving the eurozone, the onus is on Merkel to step in and propose a “fresh start” for Greece by easing the country’s debt burden. Because, Sachs says, “it is the right thing to do and because it accords with Germany’s own experience and history.”

“To do otherwise at this stage would create an irreparable split between Europe’s rich and poor, and powerful and weak,” Sachs writes.

Sachs continues:

That idea of an ethical approach to the Greek crisis might sound absurd to readers of the financial press, and many politicians will undoubtedly consider it naive. Yet most European citizens could embrace it as a sensible solution. Europe rose from the rubble of World War II because of the vision of statesmen; now it has been brought to the verge of collapse by the everyday vanities, corruption, and cynicism of bankers and politicians. It is time for statesmanship to return – for the sake of current and future generations in Europe and the world.

Source: On Brink of ‘Irreparable Split’ Between Rich and Poor Nations, European Leaders Scramble | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community