Greece: what will happen to the Greek middle class?

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The crisis is too far gone for superfluous statements from political leaders designed to be inclusive and inspirational even if meaningless in their generality. Much of the talk aligning themselves to the interests of the middle class is vacuous since a portion of that same class is the clientele of the political system that caused these problems.

Recently, the conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said “I am with the middle class, not against it” and this comment soon became the talk of the town in Athens. Political rhetoric needs some slogans like this to spice it up, even if this comment wont remain in the annul of history like the 1889 comment of Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis, of “gentlemen, unfortunately we are bankrupt.”

It seems the Prime Minister doesn’t actually understand the extremely difficult situation the country is in because there is no point in making comments that have little value. Perhaps Samaras is optimistic by nature or counts on the further support of Chancellor Merkel so much that he doesn’t appreciate that we are already at a dead end. While he admits “there are very difficult hours for Greece” he doesn’t persuade that he has the real plan so that Greece can be reborn.

So instead of the blanket comment on the “middle class” he should have also qualified just what middle class he is talking about because there are two middle classes in Greece. One middle class is productive while the other exhibits and perpetuates all the problems of the Greek economy.

This second type of the middle class is the one that created the flawed political system, particularly with socialist party Pasok, based on unending appointments to the public sector and supply contracts run wild. This was the middle class that paid bribes in envelopes to doctors called (known as “fakelakia”) and contributed “black money” to the coffers of lawyers. This is the middle class that squandered EU funds and helped destroy chambers of commerce. This is the middle class of gamblers and small and fast buck frauds.

Indeed the political system will do its best to rescue this middle class because it’s the hard core of its political-cliental relationships.

However from there on there is the “other” middle class. This part of the population is on its own, entirely without help as it fights in the market to survive. It is the middle class that felt betrayed by former conservative Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis because his promised “restructuring of the country” ended up as nothing more than a joke. And in the last three years it is this middle class that has been called on to shoulder the burden of all the sins of the political system and its clients.

This middle class cannot be competitive when the state imposes taxes even on the air that it breathes. This middle class can’t be competitive when for every minor matter it has to wait countless hours in line for red tape bureaucracy. This middle class which wants to give the best to its children won’t even have a tax deduction for extra tuition their kids need due to the incompetence of the state school system to provide any semblance of education. This middle class finds its road to export and an overseas orientation constantly blocked by the Greek state.

This hard working middle class sees itself as being blackmailed so the other half so they can keep holding on to their perks and privileges.

Therefore, the Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras must explain which of these two middle classes he is referring to and what he intends to do with both the one and the other. The life of each one of these middles classes means the death of the other. Together they cannot both survive and coexist.

As in any other country, the whole of the middle class in Greece will shrink in number. But the question is will the middle class that should survive prosper or will the other that the political system protects make it through.

In the position that Greece finds itself these days there is no room for generalities from the PM in which everyone can identify with. While some have pure intentions and are open to listening, it doesn’t mean that they are stupid. The middle class that works and sweats knows that the Prime Minister is against them.

PS. 1. I find it hard to believe that all the problems that have arisen, with the new tax code and other issues, are all the fault of Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis and everyone else is innocent.

PS. 2. I also find it impossible to believe that all of a sudden Mavraganis is no longer on speaking terms to his political superior, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras.

PS. 3. The government communications strategy needs to be freshened up. What happens is that any risky or punitive tax matters are first discussed at a meeting of coalition party leaders, then two of the smaller party leaders come out and complain, and eventually the Prime Minister steps in to fix the problems. It’s becoming a repetitive and boring show.

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