It could be argued that Greek bondholders, especially those in the Diaspora who blindly believe in their ancestral homeland – sufferers of false worship – got what they deserved when the Greek government in 2011, under a PASOK Socialist Administration, stiffed investors with 74 percent losses.
That was the doing of then-Finance Minister Evangelos “Opportunist” Venizelos, in a desperate failed bid to write down the country’s debt, which still stands at 174 percent of Gross Domestic Product, about 377,018,172,173 euros, or $472,214,192,262.
Wait, that was two minutes ago. Now it’s 377,018,272, 178 euros, or 472,214,340,875. You can check yourself at http://www.nationaldebtclocks.org/debtclock/greece but watch carefully because it moves faster than a politician with a bag full of someone else’s money.
It’s scarier than Halloween to watch it soar and know that it’s because the ruling parties of the New Democracy Capitalists of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK – now serving in his coalition – went on wild overspending binges for decades and hired hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes.
A lot of those was financed by suckers in the Diaspora who bought Greek bonds, some perhaps hoping for a return on their investment, but many wanting to help their heritage.
They got neither when Venizelos burned them, brought down one Cypriot bank and put the others in jeopardy, and pushed Greek banks toward insolvency while he was at it.
That’s what happens when you have someone with no experience in finance as finance minister, but then again Greece has a former pro basketball player, Vassilis Kikilias, as Public Order Minister and the closest he’s come to a riot is watching hooligan fans at an Olympiakos-Panathinaikos brawl.
The Venizelos Folly has some legs though and perhaps he wasn’t counting on the small bondholders, some 15,000 of them – including many in the Diaspora – wanting their money back.
They’re not going to get it, but if it wasn’t so sad to watch them protest in vain it would be funny because they’re being ignored the same way politicians have no time for anybody who doesn’t have money or something to offer them.
When he was campaigning ahead of the 2012 elections, Samaras threw out the cheap trick of telling the small bondholders that if he won he’s hold them harmless and get their money back, a false promise about as valuable as Barack Obama vowing to shut down Guantanamo right after his inauguration.
Many of those bondholders were wiped out when Venizelos made their bonds worth as much as Confederate dollars or toilet paper, but he didn’t care, Samaras didn’t care and neither did the country’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) who are the Guardians of the Banker Galaxy.
Some of the bondholders went so far as to invade the New Democracy headquarters in an angry protest and throw something yucky at Samaras’ portrait, but dirt doesn’t stick to Teflon politicians like him or Bill Clinton who are smear-proof.
That got them a promise that someone in power would consider their demands, and the moment the door closed you could hear the laughing inside as far as the back rooms where politicians were splitting up someone else’s money and trying to decide if buying a new yacht was soooo 2012.
The bondholder protesters were ignored again, of course, and again after another demonstration and will be again after one on Oct. 31 – fittingly on Halloween – outside the Finance Ministry, which pays its clerk-typists two annual salaries to sit around but fired the cleaning ladies in a mock show it was following Troika orders to get rid of dead wood.
The bondholders, those who haven’t killed themselves or been driven into bankruptcy, were upset no one will talk to them or listen to them, which is a line in Greece longer than those looking for refunds after the first few minutes of any new Nicholas Cage movie.
The bondholders demanded a meeting with Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, who also ignored them. A second group of the victims protested outside the Bank of Greece building in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
“The government wants to just let the issue be forgotten by refusing to find a solution,” protesters said in a statement. “[The government] hopes that we too will give up our efforts to take back what was stolen from us,” they said.
New Democracy MP Dora Bakoyannis criticized her own government and Samaras for failing to honor its vow to help them. In a question submitted in Parliament for Hardouvelis, Bakoyiannis said that despite the various pledges made to the victims over the last couple of years, none were fulfilled.
Hardouvelis ignored her too, despite her standing as a stalwart in the party who narrowly lost a chance several years ago to be its leader and a chance to become the country’s first female Prime Minister when she took her challenger – a guy named Samaras – for granted. Now the bondholders have too and they’re paying the price.
It’s true indeed that a fool and his money are soon parted and that you should never bet, nor invest, any amount you can’t afford to lose. But in the case of Diaspora bondholders, it’s more apt what Jonathan Swift said: “A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.”