Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* ARIS CHATZISTEFANOU ON FASCISM
* THE SECRET TRADE AGREEMENT ABOUT TO COMPLETE THE CORPORATE TAKEOVER OF DEMOCRACY
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) enshrine the rights of Corporations under International Law, restricting future governments from overturning the changes through fear of costly legal action. They are the largest trade agreements in history, and yet are not open for review, debate or amendment by national parliaments or the public.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)
The agreement between the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries representing 40% of global GDP, has been under negotiation for three years. The US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, and Brunei will shortly be signing up to the TPP, with only a handful of people in each nation aware of the content of the deal.
It was recently revealed that only three individuals in each TPP nation have been given full access to the agreement, while 600 ‘trade advisors’, those are corporate lobbyists from corporations such as Monsanto, Chevron, Haliburton and Walmart have been granted access.
In fact, if it were not for WikiLeaks, we would still be unaware of the contents of the TPP. In mid-November, WikiLeaks published a draft chapter of the agreement – and the reasons for secrecy became clear. This agreement tips the scales in the balance of power between Corporations and the State – tipping them firmly in favour of corporations. […]
* YANIS VAROUFAKIS: WHAT EUROPEANS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE CURRENT SITUATION IN GREECE
In an interview with Edward Geelhoed, Varoufakis gives an urgent, sobering picture of the conditions in Greece, which contrasts dramatically with the claims made by Eurozone politicians.
By Yanis Varoufakis, Naked Capitalism
Some positive sounds are audible from Greece these days. Mostly produced by the government itself, of course, but also by Merkel, by the OECD (along with some negative sounds), by some European officials (while others say they’re ‘impatient’ with Greece). Is Greece slowly recovering?
It takes a passionate disregard for the truth to suggest that Greece is recovering. Investment has fallen by 18% since the dismal levels of 2011/12, credit to non-financial institutions is 20% down from the asphyxiating depths of 2012, poverty has reached record heights, and is still growing, employment is at levels that are best narrated in the style of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, public debt is exceeding the worst expectations of the greatest pessimists, private debt is reaching for the sky at a time when the collateral posted (e.g. house prices) are sinking fast, the government’s tax take is trailing the worst forecasts. The list of woes is endless and the so-called ‘Greek Success Story’, or ‘Greek-covery’, reflects nothing except the determination to reverse the truth, Goebbels-like, by those who insisted on the policies which resulted in this debacle.
The positive sounds refer to the budget surplus, to a small growth (says the gov’t) or just a small recession (says the others) of the economy.
Europeans have a duty to themselves to see through this toxic propaganda. There is no such thing as a Greek budget surplus – not even a primary surplus (i.e. a surplus if we not count loan and interest repayments). If you look at the government’s own accounts, the January to October 2013 balance reveals a primary budget deficit of nearly €6 billion. As for the rumoured primary ‘surplus’ that is ‘around the corner’ this is a projection, a piece of wishful thinking that may, or may not eventuate, next year. As for growth, the Greek economy is still, by the government’s own accounts, shrinking at -4%. The projection of growth of… 0.4% is for 2014. Europeans need to look at this projection in the context of similar projections which, for example, had (at the time of ‘bailout Mk1’) Greece growing by 2012 at a dizzying rate of 2.3%! In truth, 2014 and 2015 will again see the Greek social economy shrink further. […]
* WHY IT’S MISGUIDED TO TREAT THE EUROZONE CRISIS AS A MORALITY TALE ABOUT “LAZY” SOUTHERNERS
As southern European countries rack up record debts, Helmut Kohl has told friends “Merkel is destroying my Europe”
By Mehdi Hasan, NewStatesman
[…] It is dangerous, misguided and mendacious, as countless economists from the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman to the Financial Times commentator Martin Wolf have pointed out, to treat the eurozone’s ongoing debt crisis as a modern-day morality tale. It isn’t.
Record debts were caused by post-crash bank bailouts and a crisis-induced collapse in tax revenues. Take Spain. That country’s downturn was the result not of excessive government spending or public debt but of the explosion of private debt, particularly in the real estate and banking sectors. Because of the crash, Spain’s public-debt-to-GDP ratio morphed from being one of the lowest in the eurozone to one of the highest.
Overspending didn’t cause the crisis but underspending is exacerbating it. Austerity isn’t working. Don’t take my word for it: a paper published in October by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs revealed how the cumulative cost of fiscal self-flagellation across the eurozone was 6 per cent of GDP between 2011 and 2013. Crucially, the paper also pointed out that the catastrophically contractionary consequences of austerity in the southern debtor countries were “aggravated” by Germany and other northern creditor countries simultaneously cutting spending and raising taxes.
