The Daily Telegraph website’s ‘Hot Topics’ this morning read as follows:
Olympics: great moments Olympics: torch relay Olympics: Team GB Olympics: schedule Olympics: graphics
All fine and dandy if you like that sort of thing – despite the growing signs that its organisation is all over the place. But three things of late have conspired to ensure that Britain has its head firmly inserted up its backside at the moment: weather damage, the ‘Barclays scandal’, and the Olympics.
The Government has awarded us the taxpayers the job of paying for the bad weather via our insurance premiums (another hidden bailout), the Libor scandal represents the glowing testicles of the global banking hyena (another scam to make us poorer), and the Olympics look set to be both the wettest in history – and a massive drain on our resources for no return (yet another legacy of Tony Blair).
But it would do no harm to remember where the Olympics started – and what its founder is still going through at the hands of Berlin am Brussels hypocrisy. And if we have an interest in sport (and for the vast majority, that doesn’t stretch to an Olympics covered in logos and sprinkled with puerile hype) then let us take our minds back to Spain, whose national football team is the envy of the world, and whose club side Barcelona just keeps on winning the Champions’ League – because it is the best and most stylish team of players ever assembled.
Yesterday, Senor Rajoy the Spanish Prime Minister raised VAT and cut social expenditure in a country already on its knees, and not surprisingly violence ensued. Despite the Troika’s Page One error of reducing demand, cutting output and demanding slavery in preference to debt forgiveness – and the EU’s continuing determination to deny that the euro has been a boon for some but a disaster for others – no amount of hard empirical evidence demonstrating the socio-economic disaster unfolding in the ClubMeds has made the slightest dent in the tin hats of Merkel, Schäuble, or Lagarde. The equally doubly-endowed standards of Nicolas Sarkozy have now been replaced by a dull Leftwing Establishment dweeb called Francois Hollande, but for all his greyness and lack of reforming instincts within France, the new President has at least put his hand up to say, “This is madness, and it must stop”.
Less remarked by the MSM yesterday, however, was this piece of news from Greece, published by respected title Kathimerini: (my emphasis)
‘In the shadow of another report on tax evasion – this one using
bank records – that shows tax cheats are robbing Greece blind of
critical revenues, seven retired and active tax officers, including four
high-ranking administrators, were sentenced to more than 70 years in
jail for embezzlement of up to 28 million euros – then
promptly released on bail.’
This band of merry men first came under suspicion in 2001 after a retired inspector, Aliki Kyriakaki, made claims that she had come under pressure from certain members of the group to reduce tax fines against a large company she’d been auditing – and found to have arrears of 36 million euros, or $44.2million. She said they offered to write off the debts if they were paid bribes.
She said their tactics to keep her silent included having her disciplined numerous times on specious charges, for which she was
cleared completely by an administrative court. She had refused to work with her colleagues and become a whistle-blower to
reveal the corruption.
But her courage was all for nought, because the convicted felons were granted ‘conditional release’…although the authorities would not release their names. This despite the huge sums they had blackmailed and embezzled from taxpayers over the years. These low-lifers are thus now free to do the bidding of the gargoyles in Brussels and the IMF: and lest we forget, they will also be doing the work of the banks, speculators and pro-EU elites who caused all this mess in the first place. That is, they will continue to rob from the poor in order to ingratiate themselves with the rich.
The Greek legal system also allows convicted felons to buy themselves out of prison sentences for tax evasion. Naturally this usually means that the poor, minor dodgers rot in prison…and the troughers walk away. Most of the €70bn lost last year to the Hellenic Exchequer involves the latter: some 200 alleged tax cheats have been rounded up in recent months, but not one high-level business figure has been prosecuted….and as we’ve seen, by far the biggest heist in Greek tax history has resulted in the guilty being….let off.
