I cannot begin to express how much I'm enjoying watching the elections play out in Greece this year. I want to spend all day with a big old tub of popcorn, refreshing the Greek news tabs in my browser over and over again. This is the best show I've watched in years.
For those of you who don't follow overseas news:
Conservatives all over the world bleat about how awful and out of control Greek spending is, but truth be told, their government spending as a ratio of GDP is perfectly in line with the rest of the world's. The Greek economy is finally completely melting down because of corruption. Ever since Greece dropped the drachma and took up the euro, Deutsche Bank (and others, but mostly Deutsche Bank) has been running a sweet scam with elected Greek officials of both of the (previously) top two parties: Greek politicians borrow money from DB on behalf of the country, money that's supposed to pay for things that make the economy more productive like schools and roads and airports and docks and courts -- and while they do let some of that borrowed money go to those things, they steal a lot of it.
Nobody knows yet how much. Greek reporters over the years kept documenting huge swaths of big graft, giant overseas bank accounts and whole private islands and priceless archaeological treasures spirited away into private collections, all paid for with money corruptly lent by German banks. But a recent anti-corruption audit of what wasn't even thought to be one of the more corrupt agencies has turned up estimates that are making even Greek journalists' eyes pop, 30%, maybe as much as 50%, stolen. And the thing about that is that if you steal half the productive capital in a country, it doesn't reduce economic output by 50%. It reduces it by a lot more than that, because people who see with their own eyes that nobody is getting rich by working, that the only way to get rich is to be a politician or a politician's friend and steal, only a few noble fools actually still do any hard work. After a couple of decades of that, even after the lenders have (in desperation to get something back) offered to write off 71% of the face value of the loans, Greece can't even pay back the remaining 29%.
And so the usual international agencies, backed hard by the German and (outgoing) French governments, got the two corrupt parties to agree to a bipartisan deal: (a) None of the people who stole that money are to be inconvenienced in any way, because they're "job creators." (b) Their corrupt bankster partners must get back as much as possible, by disassembling every remaining productive asset in Greece and shipping it to Germany, and by closing down every public service from the hospitals to the schools to the police, so that the tax money that would normally pay for those things can go to the German banksters. And finally (c) since nobody even denies, any more, that this will destroy the Greek economy, the Greeks will pay those debts for all eternity. Presumably even if they do work hard enough to pay off those loans, decades from now, all that will happen is that new corruptocrats, new kleptocrats, will be installed by the banksters to take out new loans and steal those.
tl;dr version: French, German, and Greek bipartisan elites have voted unanimously to turn Greece into the Haiti of Europe.
Now, here's where it gets interesting:
Greece has a massively-multiparty democracy system. For the benefit of my American readers, let me somewhat dismissively and only slightly unfairly give the four big winners in the current round of elections new names that will make sense to Americans: the fascists, the Republicans, the Democrats, and the socialists (that would be Golden Dawn, New Democracy, PASOK, and and Syriza). This posed an interesting challenge to the Greek voters, in that only the facists and the socialists were anti-kleptocracy, anti-austerity, and anti-bailout. In the end, a lot of Democratic (PASOK) voters defected to the socialists (Syriza) and just enough Republican (New Democracy) voters defected to the fascists (Golden Dawn) that the two anti-austerity parties won a collective majority. So what's the problem? They hate each other even more than they hate the austerity and the bailouts; there is no plausible way that they can form a joint government, not even a temporary one. So the President of Greece has been locked all week in non-stop talks with the leaders of the four big parties, and a bunch of smaller parties, trying to find some compromise that will form a majority government. And they just can't do it.
The two pro-austerity, pro-bailout kleptocratic centrist parties are willing to form a coalition (since their commitment to looting the public treasury far exceeds their commitment to their own political principles), but can't do it without persuading one of the two main anti-austerity parties to go along. And it's just not working, they're having none of it. The two anti-austerity parties tried, earlier in the week, to form an anti-austerity coalition, and couldn't come up with any plausible way to get over their mutual loathing for each other, no way to form a government that's (say) 3/5ths socialist and 2/5ths fascist. So, constitutionally, they're going to have to hold new elections and hope that enough voters change their votes to give some plausible coalition a majority. This may or may not work, either.
But either way, the anti-austerity, anti-bailout, anti-kleptocrat voters win because they've already succeeded in the only thing they needed, in the short run: if a governing coalition isn't in place by Tuesday, if there isn't a government in place that still agrees to the bailout and austerity terms imposed on them by the German and (outgoing) French governments by the end of the day on Tuesday? The Greek government just flat-out defaults on its loans to Deutsche Bank, and Deutsche Bank is in even more trouble than the Greeks are. As the old saying goes, if you owe your bank a hundred dollars, and you can't pay, you're in a lot of trouble. But if you owe your bank a hundred million dollars, and you can't pay, your bank is in a lot of trouble.
Pass the popcorn!