"Tidying up" its finances by taxing itself into extinction won't buy Greece much time. The sheer size of its debts is not taunting, it is Armageddon itself: €300 billion in sovereign debt, without calculating the longer term burdens of a social security system on the tip of collapse and so many other "hidden" open wounds representing individual sector fiscal collapse. In the end, Greece's total liabilities could be in the vicinity of €700 billion, debt that a country of Greece's size, and with an economy that includes little in terms of viable, profit-making production and valuable assets, simply cannot even begin to imagine it can convincingly roll over. Right now, Greece commands the unenviable record of the country with the highest external public debt/G.D.P. ratio in the world. Moreover, all the current efforts to "save" Greece from default focus on finding ways for the Greek government to refinance its runaway interest payments, with the enormous capital underneath left completely untouched.

This is a predicament that even iron-willed treasury ministers, with all the backing of much wealthier, structurally sound economies, would find rather unmanageable, to say the least. As Peter Boone and Simon Johnson recently demonstrated, Greece may be "the latest and greatest bubble" in the world's recent financial history, their estimates forming a scenario apocalyptic enough to send chills down the spine of every thinking Greek (a species that has been decimated in recent years).

To put it very briefly, Boone and Simon see no possible way of the Greeks sustaining, as part of their tidying up, the transfer of a total of 12 percent of their G.D.P. annually to lenders abroad and survive; as the two authors themselves put it: "This is simply impossible and unheard of for any long period of history."

The Greek government, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and the apparent black abyss confronting it, has been reacting spasmodically in implementing an austerity plan that promises nothing else but the choking of the internal market, or what is left of it.

Quickly, the wizards at the finance ministry set their sights on the ready formulas, tested time and again and found to reduce rather than increase government revenue over the medium term: jack up the VAT, this vilest of all "European Communities" punitive construct, and expand its confiscatory net over anything and everything; jack up taxes on property (already weighed down with more than two dozen penal taxes and levies); tax heavily those who produce and, more importantly, have no way of tax evading and avoiding; impose "objective criteria" on all, guilty or innocent, so that personal income tax becomes a play of arbitrary accounting estimates that could have little or nothing to do with the victim's true income situation; and do everything in the government's power to scare real money off and away from Greek coffers by promising to any stupid idiot, who may wish to bring in cash instead of removing it to offshore locations, added taxes, audits, and burdens of yet undetermined nature.

Meanwhile, those hidden, yet so obvious, sectors of this post-Soviet Greek economy that could yield handsome savings and serious cash, enough to begin a credible rehabilitation effort, remain untouched by conscious decision of our socialist government.

It is a common secret that the worst hemorrhage of the Greek economy comes from corruption, waste, fraud, and mismanagement created, promoted, protected, and strengthened by the political parties that have rotated into power since the fall of the junta in 1974 -- the very same who today tear their chests and pull out their hairs, in an ancient Greek tragedy bogus chorus, over the country's implosion.

It is a common secret that by abolishing dozens of government-controlled entities and "subsidy" budgets that exist only for siphoning off budget funds into the pockets of "empowered" minorities or political friends, hundreds of millions could be saved overnight.

It is a common secret that the Greek tax system -- inefficient, complex, Ottoman, ever changing -- strangles entrepreneurship, promotes bribing, kills investment, and imposes costs of billions on individual and corporate taxpayers with no real return for the government.

It is a common secret that kickbacks and bribes in defense procurement alone, not to mention opaque "pricing" and other methods of stealing "legally" from the government over buying guns, cost billions and further bloat an ever burgeoning bill of buying weapons of questionable operational value (the next armaments procurement program, scheduled to extend out to 2016, carries an estimated total cost of €21-23 billion).

It is a common secret that government itself, by applying literally extortion-like methods and over-regulation, both the direct results of the politicians' vested interests in protecting Greece's enormous bureaucracy, forces individuals and firms into the shadow economy and loses the state added billions in revenue.

During 2009 alone, Transparency International estimated, private households in Greece paid €790 million in bribes -- or more than twice the amount the government hopes to collect by recently driving the fuel tax and VAT rates through the roof; and in 2008, the total cost of bribes was even higher, at €1.37 billion, according to the German daily Die Welt.

None of the above are addressed in the current government's "stability plan" of which the prime minister, and his "economic team," are so proud of as the irrefutable "evidence" that Greece is doing what it takes in order to clean up house.

None of the above are mentioned in the constant moaning and groaning of our cabinet ministers, claiming to be involved in a sacred last stand, similar to Thermopylae, to save this Titanic of a Nation from disaster (the Titanic allusion was an early favorite of our ministers).

None of the above are, in fact, addressed in any way in the deliberations of the current "state of war" in which we find ourselves, as the prime minister never fails to remind us.

Tidying up ourselves into austerity extinction, while leaving government and political corruption to tear our innards out with impunity, is one mighty smart thing to do.

This is perhaps the one single reason why this country is destined to lose the battle and the war.

And it is ironic, but not historically unprecedented, that it will be us, rather than "them," who will complete the job with the most impressive efficiency and speed.






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