Newly installed Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave a speech in which he basically declared “Screw your stupid economic reality! We’re still giving everyone a free unicorn!”
Remember that Greece is not just broke, but deeply in debt, has a declining economy, only a few weeks of money left, and the specter of a possible bank run for of people wanting to get ahead of a Euro-exit.
So naturally Tsipras is promising Greeks a T-bone in every pot.
“Syriza’s pledges to the electorate include a freeze on pension cuts, a property tax overhaul, free electricity to those who have been cut off, reinstating jobs and raising the minimum wage.”
“‘The (bailout deal) has been abolished by popular mandate,’ Tsipras said. I’d love to see someone try that “abolished by popular mandate” as a reason to stop making their car payments.
“We will not negotiate this people’s pride and dignity.” Yes, because spendthrift wastrels can have all the pride and dignity they can eat.
The EU is is not amused. How can they, when Syriza’s policies seem completely disconnected from reality?
In a lengthy list of policy actions, Tsipras also said the government plans to restore the tax-free threshold for individual workers to 12,000 euros a year and gradually raise the minimum wage to 751 euros a month through 2016. Both measures would breach the conditions of the bailout.
Tsipras said he’s committed to maintaining balanced budgets and wants to negotiate terms that will make Greece’s debt sustainable.
That’s like saying “I’m absolutely committed to eating eating a 72 oz steak every day, and to losing weight!”
Oh, and he’s also demanding reparations from Germany for World War II. Good luck with that.
Is Tsipras really that disconnected from reality? Well, he is a far-leftist (which in the context of Europe and Greece means that he probably makes Obama look like Dick Cheney). But a little further down in that Bloomberg piece, you get this:
Behind the public rhetoric, the Greek government has shifted to a more cooperative tone in recent conversations with the troika, according to an official representing the creditors. Greece has been told it needs to ask for a formal extension of its existing bailout deal in order to receive financing, said the official, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
It’s probably your classic “Clevon Little holding a gun to his own head” bluff. I’m sure Syriza would love to implement their pie-in-the-sky big spending socialism, but their real goal is to lie to the Greek people long enough for the EU to write at least one more check, and lie to the EU about implementing reform long enough to cash it. Since Syriza only recently came to power, they probably want keep the farce rolling long enough to feather their own nests with Euros before engineering a grexit. After all, center-right parties got their turns at the public graft trough; why not the far left?
Will the EU call their bluff? The whole purpose of the bailout regime was for insiders and bankers to dump their exposure to Greek default onto the taxpayer, something that’s largely been accomplished. These days I suspect very few of Europe’s banks hold much Greek debt (some of whcih may have ended up in various pension funds, where unrealistic promises and chronic underfunding may force managers to chase extremely risky bonds for the high yields). A grexit would put an economic hurt on Europe, but probably not one that would last terribly deep or long. A Greek economic collapse following leaving the Euro would be terrible for Greece, but would probably prod the other PIIGS into continuing to get their economic houses into something resembling order.
How bad would a grexit be for Greece? Really, really, really bad. The modern European cradle-to-grave welfare state is unsustainable, and attempts to keep the goodies flowing even after the state is bankrupt will ruin more than one nation. It’s just that Greece managed to get there first.
The farce is going to end very, very badly for average Greeks, but it always was. The only question is just how many bodies will be on the floor at the end of the final act…