This post is taken from Barry Ritholtz’s Big Picture blogsite. Ritholtz is a no nonsense investment advisor who pulls no punches when he thinks someone is playing fast and loose with the facts, or is essentially getting away with financial murder. The post is about Greece and its kleptocrats, but read it through and substitute the United States for Greece and the Federal Reserve for the European Central Bank (ECB).
Here is a quote from a first-person report (via Zero Hedge) titled The Ugly Truth:
What angers me and most hard working Greeks is that the common workers are bearing the brunt of the austerity measures while the rich get off scot free. In Greece, if you want to strike it rich, become a specialist dealing with critical life and death decisions, tax collector or a high profile minister in the government. The scandalous stories that are coming out now of doctors, tax collectors, and ministers with millions of euros in their bank accounts and villas in Santorini and Mykonos are no surprise to regular hard-working Greeks.
This is a classic description of a kleptocracy: a financial and political Elite which skims and concentrates the wealth of the nation via corruption and embezzlement while being protected by the winking complicity of their fellow plunderers who hold civil and financial authority.
Here’s the real dynamic in Greece: The Kleptocracy–broadly, the political and financial Elites of the nation–saw a stupendous opportunity to embezzle hundreds of billions of euros from greed-blinded European banks at super-low rates of interest.
Being kleptocrats, they sniffed out the basics of the bezzle right away, and have been playing it ever since: we’re not paying any of these loans back, so go get the money from the European Central Bank (ECB) and the German taxpayers, or declare bankruptcy. Your choice.
The Greek kleptocrats knew all along that the German, Dutch, French and Finnish taxpayers were easy marks, just as they knew the European Union Power Elites would fall all over themselves to “save the euro” which was the centerpiece of their “one Europe” strategy of domination.
Only the Greek kleptocrats just beat them at their own game. The entire game plan of the “one Europe” Elites depends on nation-states actually complying with non-enforceable codes of conduct and on European banks making prudent loans.
Neither condition held: Greece’s Elites reckoned they could game the system and string along the Eurocrats, if not forever, then certainly long enough to engorge their Swiss accounts with euros skimmed from the banks, and they’ve played that hand to perfection.
Their performance is truly a thing of beauty, a masterful display of the Big Con. Yes, we will agree to austerity, but of course that is only for “the little people.” Then, we’ll renege on that, and demand another bailout. The Eurocrats will of course comply, lest their own plans for domination crumble along with the euro and the Eurozone edifice.
Meanwhile, the European banks were playing a similiar bezzle. They knew Greece had a history of defaulting on a regular basis, and any employee of the bank who lived in Greece could have briefed them on the kleptocracy’s hold on that nation. But the banks knew they could play the Eurocrats and the ECB, too, as the Eurozone had what amounted to a “German Put”: if any bad bank loans to Greece ever threatened the Eurozone, the German-led European Central Bank would make them whole.
Once again, the Eurocrats responded as expected, quickly massing hundreds of billions of euros to backstop the impaired loans to Greece and promising that bondholders would not suffer any losses.
The banks and the Greek kleptocracy are like the wife and the mistress of a prominent conservative socialite who absolutely needs to preserve a facade of conventional propriety. The kleptocrats, like the mistress, know they can blow down the entire charade, and so when they demand some baubles (bailouts) from their “Sugar Daddy” European Central Bank, the bank whimpers and complains but forks over the cash, lest the whole shaky facade collapses in a heap, along with the ECB’s dominance.
The wife, meanwhile, also gets her demand met. Now that the European banks have leveraged themselves up to pre-implosion Lehman Brothers levels of 30-to-1, they need a bailout, too, and so they tell the ECB, don’t even think about saying “no” because massive bank insolvency would also shatter the Euroland’s thin veneer of permanence.
The euro system is already broken, but the ECB and its Eurocrats are desperate to maintain the facade. The game is untenable, however, because the Greek kleptocrats and the European banks have all the leverage and the ECB is the bleating mark trying to satisfy the dualing demands of its wife and mistress.
“But you promised.” Ah yes, Dearie, but I changed my mind.
It is almost laughable to see the Eurocrats desperately trying to get another “austerity deal” approved, even as everyone involved knows it’s as phony as passing off your mistress as your “private secretary.” The austerity plan will not actually be put in place, none of the line-in-the-sand fiscal targets will be met, and the Greek kleptocrats will be smirking as the frantic ECB marks scrounge up another bailout and another face-saving “austerity program.”
The wild card here is the oppressed Greek citizenry, who might just spoil the fun by overthrowing their corrupt Overlords. They could also spoil the game by simply refusing to play any more, as a General Strike of any length would quash the fantasy of rising taxes and all the rest of the absurd assumptions at the heart of the “austerity program.”
If the Eurocrats and the ECB really want to save the euro, then they should help the Greek citizenry evict their kleptocratic Elites. But that would take genuine courage and insight, and alas, the Eurocrats, like all bureaucrats seeking to protect their fiefdom at any cost, don’t really care about the oppressed Greeks. They just want to play for time, and hope that a miracle will occur. Even as their fat, sweaty fingers hold a jumble of worthless cards–not even a pair of deuces–they persist in a laughably transparent charade of holding four aces.
The game is over for the ECB, the Greek kleptocracy and the european banks. All that needs to happen now is for the players to reveal their miserable cards and fold. The losses will be stupendous, but they will only get more horrendous the longer the game is allowed to go on.
Beezer here. The con in the United States is exactly the same. Now, of course, in both the US and Greece the average citizen who had nothing to do with the problem is being forced to shoulder all the austerity responsibility.