Greece:

Guy Rundle writes: Re. “Greece, in freefall, demonstrates the perverse logic of austerity” (yesterday, item 10). I must disagree with a couple of points in my colleagues Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane’s assessment of the situation in Greece. First they argues that:

“The EU and IMF want all political parties to sign up to any agreement: the far left parties (and maybe the far right ones as well), seem to be trying to avoid such a commitment because they can see the chance to make gains at the election by portraying themselves as being against the cuts and for Greece’s independence”

Well, the KKE (the Communist Party) and Syriza (the radical left coalition) aren’t opposing the cuts to “portray” themselves as anything — they’re against the cuts, always have been and that is gaining them support, because they alone have been consistent on this.

The implicit idea that the KKE would gain a range of new seats, and then conduct business as usual is not the case — the KKE has repeatedly said that it won’t be part of a coalition government under any circumstances. Syriza opposes the cuts, and argues for a default while remaining in the EU and the euro — essentially daring Europe to act in the absence of any provision for EU expulsion. It’s the far-right party, LAOS, that has been opportunistic — opposing repeated deals then signing them, joining the emergency coalition, then claiming that they are not part of the government. The result has been a split within the party, which they richly deserve.

As to the idea that “Greeks have been lazy and profligate in the past” — the country has the longest working hours in the EU. Greeks work hard in a backward economy, and the much-vaunted “pensions at 55” etc exist in a family-based welfare system, where individual unemployment and sickness benefits barely exist. The Greeks didn’t get 400% lazier in 2008-10 — the interest on their bonds quadrupled, after ratings agencies began muttering about default. It is these loan repayments and this vicious circle that has brought Greece close to collapse, and the austerity imposed, as Keane notes, has now taken it to the brink.

The same neoliberal policies also ensured that the country has gone from 80% internal food production, to 25% in two decades, so a managed default — as Argentina successfully applied in 2002 — raises the spectre of mass hunger, and even starvation among the poor, indeed all but the rich.

Were the EU a genuine federation, the country would be supported by the simple redistribution of surplus — as Tasmania is effectively annually bailed out by Victoria and NSW. Instead, the matching funds that should have compensated for Euro-entry — which raised living costs by 100% for many of the poor — were often used to destroy local industry in the pursuit of failed export strategies — such as a cotton industry in the west, which replaced small food farming, poisoned the groundwater, and yielded no great results.

In decades to come, the country will be a poster child for the degree to which neoliberalism — whether expressed by the EU, the major banks or the IMF — creates dependency and underdevelopment. Should Greece default, re-drachma-tise, draw in sovereign wealth investment from China, Russia and Qatar, the situation would, after great pain, start to take off again in a way that would decisively repudiate these desperate strategies of staying within the neoliberal framework at all costs. Perhaps that’s one reason why so many are so desperate for it not to.

Oz politics:

Andrew Whiley writes: Toby Ralph (yesterday, comments), baldly states that “lies rarely succeed with major issues” in his less than compelling defence of the purveyors of ignorance that infest our media, lobby groups and general body politic. I presume he must have missed the mining companies brutal campaign against the Mining Tax Mark 1. He also must spend very little time reading our most popular newspaper columnists or listening to our highest rating talkback radio shows.

If Toby is still unconvinced, perhaps he could simply scroll up a little in yesterday’s edition of Crikey and read Graham Readfeam. It has been clear for quite some time that the lies cooked up by the climate deniers of this world have had a measure of success. Indeed one the world’s richest deniers is buying a stake in Fairfax.

Is her underlying motive to further the pursuit of truth, knowledge and rationality? Or a platform to further prosecute the philosophies expressed in her poetry? No, our democracy cannot yet be bought, but the most powerful and ruthless of our vested corporate interests have demonstrated a growing ability and willingness to boot & bash it around, using bags of our money.

Peter Frank writes: I totally endorse Hugh McCaig’s contribution (yesterday, comments), only he forgot to add Fairfax. There are serious policy issues facing Australia, and significant policy differences between the major parties which should be intelligently presented and analysed. Instead we get endless (and mindless) leadership speculation as the media desperately seeks to secure another political scalp. Journalists should remember they are not paid to be players, at least not by me. Crikey once seemed to provide an alternative …

Sue Cato:

Norelle Feehan writes: Re. “The Power Index: spinners, ‘not a publicist’ Cato at #6” (yesterday, item 4). You can call me a publicist, though I’m a million miles from the promotion of a rock star or a product (Sue Cato’s comment that that’s the publicists’ area).

What we do is pass on the news of scientific discovery on MS research and hope the media will likewise wish to share with readers/audience. Or we may spread the word about a fun charity day like Jeans for Genes … or suggest the media may want to tell you all what events will be in History Week.

Though while we do agree with Cato that the truth is the main game (and we are lucky to have clients have nothing to hide) we also acknowledge that we give it a positive spin … der!   But also, spin is what journalists do too.  Their stories are not without personal input of their own world view (or, heaven forbid, their owner’s) and they give their argument a positive, well, spin. No, I’m cool with publicist, thank you.

Battlers on $248k … what?:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Kohler: debt’s pall over the Lucky Country” (yesterday, item 19). Alan Kohler claims a lot of families on $248,000 a year “are battlers now”. Where else could an upper-middle-class commentator could get away with this nonsense except in upper-middle-class Crikey? Kohler should get out a bit more and live for a few weeks with families on a quarter of this. And then he should live for a similar time with the “battlers” on $248,000.

Full disclosure from both families: assets, holidays, consumer durables, leisure activities, expected inheritances, support from extended family, school fees, kids’ pocket money, a wardrobe stock take, food and drink, satellite TV, home maintenance and extensions, cars, mobile phones — the lot.

The term “battler” once had some real meaning — now it’s just a label the well-off can use to plead for middle class welfare — paid out of the pockets of those who can’t employ accountants to do their tax.

Peter Fray

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