Those Stupid European Parliaments; or, Jonathan Gruber Goes to Brussels

Good thing you members are so stupid, said Greek finance minister Varoufakis; if we’d told you the truth you’d never have given us your money.  The attentive reader will recall this is more or less precisely what Jonathan Gruber bragged about — carelessly, and on video — in respect of passing the “Affordable” Care Act.

The Greeks needed to get approval for an extension of the current bail-out agreement, which was set to expire today.  Part of getting that approval was the presentation of a list of reforms which the newly-elected Greek government (elected by an overwhelming margin, by the way; there’s no room to dispute that this is the government that the Greeks want) would undertake to implement.  In fact they produced a list, and obediently all those Europeans — remember they’re supposed to be so much smarter than us hillbilly Americans — obediently voted to approve handing over more money to a government that among its very first acts rejected its predecessor’s prior commitments to gets its affairs squared away.  Those would be, just to remind Gentle Reader, the commitments which induced the rest of the Euro zone to bail them out in the first place.  Even the Germans, the ones who as a practical matters are going to be expected to pay the bill eventually (everyone else is too broke anyway), voted to do it.

Now, after the horse is out of the barn (always, always after when they’re spending their taxpayers’ money; never before), people are actually, you know, looking at what the Greeks in fact said.  And they’re figuring out, just now (remember, Best Beloved, how much smarter the Europeans are than us roob Americans), that the Greeks really didn’t promise much of anything at all.  This was quite intentional, according to the Greek finance minister.  In conversations with the Euro wallahs in Brussels — notice how that city, like Cambridge, Massachusetts, is getting to be the ubiquitous  venue for pervasive chicanery — Varoufakis was told (he won’t say by whom) that the existing stated goal of achieving a budget surplus of 4.5% of GDP was “unrealistic,” but that if a lower number was stated, the chances of getting the Europeans Germans to unbelt were roughly zero.  The suggestion (which Varoufakis claims came from the finance ministers of the other Euro countries) was, well, why don’t you just vaguely describe it?  Said and done, and boy it worked like a charm.

Did the Greeks promise to make people work past their current ridiculously early retirement age?  Well, not really.  Did the Greeks promise to keep trimming their bloated public sector employment?  Why no, in fact the government has promised to re-hire all the government drones previously let go.  Did the Greeks promise to continue cutting their expenditures?  No, they made some vague promises to collect more taxes from their famously fraudulent population.  This is despite the fact that in January alone, €27 billion was sent by Greeks out of the country.  This is merely continuing a trend, and now the predictable calls for capital transfer restrictions are to be heard.  Yeah, let’s throw up some capital barriers, because that’s what the whole Euro project was about, wasn’t it:  making it harder for people, goods, and capital to transfer freely around the European continent.  That’s how you create a unified economy to compete with China, India, and the U.S.

What it all comes down to, of course, is the simple demand to write off the money that the rest of Europe pumped into a corrupt, broken Greek economy.  Prime minister Tsipras has now joined his finance minister in letting the cat out of the bag:  “We have achieved the goals we set for ourselves in this first round of discussions,” the prime minister has disclosed (which is to say, those wonderfully brilliant — in comparison to us drooling Americans — European parliaments have agreed to keep pouring sand down a rat hole on the off chance that this time the Greeks will actually do as they promise), and now the government will be able to “speak with honesty [from a Greek official?!?] and without extortion about the substance of the credit agreement.”  “We will put on the table our request for the reduction of Greek debt.”  So that’s it:  Hand us your money and agree never to see it again.  So that we can continue to retire at age 52 or whatever it is.  So that we can continue not to pay our own taxes.  So that we can continue to employ everyone and his cousin on the public teat.

Even The Economist has less than fulsome praise for the Greeks, although it can’t resist a side-swipe at the one major economy in Europe that makes a point of living within its means:

 “The real Greek tragedy is that, with a bit more statesmanship, Mr Tsipras could have nudged Europe on to a happier path. The euro zone desperately needs a counter-narrative to its failed German-inspired policy of austerity. As leader of the hardest-hit economy, armed with a strong democratic mandate, Mr Tsipras was well placed to offer one. He could have sought allies against excessive austerity and for looser fiscal and monetary policy in places like Italy and France—and even inside the ECB. Yet by quibbling over his debt extension and backtracking so ostentatiously on sensible reform he has alienated more or less everyone. That is quite some achievement.”

“Failed”?  As it turns out, the economies that were bailed out that have done best since then are precisely the ones that have stuck with the “austerity” plans forced on them.  The one that conspicuously hasn’t — Italy — is also the one that pissed backward.  The program of getting your affairs in order and at least making a stab at living within your means has only “failed” from the perspective of those whose livelihoods consist of feeding on the European taxpayer.  Oh, and by the way, the Greek economy has tanked since Syriza was elected, quite apart from the billions of Euros being hidden abroad by its own citizens.

Why the title of this post?  It may be a coincidence that the Greek finance minister is an academic economist, just like Jno. Gruber (Varoufakis’s first government gig is finance minister of the entire country; now that’s a recipe for success).  And it may be purely happenstance that they both think it’s just hilarious to lie to democratically elected assemblies in order to get passage of legislation that would stand no chance at all if the truth were told about it.  And it could be of no significance at all that both seem to relish the experience of pulling a fast on one all those stupid voters and their stupid representatives.  And it might be nothing more than random odds that both appear to believe that indefinitely spending other people’s money on economic arrangements that are demonstrably non-sustainable is a wonderful idea.

I am reluctant to ascribe such a remarkable area of overlap to pure chance, though.  Given the monolithically hard-left tinge of academia these days, I am much more inclined to view such goings-on and such policies as being the natural result of putting someone in charge who has not had the educational experience of making payroll from his own pocket, a person for whom being disastrously, consistently wrong means nothing more than a sharp rebuttal in an academic journal no one reads anyway.

These Greeks aren’t even bearing gifts.  They’re just presenting a demand for a license to steal.

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