Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

OK, I'll try to shed some light on why this subject tends to inflame some of the europeans nationalistic sentiment with a concrete example:

1. Meet Portugal (my country). Some may know us derisively as the P in PIGS because of our financial problems (much similar to the Greek one in nature and extent).

In 2010 and 2011 as one of the 14 member states of the EU that were part of the Greek loan facility Portugal contributed with 1102 million euros into the 52.9 billion loan that greece received [1].

Yes, that's correct, not all of the debt that people are so eager to expect that German forgives is from their coffers, it was actually pooled from the following countries: Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain.

2. As you may know, about the same time we had our own problems and also had to be bailed out. As part of the measures put in place to reduce our deficit a massive tax hike was implemented in the end of 2012 [2]

I'll draw attention to single one of those measures: the 3.5% extraordinary tax on the income paid by every single person with income above minimum wage (485€/month) including pensioners.

Now, for the money quote [3]: "Minister of Finance Vitor Gaspar said the tax would bring in 1025 million euros".

Less than what Portugal contributed to the Greek bailout fund. 3.5% of the income of every citizen in this country.

In conclusion, that's one of the reasons for the nationalistic outrage against Greece defaulting the loan. It is not only the money of the richest bankers of Europe that won't be repaid, it is the taxpayer money of each of those countries that contributed to their rescue.

To put in perspective, 1102 million euros means that default would cost every inhabitant in this country 110 euros (about 330€ per household) and not only hypothetically but in practice too as demonstrated above.

EDIT: Changed second link as it was paywalled for the same news, but on CNN

[1] http://www.rekenkamer.nl/english/Publications/Topics/EU_gove...

[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/31/business/portugal-fiscal-t...

[3] http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/article...




The problem with "your money" (as well as Belgium's etc etc etc) is that it didn't "go to Greece": it went to private lenders, aka French and German banks which were holding Greek debt. The honest people of Portugal were swindled out of their money, in the tradition of socializing private losses (while privatizing profits wherever possible).

So I would suggest you redirect your complaints towards the real responsible parties: European bankers and the elites who keep enabling them. Portugal would benefit from getting together with other countries and ask for their money back from the (mostly German and French) financial sector, or at least a big haircut. This is also true of Italy, Spain, Ireland and so on.


> The problem with "your money" (as well as Belgium's etc etc etc) is that it didn't "go to Greece": it went to private lenders, aka French and German banks which were holding Greek debt. The honest people of Portugal were swindled out of their money, in the tradition of socializing private losses (while privatizing profits wherever possible).

Can I borrow 100€ from you to pay back this other guy from whom I borrowed 100€ which I then spent on alcohol? Yes please? Okay, thanks, now unfortunately you didn’t actually give me any money and it’s not my fault if I can’t pay you back because actually your money went to this other guy. It had nothing to do with me or those empty bottles you see back there, it really went directly to this evil person OVER THERE AND YOU SHOULD ONLY TAKE IT UP WITH HIM!

In other words, the money of course did go to Greece, it’s just that Greece was so far in debt by this point that they couldn’t decide for themselves on how to spend it because they first had to pay back other people. On the other hand, there is still plenty of private property in Greece so the country itself is far from bankrupt. It’s just the people deciding they would rather default on their loans and continue living than to tax the rich and wealthy.


so to recap, it's totally true that the first bailout didn't aid Greece but rather bailed out dodgy German, et al, bank loans to Greece by transferring them to the Greek public sector?

I'm not sure why you fervently believe the banks deserve this. No-one held a gun to their head and forced them to make a loan to Greece, and it's not as if the, ah, looseness of Greek gdp calculations was exactly a secret.

Perhaps consider being pissed at the bankers that swindled all the aforementioned taxpayers into buying out their bad loans. A cynic might think this is how European government disguised the rather unpopular act of writing their banks a huge-ass check.


Sorry, but in which way did Greece not get some 300 billion euros? Whether they first borrowed that money from private banks and then the rest of the eurozone paid back the banks for Greece or whether they received the money directly from the other eurozone countries, the end result is still that banks now have roughly as much as before (modulo minor interests etc.), Greece has some 300 billion more and the rest of the eurozone has some 300 billion less.


You're determined to ignore where the money went.

German, Dutch, et al banks -- specifically banks that had unacknowledged bad loans to Greece -- have several hundred billion more than before. Public sector balance sheets have that much less.


The money from the bailout programme went into the banks, sure. But that only happened because those banks had given out loans to Greece before. I agree that banks made some income from interest rates and also because they bought Greek bonds at lower-than-face value. However, somehow these bonds were still issued by Greece and bought by someone.

Where did the money from all these bonds go? To Greece.


