In Greece, a Third of the Workers are Public Sector. Good Luck with That

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This week in an an op-ed about Sunday’s riots in Greece by Brian M Carney a particular sentence stood out and made me uneasy. “Almost every traffic light in the vicinity was out, smashed during the overnight vandalism.”

This reminds of me of the eery feeling I got when I visited Berkeley, California ten years ago and people had sawed the heads of parking meters off, leaving their metal stems all that remained down the street.

The Athens vandals also chipped marble from the sides of buildings to create makeshift projectiles. So what are they mad enough about to destroy beautiful buildings like the King George Palace Hotel?
Most logically, their impotence to solve their huge financial problems. The protesters have no idea of how much worse it’s going to get in their country.

Nearly one third of the workers in Greece work for the public sector. On many city blocks every other storefront is vacant. In eight years between 2000 and 2008, labor costs for country’s private sector rose 62%…compared with 15% in Germany. The government has added thousands of jobs and all of this, plus the wage increases, were paid for with money borrowed from European banks. On top of this there is a nationwide habit of avoiding paying income taxes as much as possible.

I shudder to think of what is going to happen, after there are no more streetlights to damage and all the banks stop lending to the country. It’s pretty scary.