[Ok-sus] Fw: Struggles Mount for Greeks as Economy Faces Winter

Robert Waldrop bwaldrop1952 at att.net
Tue Dec 18 08:17:56 CST 2012


The rest of the article is behind a paywall, but the snip illustrates the social 
justice issues of the economic problems of Greece, as it tells a story of an 
apartment building, owned by its residents, debating on whether they should buy 
fuel oil for heating this winter or not.

These are the same choices that we will eventually have to make right here in 
Oklahoma City. This is the road where the faux austerity proposed by our 
politicians leads.  I say "faux austerity" because there will always be money 
for bombs, missiles, and the favored toys of the rich and the powerful, but 
programs that benefit everyone else will be under continual assault. 


That's one reason why we have worked so hard on our various energy conservation 
measures and spent money.  The money we've spent amounts to less than $10/square 
foot, yet, we can stay comfortable in the winter, and reasonably comfortable in 
the summer, even if grid electricity is not available -- OR -- it may be 
available, but we may not be able to afford to buy it.  I'm a card carrying 
member of the Baby Boom generation.  My present plan is to work seven more years 
and then retire. By then the hot water heater will be on the room, the buffers 
for the north and south faces of the house will be in place, and we will have 
figured out some solution for our "impossible situation" for floor insulation 
("impossible" because our crawl space is too small and excavating the foundation 
for exterior insulation is considered a pretty risky endeavor).  


Like the Greeks, my house will be paid for before then.  So you could say that a 
significant component of my retirement plan is debt-free housing, that is super 
cheap to operate and keep comfortable, and lots of edible landscaping.  Or as 
much as Okie City will let me have, lol. This next year I will be the 
strawberry, oregano, and thyme King of Gatewood, as those plants won't grow over 
their 2 ft limit. 


I deliver food every month to lots of elderly people whose only income is social 
security.  To say that they are in "dire straits" is an understatement.  Their 
houses are always cold in the winter and hot in the summer. They can't afford to 
heat and cool their drafty, leaky, poorly insulated homes. This last weekend, we 
delivered food to one guy and in our conversation, found out that he is a former 
NASA engineer, now living in public housing.

Bob Waldrop, OKC


Struggles Mount for Greeks as Economy Faces Winter 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324481204578175232716211850.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth


ATHENS—Maria Katri sent her son to live at a charitable home for poor boys after 
Greece's economy crashed.  Now, as Greece slides deeper into depression, the 
widowed mother is so poor that her teenage daughter, who stills lives at home, 
is "jealous that her brother is having a better time than her in the 
institution," Ms. Katri says. 


The spread of economic hardship is fraying Greece's social fabric and straining 
its political cohesion as the country enters the harshest winter of its 
three-year-old debt crisis. Even the tightknit Greek family—an institution that 
has helped the population to absorb a collapse in employment—is under pressure 
as household incomes dwindle. 


Tens of thousands of Greek protesters gathered outside Parliament on Nov. 7 as 
lawmakers debated new austerity measures. Police used tear gas to disperse about 
500 violent youths. 


Many families are sliding down the economic ladder that their parents and 
grandparents climbed, often making them reliant on those same retirees' 
shrinking pensions. Already-poor families are slipping off the ladder, into the 
arms of overburdened charities. In a country of 11 million, only 3.7 million 
people have jobs, down from 4.6 million four years ago. Economic activity has 
shrunk by over 20% in that time. 


The pressure on society is testing the country's political stability. Crumbling 
establishment parties cling to office. Radical-left populists wait in the wings, 
promising to restore state largess. Violent neo-Nazis are boosting their 
political profiles by exploiting fear of immigrants, crime and social breakdown. 
Many Greeks worry that the current government coalition could collapse in 2013, 
leading to renewed political turmoil that could revive the specter of national 
bankruptcy and exit from the euro . . . 


Mr. Tzovaras and his wife have owned their mortgage-free apartment  for decades. 
Greece's tradition of widespread property ownership has  been another vital 
shock absorber. Greece has one of the highest rates  of owner-occupancy in 
Europe, and heavy mortgages are less common than  in Spain or Ireland. But the 
government, desperate for revenues, is  taxing property heavily even as 
household incomes decline.   The couple's apartment block, like most  
residential buildings in Athens, is gripped by disagreement over whether  to buy 
fuel for the central heating this winter, when outside  temperatures can touch 
freezing. New taxes have made heating oil nearly  as costly as gasoline. Half of 
the Tzovaras' neighbors can't afford it  and voted to leave the heating off. 
"We'll be using more blankets this  winter," Mr. Tzovaras says.   
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