No, the banks didn't "make some money" -- they dramatically reduced their exposition to junk bonds at a point in time when that was an existential threats to them. For a number of European banks, that bailout kept them alive. Which is what the bailout was granted in the first place: because European authorities knew it was a bailout for their own banks, who had made terrible decisions in their continuous search for a quick buck.


So junk bonds now just materialise out of nowhere in banks’ books and nobody got money from the bank in the first place? That seems slightly unusual…


Of course it takes two to tango; but if I give you $50 knowing full well that you're never going to repay it, who "deserves" to be punished? Even more so when I know that my $50 will actually be used to buy (weapons|etc) from my friend.

In this unjust world, as it happens, "I" was bailed out by the taxpayer community that stepped in and made me whole; however, it's clear that you still can't repay them like you couldn't repay me. What are they supposed to do? One option is enslaving your family for a long time (austerity); another is to just let go and forget about the money, you just won't do business with them anymore (which is what is happening, with the previous Greek elite being slowly kicked out); another still is knocking on my friend's door. Note how this last option is always absent from public discourse. In any case, now I'm free to pontificate on how bad you are and how I shouldn't have given you money in the first place because you're a lazy scumbag, although of course I knew this from day 1. Is that fair?


As well as ignoring the banks culpability here, you're doing the same thing the original starter of this thread wanted to point out. Greece is a country, not a person. Did all Greeks benefit equally from that money? Or is large amounts of it sitting in accounts of corrupt politicians and the corporations (not necessarily Greek ones) that the money got spent on.

I've seen accusations that the high military spending goes to northern European arms dealing countries. I have no idea if that's true but the pattern is very familiar, the UK have a long history of giving "foreign" "aid" which is basically giving taxpayer money to arms dealers.


Some info from 2011: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-feat...

And again in 2012, it was widely speculated that the bailout was granted on condition that Greece kept up buying stuff from Germany: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/19/greece-military...

And these are the first two google hits, really.

Adding a bit of context: Greece basically had a full-out war with Turkey over Cyprus about 40 years ago, and tension has been high ever since. The Cyprus issue is one of the many sticking points that resulted in Turkey being refused EU membership. If you look carefully at maps, you'll see that many Greek islands are extremely close to the Turkish mainland (tourist guides joke that you can get "instant Greece" when visiting Turkey with a quick boat trip). Part of the reconstruction process of Turkish national identity after the end of the Ottomans involved ethnic cleansing against long-time Greek enclaves. This is complicated further by the Cold War and the strategic location of both countries, which means they both "have to be" NATO members by hook or by crook (i.e. the US will never let them go). In this framework, high defence spending is not unnatural; however, reliance on specific northern-European dealers is a bit suspect.


Wait a minute. Isn't Greece a democracy with government responsible to citizens? Greece gov has been spending for decades on military and no one argued with that while credit cards worked.


That's a good question, is it? Are any other modern countries?

One of the things people have been laughing at the Greeks for is that they don't even have a Cadastre listing who owns what land. Apparently this is proof the Greeks are all lazy, tax-avoiding thieves. In Scotland they're trying to achieve the same thing as they only know who owns about a quarter of the country.

Unfortunately the very rich aristocrats who own this land have been trying to prevent it since apparently knowing who owns land is some dark secret they're worried about getting out. They've been writing articles, such as the one by the UK prime minister's father-in-law Lord Astor, comparing this compiling of a list of ownership to the behaviour of Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

So, are we living in democracies with government responsible to citizens? I'd say to a great degree we don't, and like many soldiers who fought in European wars last century I think it becomes clear that you have more in common with the ordinary people of other European nations than you do with the ones guiding you into wars, or continuations of the same via diplomacy or economic shock doctrines.


Of course it is a proof the Greeks are lazy, tax-avoiding thieves. They don't care about Cadastre. They're on the streets for their comfy government jobs and social benefits.

Please don't sell me that socialist BS. I live in ex-socialist country and there is always trash talk about elites, aristocrats and capitalism on our long coffee breaks but guess what? You know what those people cry for? Socialist dictators and God-All-Mighty state.

Grow up. It is your fault mostly.


You can be socialist and selfish and still be in favour of a Cadastre, since you personally are unlikely to own the land. Lazy, selfish people should support knowing who owns all the land, because that tells you who to tax efficiently via a Land Value Tax. Unless they are lazy, selfish people who already know who own the land, because it's them that owns it. Which brings us back to powerful elites, which you think don't exist for some reason. Your ex-socialist state must have been an extreme outlier both then and now if it doesn't have them.


I'm not saying that Greeks are not in favour of a Cadastre. They probably think it is a great idea. Only problem is they are too lazy to implement it and too selfish to give power to non-lazy people who might then make them work.