Another reason why we shouldn’t moralise about debt is to avoid the charge of rank hypocrisy. After all, why pick on the Greeks, rather than the Germans? In the years before the crash – for example, from 2003 to 2004 – Germany persistently breached the budget deficit rules laid down in the EU’s growth and stability pact; the then chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, demanded that his country be exempted from any penalties. In 2006, while Spain and Ireland were running budget surpluses, Germany was in deficit. […]
* AUSTERITY HAS ERODED HUMAN RIGHTS, COUNCIL OF EUROPE STUDY SAYS
Human rights watchdog says governments ‘have forgotten about their human rights obligations’
Governments must respect the social and economic rights of the most vulnerable, the need to ensure access to justice, and the right to equal treatment, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks says
[…] Examples of how human rights have been undermined in Greece according to the Council of Europe include:
1 Job rights Greece and other EU countries are now experiencing depression-level unemployment rates, following a dramatic spike in seasonally adjusted unemployment. As contractionary fiscal policies dampen growth prospects, long-term unemployment is becoming more entrenched, with long-lasting structural implications. In 2012 alone, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) found 13 countries in breach of their duty under Article 1(1) of the revised European Social Charter to pursue full employment policies. The study notes that over half of all young people are officially unemployed in Spain, Portugal and Greece, with little improvement expected until 2016
2 Wage rights A wayward economic recovery and the related weakening of worker protection can lead to work rights being threatened, including the right to fair pay, collective bargaining and health and safety rights. In Spain, for example, the minimum wage is below what the European Social Charter says is necessary to guarantee a decent standard of living. In Greece, the International Labour Organisation has found repeated and extensive interventions into free and voluntary collective bargaining and an “important deficit of social dialogue”
3 Social protection rights Setbacks in the labour market, cuts in social services and regressive tax measures have deepened poverty in Europe. In 2011, the percentage of people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion reached 24.2%
4 Social security rights Under pressure from the increasing demand on social protection programmes due to spiralling unemployment, social security systems have been pushed to the limit. Some governments have opted to “reform” pension systems, increasing the vulnerability of older citizens. In Greece, for example, the European Committee of Social Rights observed that pension reform measures would “risk bringing about a large-scale pauperisation of a significant segment of the population”. It said the government had failed to conduct the minimum level of research and analysis on the effects of the austerity measures
5 Housing rights The right to housing has been compromised as a result of the economic crisis. The housing market crisis at the root of the financial and economic crises coupled with growing unemployment, induced a sharp increase in evictions as a result of non-payment of mortgages, foreclosures and home repossessions in many countries. Since 2007, homelessness has increased in 15 of the 21 countries monitored by national experts. The crisis has been identified as a key driver of expanding homelessness in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK. New groups of homeless have emerged, with homelessness spreading among migrants, young people, women and families
6 Food rights The right to food has been affected by austerity measures when governments have limited food subsidies without adequate safeguards to ensure access to the minimum essential levels. Reduction in the consumption of staple food was reported as the most frequent coping mechanism in central and eastern European countries. Food banks are experiencing record lines in the UK, for example, with cuts to the welfare system the most common reason given
7 Water rights Many people have faced setbacks in their right to water as a result of austerity. As a condition for international assistance from the EC, ECB and IMF, new fees for domestic water use have been introduced in Ireland, for example. Greece has also been told to privatise its publicly owned water monopolies. Plans to privatise public water utilities have been part and parcel of several austerity packages which may threaten the affordability of water and the effective accountability of water suppliers
8 Education rights The right to education has suffered setbacks, primarily due to reductions in education budgets. Investment in education fell in one third of OECD countries between 2009 and 2010 as a result of the economic crisis. Spain cut its education budget by 21.4% between 2011 and 2012, for example, and Estonia by 10% between 2008 and 2009. Cuts in education subsidies and scholarships, school teachers’ salaries and budgeting for schools affect the quality, accessibility and affordability of education and can also result in early school dropouts with long-term effects on the children concerned
9 Health rights Cuts in health-related spending have affected the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. In Greece, the EC, ECB and IMF have demanded that public spending on health should not exceed 6% of GDP, with a potentially long-term impact on public health. Out-of-pocket fees have increased in many countries despite evidence that the introduction of health co-payment systems is associated with decreased use of health services and worsening health outcomes for both high-risk and low-income patients. Weakened mental health, substance abuse and suicide have been linked with austerity measures. Recent improvements in life expectancies across the region are being compromised due to the crisis
10 Civil and political rights The rights to participate in public affairs and to transparency through the provision of timely, accessible and relevant information have suffered as a result of the crisis. Many governments have speedily drawn up austerity policies side-stepping regular channels of participation and social dialogue on the pretext of a national financial emergency. The executive has often been allotted greater margins of authority to adopt austerity measures without consultation with the legislature, challenging accepted democratic checks and balances. National-level democratic decision making is further thwarted by the fact that deficit caps and other key fiscal rules made at the European intergovernmental level determine spending levels of many national governments, with with little to no participation from those suffering the consequences of cutbacks. The severity of austerity measures alongside the frequent failure to consult with the people affected has provoked large-scale demonstrations especially in Spain, Portugal and Greece […]
* GODFREY BLOOM: THE STATE IS AN INSTITUTION OF THEFT
“It won’t be long before the people storm this chamber and hang you . . . and they’ll be right!
“I really don’t know how you manage to keep a straight face (addressing the European Parliament) when you’re talking about tax evasion. The whole commision and commision beaurocracy avoid paying their taxes. You don’t pay taxes like citizens pay taxes! You have all sorts of special deals, composite tax rates, high tax threshold, non contributary pension schemes.. You are the biggest tax avoiders in Europe. And here you sit pontificating. Well, the message is getting home to the people of the European Union, you’re going to find that Euro skeptics are coming back in June in ever greater numbers and I can tell you worse, as the people get your number it won’t be long before they storm this chamber and hang you, and they’ll be right.”
~Godfrey Bloom MEP: The State is an Institution of Theft