Austerity Farm: Where Cuts For Some Are More Equal Than Cuts For Others

Tyler Durden's picture

As the Greek government voted on their austerity plans (and prepare to vote on the budget), most of the media is focused on the molotov-cocktail-throwing malarkey that is occurring outside of the parliament. However, as Reuters reports, it was the band-of-brothers inside the building that may just have sparked the largest anger among the public. The government workers, who have enjoyed the "kind of lavish pay and benefits that have become emblematic of the public sector excess at the heart of Greece's debt crisis", suddenly discovered that in the 500-page draft of cost cuts and tax hikes that they themselves were expected to share in that sacrifice. This was entirely not acceptable and thus - they walked off the job, with police having to be called to prevent the shut off of power to the parliament building. Dubbed "The Princes of Parliament", these 'unsackable' staff who have enjoyed 16-month-per-year salaries, seem happy to draft the cuts for others but when it is their own..."we will stop it... Maybe forcefully this time" is response.


Via Reuters:

When Greece's government pushed through a law last week aimed at slashing public wages and raising taxes, its biggest threat was not the firebrand opposition or the 100,000 protesters thronged at the gates of parliament.


It was the assembly's workers themselves, a well-connected group that has long evoked disdain for enjoying the kind of lavish pay and benefits that have become emblematic of the public sector excess at the heart of Greece's debt crisis.


The staff dispute that image. But, having discovered that a 500-odd page draft law of cost cuts and tax hikes included a last minute amendment giving the finance ministry oversight over parliamentary pay, dozens of clerks walked off the job.


"Thieves!" they shouted at parliamentarians as they blocked the doors to the chamber, according to a witness, who saw some workers try to hit journalists who were filming them.


Police rushed to lock the door to the basement after a group threatened to shut off the power main.


The walk out briefly halted debate on the bill required for Greece to avoid bankruptcy and forced Finance Minister Yannis Stounaras to back down, a feat thousands of furious demonstrators in the rain outside had failed to achieve.


It triggered outrage among lawmakers and media, who ran headlines reading "Shame!" and complained most of the staff, unsackable under the constitution, were friends or family of politicians benefiting from an anachronistic patronage system.


Greek liberal daily Ta Nea dubbed them "The Princes of Parliament" and called for widespread dismissals among the almost 1,300 staffers.


"The party is over. The politicians have the responsibility to clean the Augean Stables they have created," the newspaper wrote in a front-page editorial, referring to the dirtiest of Hercules's 12 legendary labors in which he diverted a river to wash the manure from the stalls of 1,000 divine cattle.


In August, Conservative New Democracy MP Byron Polydoras struck a nerve when, appointed parliament speaker for just one day after an inconclusive May election, he made his daughter a permanent employee in his office, a position immune to firing.


The chamber's workers outnumber Greece's 300 deputies by more than four to one. By comparison, Britain's House of Commons has around 1,830 for its 646 lawmakers, a ratio of 2.8 to one.




Newspapers cataloged perks enjoyed by the clerks, lawyers, legal experts, messengers, and others in parliament's halls.


Besides public sector pensions, the lists included benefits such as 16-monthly salaries and huge one-off bonuses upon retirement.


The legislature's staff, however, tells a different story. According to Panagiotis Politis, president of the parliament workers' association, his salary has been cut by 50 percent, in line with cuts seen across Greece's public sector.


"We used to get the 16 monthly salaries, election bonuses and so on. But all this has been cut... I have 25 years experience and I get 1,040 euros a month, net," he said.


"What's happening with the media is absurd. By attacking us they are targeting the political system... We can't go out with our children and our spouses in society."


A finance ministry official said Stounaras would resubmit the amendment in an effort to eliminate all bonus schemes within the state system. Politis said the assembly's workers would it block again.


He fears it could threaten the last uncut benefits - overtime payments worth up to 500 euros a month and a 60-salary retirement bonus that could amount to 150,000 euros or more for workers with 30 years experience.


"Of course we don't agree with cutting our retirement bonuses. This is our money," he said, explaining they were partially funded by monthly contributions from workers.


"If they bring it back in the same way, we will stop it...Maybe more forcefully this time."

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Abraxas's picture

Just cut spending on freaking army and police. Also, fire 50% of government employees and use the money to consolidate the state holdings of gold.

emersonreturn's picture

just stop bailing out the banks!

max2205's picture

Could it happen here. Hope so!

SmallerGovNow2's picture

abraxas, you could cut the entire department of defense and still not come close to balancing the budget.  do some research before you come in here spouting off about shit you don't have a fucking clue about...  Get rid of "entitlements" from the federal government.  that is where all the money is bleeding out...

Abraxas's picture

You are just a dog, what do you know? Sit! Play dead! Good boy! 

StychoKiller's picture

Do those "entitlements" include Corporate Welfare?

bank guy in Brussels's picture


« Austerity is bullshit and rhymes with starving, suffering, "let them eat cake," loss of civil rights and a repeat of 1789 France »

Comment by 'Dean' endorsed by Jim Sinclair, MineSet

Curt W's picture

Governments need to cut... so long as it doesn't affect me.

fiftybagger's picture

I don't get anything from the government but grief.  Cut away I say.

StychoKiller's picture

Hey!  Those drones aren't gonna fly themselves </sarc>

lolmao500's picture

I hope the budget doesn't pass and the markets go kaboom and Syriza wins the next election and get Greece out of this mess... then Spain, Portugal, UK and Italy leave.

Fuck the EU and fuck the Euro.

Seasmoke's picture

get rid of ALL public pensions......big deal,you have a fucking public job, does not mean you are SPECIAL !! your money like everyone who pays your pensions

Winston Churchill's picture

Or at the very least convert them all to money purchase schemes.

The defined benefit BS schemes they are on are killing the taxpayers

in states.Pardon , have already killed some states(Kalifornia,Illinois etc).

That and index pay to the ave. private sector equivalent.

At least Greece is giving us a preview of things coming soon, to a

neighbourhood near you.Not going to be pretty anyway you cut it.

buzzsaw99's picture

public pensions should not be allowed to invest in stocks or hedge funds. the public should not have to pay for front running hfts and crooked pension fund managers graft and corruption too.

Winston Churchill's picture

So where then ?

UST's ? and never be paid but in weimar dollars.

There are NO safe paper investments now, or did you not get the memo ?

Urban Redneck's picture

Hell yes, a defined contribution plan concentrated in USTs for all public employees (until they pay off the debt).

ZIRP is a social disease.  Real interest rates are a cure.


Seasmoke's picture

we need to get leaders everywhere who have terminal cancer.....that way they cant be threathen by death

lolmao500's picture

And I've been reading that last week Germany did air drills with Turkey and there were lots of German warplanes violating Greek airspace... sending a message perhaps??

Joe A's picture

You got a link to that? Nothing would piss of Greek people more than both Turkey and Germany going after Greece.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

The Greeks are going to suck in more money.  They will pass these bills and not implement them.

Then they will suck in more money.

The Europeans have no solution.  They can't stop it or the outstanding loans the Europeans made to Greece stop being serviced.

It looked for a time like the correct solution was to keep ramping up the austerity demands until Greece's govt collapsed and the Europeans could say -- well, it's their choice.  But now it looks like the Greeks have figured that out.

They just pass the bills and then do not implement them.

e-man's picture

Mr. President, raise my taxes! As long as I am exempt from the tax hike!

A Nanny Moose's picture

I believe we just did this in CA. Keep your eye on us Kawlifawnianz....we are going places. /sarc.

insanelysane's picture

And the gov said that the voters agreed to a tax hike. WRONG!  A majority of the voters agreed to tax the crap out of a minority.  We desperately need a flat tax and then we'll see how willing voters are to raise taxes.

Matt's picture

Didn't they raise sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5%?

Doesn't everyone pay this, or do they give rebates to people below a certain income level?

Peter Pan's picture

There are only two choices. Either wipe the slate clean or risk breaking the slate itself. We live in an absurd system that can devalue property values, wages and even people yet debt remains sacrosanct. It is this impossible level of debt and the insistence of the Europeans that it must serviced and repaid that will eventually blow up in everyone's faces.

All the disputes, rallies etc etc are but a subset of the debt burden that must somehow be met by leaning on those least able and least responsible for the mess.

As for the parliamentary workers, there is an easy way out. Advertise their jobs and whoever is best qualified then let them have those jobs at the stipulated rate of pay. Relatives of the 300 politicians need not apply.

Joe A's picture

So these people have been filling their pockets graciously and now they whine? While the average Greek suffers? The party is over bitchez.

Joebloinvestor's picture

A great example of the true socialist work ethic (in itself an oxymoron).

I hope that when it comes to "austerity" in the US (and it will) the people (if they have any voice or power left) DEMAND that any cuts start at the top first, and I mean the administration and congress.

They should be made to use the same healthcare as everyone else, at least when they leave office.

Pensions and retirements should go bye bye.

Make them contribute to a 401k or IRA.

It is bad enough on the psyche that my tax dollar pays their wage, but I go fucking berserk when I am funding their pensions.

IridiumRebel's picture

You want some making FUCK! Berserker!

shuckster's picture

There is something inherently wrong with the same company that owns the debt being able to determine the value of the paper with which it must be paid

Clint Liquor's picture

By "inherently wrong", I assume you mean 'sweet deal'.

madcows's picture

it ain't that simple Shuck. Better to say "The government can destroy the economy and the value of its currency through government malfeasance".  And, it's gonna suck when it catches up with us.

q99x2's picture

I did my speech on the FED last week and concluded that they would re-write the laws so they can kick the can. Does anyone else expect anything different. I don't think so.

And as far as Greece goes how does anyone know or not if someone is entitled to the amount of money and benefits they receive if the entire system is based on fraud? Until law and order is restored at the top hey go for the gold is my opinion.

I demand my fair share until law and order is restored. Long live the Golden Dawn.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Wake me when paper money and all the paper pushers are dead. Nothing changes until then. After that, we can find out what everyone's labor is really worth. Bring it.

The big unzip's picture

If you cut goverment, then how can goverment get any bigger?  This is totally unacceptable.

americanspirit's picture

If you cut government - does it bleed?

StychoKiller's picture

Has it ever been done before?

akak's picture

I believe the proper Shakespearian quote is:
"Is government not a prick?"

Yen Cross's picture

 The "Austerity Farm" is more like a "Petting Zoo". It's pretty tough to have any "Cohesive Brand" when your finances are so limited.

 For your enjoyment. > Greece #'s broken down for your viewing pleasure. Indicators for GREECE

TraderTimm's picture

I find money in general completely ridiculous, as compared to actual human needs.

I would like our society to grow beyond it, but then there are so many completely hooked into the system, they'd fight to preserve their status.

As a society, I think we've lost more to intellectual 'property' claims, patent trolls, and financial schemes than we've gained. The whole run-around-gathering-fancy-paper-tokens is getting a bit old, frankly. It is no more sophisticated than a kid playing a side-scrolling platform game, collecting power-ups to complete a level.

So while I recognize collectively it will take either a major shift to move away from this, I'll do what I can to make the current system as obsolete as possible.

The only saving grace is the internet, and I can see they're doing their best to infringe upon this freedom as well.


Matt's picture

So, what do you propose as an alternative?

TraderTimm's picture

A good start would be getting out from under the financial systems that exist right now. I've already talked about what it is, just look at my post history. Once the central banks and local banks become impotent, real advances will be made.


Archon7's picture

There's going to be plenty of austerity going around for everyone when the whole sh!thouse goes up in flames, which it will inevitably do.  Make sure you're standing at a safe distance when it does that so you won't get burned, and protect your keep from the scavengers...

flacorps's picture

Sacrifice needs to start at the top. If not in salaries, then in blood.

tony bonn's picture

the greek bureaucrats acted like self-important pompous entitled bureaucrats everywhere across continents and time always do - let them eat cake, bitch. those political whores don't have a leadership bone in anywhere in their gluttonous bodies...

Yen Cross's picture

 Greece is just a distraction... Spain, Italy, and France are where the real action is... I can't wait to see how those French "ÓATs" roll off in Q1 2013.

aerofan3's picture

OK, it may not be the beginning of the end for Greece, or anywhere else for that matter, but things are looking grim for the future worldwide.

I like the words of a true hero, Martin Niemoller - a German hero.

German WW1 submarine captain, who, after the war, became a pastor and theologian, and spoke about the inactivity of the German people following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group. He spent 4 years in concentration camps for speaking the truth as he saw it, and narrowly escaped being assassinated by the SS guards.

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me."


So let us look at today in the context of the American administration's 2012 purchase of 450 million rounds of hollow point ammunition, this could be how it plays out -

First they will come for the 'terrorists',
And we will not speak out because we are not terrorists.

Then they will come for for the demonstrators,
And we will not speak out because we do not demonstrate.

Then they will come for the 'objectors',
And we will not speak out because we only object silently.

Then they will come for you;
And, it's likely that no one will speak out for you, because the powers that be will arrive in force and pick off the opposition one at a time! As individuals you will be vastly outnumbered! 


I'm 74, ex Special Forces, and if I was younger I could get seriously depressed about all this stuff! As it is I hope I'm gone when it happens.

papaswamp's picture

Iceland seems to be the only country with balls (and brass ovaries).
ísland reglur!!!!

Manic by Proxy's picture

"Horror grips us as we watch you die.
All we can do is echo your anguished cry.
Stare, as all human feelings die.
We are leaving
You don't need us"