THIS is what will happen if the crackbrained notions of the Tea Party become law… if you think that the depression has been bad so far… you’ve seen NOTHING yet.
It’s very interesting to see the parallels in the political situation in the USA and Greece… in both cases, the people are fed up with the same old faces… the GOP shouldn’t be smug, most ordinary folk want them gone as much as they want the Democrats gone.
In the year since PASOK returned to power, Greece has become another country, as there have been major changes in its labour and social security systems, its economy is under the stewardship of foreign creditors, and Greeks are contemplating an uncertain future and a present much worse than the recent past. Yet, those most responsible for getting Greece into this mess, the politicians, appear to be the ones most oblivious to the changes and the need for further change. Of course, the people have taken note. A recent poll found that a full 60 percent of respondents believe that neither PASOK nor New Democracy (who have alternated in power since 1974) is capable of governing the country. Only 27 percent of those polled consider PASOK the most capable of governing, while a mere 7 percent think ND could do a better job. Support for the smaller opposition parties is also weak, as all are deeply divided and devoid of ideas.
These figures reflect the deep dissatisfaction that people feel with both the way in which Greece has been governed since the restoration of democracy in 1974, and the way in which the political parties are dealing with the situation. The time is ripe for new political forces and we’ve already witnessed some rumblings of change within our fossilised political system… most notably with former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis leaving New Democracy shortly after losing the race to lead the party to Antonis Samaras. The leftist Synaspismos continues to subdivide, with the departure of its reformist wing now forming the core of the Democratic Left party. These, however, are minor fissures, as the two main parties remain stuck in their ways.
The government operates as if it has no need for broad consensus; the opposition opposes everything, even measures or policies that it was in favour of when in office. At present, PASOK, with its parliamentary majority, has New Democracy on the defensive, dominating parliamentary inquiries into the Siemens bribery scandal (in which former officials from both parties were implicated), the Vatopedi Monastery land swap (in which ND ministers allegedly helped the monks get the better of the state), the damage caused to pension funds by their investment in structured bonds, and the deceptive bookkeeping that hid the true extent of Greece’s debt and deficit. New Democracy, on the other hand, voted against the memorandum that the government agreed to with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, not because ND wouldn’t want the 110 billion Euro (4.578 trillion Roubles 147.394 billion USD 94.185 billion UK Pounds) rescue fund, but, very cynically, it hopes to pick up votes from public dissatisfaction at the fact that Greece is now under foreign stewardship.
This isn’t the consensus that a country undergoing such a revolution needs. Nor have we seen the emergence of any new political force that would inspire with its vision, with new ideas. This can be explained partly by the fact that the current parties get huge state subsidies (a total of 68.2 million Euros (2.84 billion Roubles 91.384 million USD 58.394 million UK Pounds) in 2009 and 52.7 million (2.195 billion Roubles 70.615 USD 45.123 million UK Pounds) in 2010), which gives them organisational and media clout that no upstart can hope for. This power allows the parties to sell influence to business and media interests… leading to events such as the Siemens scandal… and to peddle political favours, such as state contracts for their friends and state jobs for their voters. Therefore, even though people are disillusioned with the political parties, they don’t collapse; they have a life of their own.
The local and regional elections in November will be our political system’s first great test since we entered the era of our dependence on the IMF and our EU partners. They will show how much leeway the government and opposition parties have to keep operating as they have until now. Will people vote according to their party allegiance or will they break ranks and vote for candidates who’ve gained their trust, irrespective of their party? If change can’t come from the top, it’ll come from the bottom. Moreover, if we were to strip the parties of their state subsidies, then, change would come from both the bottom and the top.
22 September 2010
The two situations are analogous… in both countries, the public wants a realignment of political forces radically different from the one that brought on the current depression. As for the so-called Tea Party… it’s nothing but stale old GOP nostrums in a new package. Don’t forget, those notions sparked off the current economic meltdown. Supposedly, the USA is going to shed all of its manufacturing and earn its living by services and high tech… RIGHT. The real reason for “downsizing” and “outsourcing” is that American oligarchs want to set up shop in obliging Third World locations where the local bully boys will keep the labour force in line, terrorised, and quiescent. Then, they will bring the profits home to the USA, and lay off all their inconvenient American workers. This is the scenario supported by the Tea Party… if you’re a wage-earner, you’re stupid if you vote for them.
We need a new political party, socially-conservative, championing a mixed socialist-private enterprise economy, with the requisite social welfare mechanisms found in all other advanced countries. The USA is the only G-20 country where being ill can bankrupt you utterly, and where, if you lose your job as a single person (as opposed to a family), you can lose everything you worked for all your life… and, then, the “conservatives” will call you improvident for not “saving for a rainy day”. Reflect on the fact that Sectarians believe, “If you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat”… that is, if you’re not actually working, you’ve no right to sick pay or relief. This is the ethos of the Tea Party. Like the Greeks, we have some soul searching to do. The present political parties no longer represent us…