If Greed Is Good, What in Hell Can Evil Be?

How would you say “we’re all screwed!” in Greek? I’m no linguist, but it seems we’ll learn soon enough, though it may well be too late.




We Are All Greeks Now

Truthdig * Monday, July 13, 2015

by Chris Hedges

The poor and the working class in the United States know what it is to be Greek. They know underemployment and unemployment. They know life without a pension. They know existence on a few dollars a day. They know gas and electricity being turned off because of unpaid bills. They know the crippling weight of debt. They know being sick and unable to afford medical care. They know the state seizing their meager assets, a process known in the United States as “civil asset forfeiture,” which has permitted American police agencies to confiscate more than $3 billion in cash and property. They know the profound despair and abandonment that come when schools, libraries, neighborhood health clinics, day care services, roads, bridges, public buildings and assistance programs are neglected or closed. They know the financial elites’ hijacking of democratic institutions to impose widespread misery in the name of austerity. They, like the Greeks, know what it is to be abandoned.

The Greeks and the U.S. working poor endure the same deprivations because they are being assaulted by the same system—corporate capitalism. There are no internal constraints on corporate capitalism. And the few external constraints that existed have been removed. Corporate capitalism, manipulating the world’s most powerful financial institutions, including the Eurogroup, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve, does what it is designed to do: It turns everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse. In the extraction process, labor unions are broken, regulatory agencies are gutted, laws are written by corporate lobbyists to legalize fraud and empower global monopolies, and public utilities are privatized. Secret trade agreements—which even elected officials who view the documents are not allowed to speak about—empower corporate oligarchs to amass even greater power and accrue even greater profits at the expense of workers.


To swell its profits, corporate capitalism plunders, represses and drives into bankruptcy individuals, cities, states and governments. It ultimately demolishes the structures and markets that make capitalism possible. But this is of little consolation for those who endure its evil. By the time it slays itself it will have left untold human misery in its wake.

The Greek government kneels before the bankers of Europe begging for mercy because it knows that if it leaves the eurozone, the international banking system will do to Greece what it did to the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973 in Chile; it will, as Richard Nixon promised to do in Chile, “make the economy scream.”


The bankers will destroy Greece. If this means the Greeks can no longer get medicine—Greece owes European drug makers 1 billion euros—so be it. If this means food shortages—Greece imports thousands of tons of food from Europe a year—so be it. If this means oil and gas shortages—Greece imports 99 percent of its oil and gas—so be it. The bankers will carry out economic warfare until the current Greek government is ousted and corporate political puppets are back in control.

Human life is of no concern to corporate capitalists. The suffering of the Greeks, like the suffering of ordinary Americans, is very good for the profit margins of financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs. It was, after all, Goldman Sachs—which shoved subprime mortgages down the throats of families it knew could never pay the loans back, sold the subprime mortgages as investments to pension funds and then bet against them—that orchestrated complex financial agreements with Greece, many of them secret. These agreements doubled the debt Greece owes under derivative deals and allowed the old Greek government to mask its real debt to keep borrowing. And when Greece imploded, Goldman Sachs headed out the door with suitcases full of cash.

The system of unfettered capitalism is designed to callously extract money from the most vulnerable and funnel it upward to the elites. This is seen in the mounting fines and fees used to cover shortfalls in city and state budgets. Corporate capitalism seeks to privatize all aspects of government service, from education to intelligence gathering. The U.S. Postal Service appears to be next. Parents already must pay hundreds of dollars for their public-school children to take school buses, go to music or art classes and participate in sports or other activities. Fire departments, ambulance services, the national parks system are all slated to become fodder for corporate profit. It is the death of the civil society.

Criminal justice is primarily about revenue streams for city and state governments in the United States rather than about justice or rehabilitation. The poor are arrested and fined for minor infractions in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere; for not mowing their lawns; for putting their feet on seats of New York City subway cars. If they cannot pay the fines, as many cannot, they go to jail. In jail they are often charged room and board. And if they can’t pay this new bill they go to jail again. It is a game of circular and never-ending extortion of the poor. Fines that are unpaid accrue interest and generate warrants for arrest. Poor people often end up owing thousands of dollars for parking or traffic violations.

Fascist and communist firing squads sometimes charged the victim’s family for the bullets used in the execution. In corporate capitalism, too, the abusers extract payment; often the money goes to private corporations that carry out probation services or prison and jail administration. The cost of being shot with a stun gun ($26) or of probation services ($35 to $100 a month) or of an electronic ankle bracelet ($11 a month) is vacuumed out of the pockets of the poor.

** If you’re not outraged yet, read and watch my post, Preying on the Poor — Now That’s Class **


And all this is happening in what will one day be seen as the good times. Wait until the financial house of cards collapses again—what is happening in China is not a good sign—and Wall Street runs for cover. Then America will become Greece on steroids.

“We are a nation that has turned its welfare system into a criminal system,” write Karen Dolan and Jodi L. Carr in an Institute for Policy Studies report titled “The Poor Get Prison”.