Elites exist, it is not a mystery cloaked in enigma. Most of people on Earth could say I'm part of elite just for being European. But you are talking about powerful elites who work in mysterious ways to control all Greek people votes.


> Greece is a country, not a person. Did all Greeks benefit equally from that money?

If they haven’t, that’s an issue internal to Greece to be sorted out by Greek people. You can’t continuously elect corrupt oligarchic governments for 40 years and then turn around and shout “Not my fault!!” if these governments don’t act in your best interest.


> You can’t continuously elect corrupt oligarchic governments for 40 years and then turn around and shout “Not my fault!!”

Oh, like Americans complaining that they didn't want to invade Iraq? Those same Americans who have elected Bushes and Clintons for about 30 years now? Yup, quite unacceptable, really. They don't even have the excuse of having been ruled by a dictatorship for 10 years because of the Cold War, or having been born on one of the most strategic bits of land in the world from a military perspective, or having to fight ethnic wars with their immediate neighbours.

Someone once said something about beams in your own eye...


Hu? Of course Americans are responsible for the war in Iraq, where did I ever say something else?


Yes, basically that money was used to bail out irresponsible lenders. Now, Greece were irresponsible borrowers, but the bailouts basically solved none of their problems, they were just delayed a few years, and here we are again.

Now for the economical elites this is a much better situation, they get to present the whole situation as lazy Greeks causing problems, present the rest of Europe as the good guys, and pretend that the money we lent them should have saved them somehow.

It's important not to forget all the sides that caused the problems on 2008, just because we already solved the problems of one of the sides it doesn't absolve them from the responsibility.


Actually we are not quite in the same situation as before - now the lenders are mainly just the governments not the banks, so the problem is completely socialised.


I fail to understand this argument. Of course you have to save the banks to save an economy. Greek was bankrupt 5 years ago, yet the cash machines never stopped dispensing money.


No doubt you should be annoyed, but you should direct most of that ire at the troika than at Greece. The money that went to "bailout" Greece really made its way to EU lenders by way of Greece. A real bailout would have consisted of of policies and loans that went to rebuilding the Greek economy, not toward squeezing every last drop of tax revenue from the few Greeks who are still employed and pay taxes.


That is really not the right way to understand it.

The buying and refinancing of bonds is a very direct support of the Greek economy as the bonds are used by the Greek banks as collateral when they go to the central bank to get cash euros to give to their customers.

Greeks have taken out billions of fresh euro bank notes from their ATMs in the past few months. Without the Troikas support this would not have been possible.


Thank you for clearly explaining where some of the money came from, and pointing out this subtlety. It is perhaps interesting to compare Portugal's contribution to Germany's after crudely normalising by GDP:

* Portugal contributed about 0.48% of its GDP in loans, compared to Germany's contribution of around 0.41%.

* Portugal's GDP / capita is a bit less than than half of that of Germany


As Portuguese you should also be honest and mention how we tend to have similar corruption cases like Greece.

How people avoid asking for bills when going to the doctor to avoid the extra 20 euros being added to the bill.

How people get things done, because someone has a friend that knows a guy... Of course without anything written and payed in cash.

How many small businesses closed down because they couldn't afford the new computer systems required by IRS.

How Portuguese are fleeing the country to countries like Angola, Mozambique and south American ones in the hope of finding a job that helps pay the bills to those that stay back.

Lots of many other cases that don't make us far from the Greek situation.

Yet, the Portuguese media has the outrage to call us a success case?!


Hi there fellow country mate. Refer back to the first point where it's clearly referred to our situation as "much similar to the Greek one in nature and extent".

The purpose of that answer is not to identify the party at fault or to explain what went wrong. It is to explain one reason for the increase of nationalistic rhetoric when there are talks of defaulting that loan.

Many people weren't aware that the money didn't come of an abstract "European fund" but from individual countries and helpfully it shed some light on why nationals of those countries consider it "their money".

Also, by showing the amount of money that countries (specially the weakest ones like Portugal) have contributed compared to the sacrifice the population (specially the weakest ones like the minimal wage pensioners) had to make to collect about the same amount (3.5% of all income) hopefully it helps in the understanding that the sacrifices are not being made by abstract concepts and organizations but by the people living in those countries.

As for the rest of your comment it doesn't help advancing or refuting the points explained above so they are a little bit out of place.


I guess you are right, but as someone that knows the southern Europe quite well, I find distasteful the way that we and other southern European countries talk about Greece in the media, as if we had an higher moral ground.

Yet, on our daily lives we and our politicians do exactly the same things they get accused for.

So sorry if I went a bit too much off topic.


Very well said.

And this is why there is little support in the rest of the EU for further transfer of wealth to Greece at this point.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: