Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bailing Out the Greeks

Lending money to Greece to stem the present crisis and save the euro is a matter of intense controversy in Germany. Nothing of the kind in France. The Socialists approved the necessary budget measure with nary a murmur. Why such calm? Well, for one thing, there is no impending election in France, as there is in Germany. But I suspect that the real reason is that French populists and sovereignists of the Right and Left are keeping their powder dry. The debt crisis will get worse before it gets better, and the costs to French taxpayers will be a juicy issue for the 2012 elections. In the meantime, the Socialists are probably better informed than the populists about the magnitude of French bank exposure to Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish debt. Default would hit French banks, and a direct hit on voters' bank accounts would be an even more serious political bombshell than the costs of a bailout.


Boz said...

Talking about 2012, the NYT has a piece calling for DSK to resign per conflict of interest between his IMF duties and political career.

MYOS said...

Another issue is that, for French people, the Greeks = those people who invented democracy, founders of Europe, etc (still a lot of prestige for classics here, even though no one really studies greek anymore. You have latin classes as an extra elective in MIDDLE SCHOOL, for example...!) Plus, for older people, there's Nana Mouskouri and the colonels's dictatorship Greeks ran from ( a opportunity for self congratulations on France patrie des droits de l'homme)... Fond memories and positive associations.
For Germans, the Greeks are a group of "immigrants". The word does not connote as much positivity as in France. It's even rather negative, I'd say akin to what you hear nowadays from bigoted French people talking about Tunisia - 'good place for a sunny vacation but the people, oh dear!!!'
I remember reading a German novel the title of which was something like "Citizenship: Greek", about a girl whose immigrant family decided to leave Germany to return to Greece. In addition, there seems to be a campaign against Greeks in German tabloids, akin to what you hear about "brown skinned" people in Great Britain's tabloids.

And anyway (see below), why should Germans use their hard-earned money to rescue people who party all night and say "apres moi, le deluge"?*

*not my opinion, but what the articles convey.

MYOS said...

Summary of French attitudes on the radio this morning:
"Greece taught us how to think"
"Solidarity is good"

Someone also said California's just as bad as Greece because they don't have a property tax.