“We criminalize life-sustaining activities of people too poor to afford shelter. We incarcerate more people than any other nation in the world. And we institute policies that virtually bar them for life from participating in society once they have done their time. We have allowed the resurgence of debtors’ prisons. We’ve created a second-tier public education system for poor children and black and Latino children that disproportionally criminalizes their behavior and sets them early onto the path of incarceration and lack of access to assistance and opportunity.”

The corporate dismantling of civil society is nearly complete in Greece. It is far advanced in the United States. We, like the Greeks, are undergoing a political war waged by the world’s oligarchs. No one elected them. They ignore public opinion. And, as in Greece, if a government defies the international banking community it is targeted for execution. The banks do not play by the rules of democracy.

Our politicians are corporate employees. And if you get dewy-eyed about the possibility of the U.S. having its first woman president, remember that it was Hillary Clinton’s husband who decimated manufacturing jobs with the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and then went on to destroy welfare with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which halted federal cash aid programs and imposed time-limited, restrictive state block grants.


Under President Bill Clinton, most welfare recipients—and 70 percent of those recipients were children—were dropped from the rolls. The prison-industrial complex exploded in size as its private corporations swallowed up surplus, unemployed labor, making $40,000 or more a year from each person held in a cage. The population of federal and state prisons combined rose by 673,000 under Clinton. He, along with Ronald Reagan, set the foundations for the Greecification of the United States.

The destruction of Greece, like the destruction of America, by the big banks and financial firms is not, as the bankers claim, about austerity or imposing rational expenditures or balanced budgets.


It is not about responsible or good government. It is a vicious form of class warfare. It is profoundly anti-democratic. It is about forming nations of impoverished, disempowered serfs and a rapacious elite of all-powerful corporate oligarchs, backed by the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in human history and a militarized police that shoots unarmed citizens with reckless abandon. The laws and rules it imposes on the poor are, as Barbara Ehrenreich has written, little more than “organized sadism.”

Corporate profit is God. It does not matter who suffers. In Greece 40 percent of children live in poverty, there is a 25 percent unemployment rate and the unemployment figure for those between the ages of 15 and 24 is nearly 50 percent. And it will only get worse.

The economic and political ideology that convinced us that organized human behavior should be determined by the dictates of the global marketplace was a con game. We were the suckers. The promised prosperity from trickle-down economics and the free market instead concentrated wealth among a few and destroyed the working and the middle classes along with all vestiges of democracy. Corrupt governments, ignoring the common good and the consent of the governed, abetted this pillage. The fossil fuel industry was licensed to ravage the ecosystem, threatening the viability of the human species, while being handed lavish government subsidies. None of this makes sense.

The mandarins that maintain this system cannot respond rationally in our time of crisis. They are trained only to make the system of exploitation work. They are blinded by their insatiable greed and neoliberal ideology, which posits that controlling inflation, privatizing public assets and removing trade barriers are the sole economic priorities. They are steering us over a cliff.

We will not return to a rational economy or restore democracy until these global speculators are stripped of power. This will happen only if the streets of major cities in Europe and the United States are convulsed with mass protests. The tyranny of these financial elites knows no limits. They will impose ever greater suffering and repression until we submit or revolt. I prefer the latter. But we don’t have much time.


© 2015 TruthDig



About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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20 Responses to If Greed Is Good, What in Hell Can Evil Be?

  1. Although I was hopeful Greece would prevail, I couldn’t stop thinking about John Perkins and “The confessions of an economic hitman” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-a6jzU0YgQ). I wonder what the tipping point for Tsipras was. I doubt it was money – perhaps threats of assassination or invasion. The banksters couldn’t lose this one – I’m sure they spared no threats..

    • Carol, I’m sure you’re right, though I also kept hoping otherwise. With no leverage (such as Venezuela’s oil resources, and no powerful protectors, nations like Greece look pretty helpless against the pitiless might of the banksters and their lackeys. What mere people want and need is considered irrelevant — we can readily be deceived, defrauded, disregarded — and they will kill us if all else fails. I don’t think this horrible system can last forever, but that’s no consolation, given the needless suffering it’s inflicting now. Thank you for your comment. – Linda

      • I am truly grateful for the important information you share, even though it is often so hard to accept that there is so much craziness and cruelty in the world. (I’m also grateful that I no longer teach social welfare policy classes where I need to be able to provide honest hope to students who expect to repay their educational loans of at least $50,000 with social work salaries for jobs that won’t exist soon.)

        • Carol, thanks for your kind words, and I seem to have more trouble all the time understanding what is happening in the world. How do even the elites think they will survive once they have destroyed everything? Or … have they already called a getaway car/spaceship to get out of dodge, and are urgently squeezing every drop of money out of everything to scrape up cab fare
          Either way, it’s baffling, and discouraging. Yet if we just give up, they’ll grind us that much harder into the ground. – Linda

          • I can’t figure it out either, Linda. I was just thinking about it today. After watching the film that Dr. B. shared, Salud, I’m even more puzzled and concerned. The difference between health care in Cuba (extraordinary) and Guatemala (absolutely abysmal)? The IMF rules that limit the percentage of debtor nations’ budgets (Guatemala being one of them) that can be spent on social programs. That suffering could be so deliberately and callously imposed for power and profit is a level of evil that’s hard for me to even acknowledge let along comprehend.

            • I know. How could mere money and power be worth the profound misery of so many people? How do you ever truly convince yourself that such monstrous things are okay? I can’t fathom it at all.

              • I can’t fathom it, either, although I did go to a catholic women’s college for 2 years with some truly cruel women of extreme privilege who seemed to enjoy making the lives of others torturous. I didn’t know about their cruelty until afterwards. I have to admit that I still struggle with very strong anti-privilege biases to this day.

                • Are you sure that’s a bias? Well of course it is, but a good one, serving to counter all the conditioning we receive pushing us to worship and exempt those with power from all standards of rational, humane behavior. Guess I’m deeply prejudiced, and not even struggling against it — to me, if you have all the choices our society offers, and you choose malice and cruelty, you are far more culpable than someone with their back against the wall.
                  One thing I do get — the elites deliberately isolate themselves from the rest of us — it is only too easy to ignore or mistreat those we don’t even see. Of course, we have brains, and it’s not that hard to understand what others suffer. But without the will to know, how many will make the effort? I wonder. Much easier and more comfortable to shy away from truth we prefer not to know. And make excuses for ourselves.

                  • So true, Linda. I was just thinking about resilience, ingenuity, and creativity (making do with what’s available and building mutual support “teams”) – developed by necessity and overcoming adversity. If the dire warnings of collapse happen suddenly, it will be interesting to see if the elite have what it takes to survive on their own, Money won’t help build callouses, grow food, find clean water, build livable shelters …

    • I agree, Greece was threatened.

      • Robert, That’s the simplest explanation, at least. And capitalism has so many of us intimidated to the point they need not even make direct threats to keep us in line. Thanks for your comment. – Linda

  2. sojourner says:

    Reblogged this on An Outsider's Sojourn II and commented:
    If you can read the following and not be incensed, then I would suggest placing a mirror under your nostrils, just in case!

  3. sojourner says:

    Hedges nails it again, Linda! Excellent!

    If you can read this and not be incensed, then I would suggest placing a mirror under a nostril, just in case.

    And the really asinine thing about all of this is, there are seven billion of us and a couple million of them. But even with all of this, I hear people talking about “fixing this democratic system.” Are they insane or stupid?

    Democracy, like communism, theocracy, monarchy, etc, is a new term for an ancient means of control: the psychotic few manipulatively ruling over the disenfranchised many, and with the consent of the downtrodden no less.

    The seven billion of us need to get our lethargic arses up and, with extreme prejudice, rid ourselves of these insane, greed-driven, genocidal creatures. There has been enough In depth, analytical discussions and ‘meaningful meetings’ taking place. This is never going to end with words, and we all damn well know it!

    Everyday I struggle to keep writing, because I wonder, Am I helping or just blowing steam and enabling others to do nothing but read?

    And I still can’t come up with an answer to this question. So if you have one, Linda, please let me know!

    Sorry, I just went off again. But I’m old, and I’ve fallen and can’t get up!;-)

    • Sojourner, Nothing to apologize for — we all feel your frustration! All the madness looks kind of like a dysfunctional, abusive personal relationship — impossible to see how the abuser (our psychotic power elites) consistently keeps the victim (7 billion regular people) convinced that all problems are their own fault! Why do we put up with this shit? Damned if I know! All I know is it’s unhealthy and stupid. Does that help? No, definitely not! Thanks anyway for reblogging — maybe if we persist in time we’ll spread that insidious, subversive idea that — not only are things screwed up, but **IT ISN’T OUR FAULT ** at least not mostly. And I’m sure you can get up — you don’t seem like the groveling sort! – Linda

  4. I hate to say this, but I’m started to sense that Hedges is preaching to the converted. He seems a little short on solutions. In the past he’s advocated strongly for non-violent civil disobedience, but he’s very much opposed to breaking windows, destruction and similar black bloc tactics – see http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/02/debating-violence-in-the-occupy-movement/

    I honestly don’t see how sit-ins are going to persuade capitalist parasites to come to their senses and return our so-called western democracies to democratic popular control.

    • Sigh. No, not unless they can render ‘democracy’ meaningless. Which is what we seem to have now. The form of democracy, sometimes, but with the oligarchs running the planet. And we can be sure the bastards will never relinquish a nanoparticle of gain, control, or privilege without a fight. And they fight dirty, and for keeps. Violence makes me uncomfortable — it always brings such suffering. But shit — billions of ordinary people are suffering and dying anyway from the current system. Thanks for your good comment. – Linda

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