As southern Gallic relaxez-vous stretches down to meet Mediterranean manana, the attitude held by the majority of taxpayers is thus very simple: “the government cheats me and hires blackmailers to rip me off, so I cheat them at every opportunity”. As my own woodman here in the Lot said to me six years ago, “I don’t pay tax m’sieur, it only encourages them”.
I have reached the stage with the Fiscal Union/Troika juggernaut where I no longer accept the thesis that Berlin am Brussels is simply inflexibly dumb. I think that particular axis of evil knows exactly what the problem is, and how it happened, viz: the EMU beyond northern Europe was always going to doom those who took it up, because it was of less than no use to them given the nature of their economies. And the fiscal rules would never suit Europe south of Bordeaux because the entire relationship between the citizen and the taxpayer is different.
This deserves some further elucidation.
Before they blagued their way into the eurozone on the back of EU hubris and graft, Greece and Spain were doing just fine thank you very much. Having at various times kicked out fascist colonels and a sclerotic Caudillo, both countries saw enormous growth through the liberalisation of capitalist mechanisms alongside generous welfare systems. Tax evasion was and remains endemic, because the elites are corrupt, and the tax collectors a bunch of blackmailers. But none of that mattered too much, because their primary ‘export’ was the country itself – the weather, the food, the culture, the olive oil, the glistening oceans and stunning offshore islands.
Above all, what Greece and Spain had going for them (when it came to attracting Nordeuropa holidaymakers) were high temperatures and low costs: meals, wine, beer, flights and hotels tended to be cheap. When I first went to Greece in 1970, you could bum around the islands on not much more than twenty quid a week. My first fortnight in Spain cost £50 – flights and apartment included. The sun shone, the ferries were sporadic, the people were gentle: it would be done manana, but in the meantime enjoy your yoghurt and honey, have some tapas with your La Ina, sleep it off on the beach, and then eat late with the locals and their children at the Taverna. With these two venues and Portugal, Europeans would never want for cheap, relaxing holidays.
But then along came the eurozone, and soon afterwards the plot was completely lost. Spain took advantage of cheap ECB and US bank money to invest in a second-home property bubble that could never sustain itself; and probably more than any other ezone founder, the Greeks swapped their wonderfully good value ‘drachs’ for an immediately inflationary euro…and its elites really began to dive fully-clothed into the money-trough. In this of course, the pols and bureaucrats were aided and abetted by Germany in general, and Siemens in particular. As vacation destinations, their problem was exacerbated by the growing realisation that other parts of south-eastern Europe, and intercontinental long-haul, were where one could now find excellent value and something a little more esoteric – be that Croatia or Thailand.
The foregoing is obviously a gross simplification of how we got to here, but it’s more or less fair. Given cheap loans by Trichet, an expensive currency made even more uncompetitive for exports by a successful Germany, and a spendaholic France, the ClubMeds saw their boom slowing down in real terms by 2004. But like everyone else in the world, they chose to borrow their way out of a changing balance of power between Europe and Asia.
Probably, sanity is at hand. As I predicted against the tide last month, the Karlsruhe Court isn’t rolling over, and Gauck is sticking to his guns. Schäuble-licken is bellowing that the sky will fall in if Germany ‘dithers’ further (it probably will) but both Bankfurt and the Opposition Parties can smell blood: they are starting to push a coordinated line – that Germany will be ruined by Merkel’s ego – and Fritz in the street is beginning to catch on. The longer things drag on, the more obviously inevitable the euro’s demise in its current form will become – which is, let’s face it, what Wolfgang Schäuble is really upset about. His dream of being Ubersturmbannfuhrerfinanz for the eurozone is fading rapidly.
As long as bonds spike and austerity rules, the euro will move even more rapidly towards its implosion. There are three options left today:
1. A Nordeuro is formed, led by Germany (and perhaps a Sudeuro by France)
2. Germany quits the euro completely
3. Insolvency events overtake the Sprouts, and the entire eurobanking system falls apart, immemdiately infecting the US.
If you can choose between them right now, than you’re a better man than I. Stay tuned.