I’ve been saying for three years now that one of the weaknesses of Zero Hedge is that, being a US site, its knowledge of Europe on the ground is superficial. Over the weekend, in fact, ZH may well have been duped (at one level or another) by ‘attachments’ purporting to come from the office of Yanis Varoufakis. The fact that the letter is ‘officially’ listed on EU sites won’t cut any ice with Brussels-watchers: the EC, Draghi and Schäuble have done (and are doing) far worse things than doctoring a letter.
Below is how the Varoufakis letter ends….there are two things to note here:
The signature seems genuine, but note that nowhere does it touch the ‘PS’. This could easily have been added later. However – equally important – it says that the attachments correspond to the list order of 23rd February. That’s the Tuesday before Perfidious Friday. Nowhere in that list does it say anything about the paragraphs below, which ZH reproduces from the attachments:
The first paragraph sounds real enough, although Varoufakis is talking about tax evasion here, not avoidance. The rest of it is a fantasy, and so toxic that nobody in their right mind would write it down for the ECB et al to leak instantly. The funniest passage for me is ‘students, housekeepers and even tourists in areas ripe for tax evasion….wired for sound and video….the data that they will produce will have legal weight and be actable upon….to issue penalties and sanctions’.
Somehow, an army of spies is to be recruited from a hotch-potch of people just gagging to have their own cash-paid lifestyle put in jeopardy.
Zero Hedge is, as far as I can see, very anti-Big State – as am I. But I’m not a libertarian…and the evidence over the years suggests that ZH is. I’d guess that, at the moment, given the choice between the Troika and Syriza, the various Tylers are having a job deciding whom they hate most.
The remote possibility that Yanis was just taking the mickey with this suggestion is hugely overridden by one obvious motive for faking the attachment: to scare the crap out of upper working and middle-class Syriza supporters……thus pushing them back towards other alternatives more acceptable to Troika2. And that says to me probably Schäuble, perhaps Draghi, or the CIA.
That Zero Hedge would be receptive to such a sting is evident in much of the editorial comment about Greece in the rest of the piece:
‘And here comes the Greek tax collecting police state….the only attitude it will shift is one toward civil war, as millions of Greeks, long used to generations of free-riding, are suddenly forced by the Greek Tax-collector police state to change their behavior, to which they will respond appropriately.
Ain’t gonna happen, especially when one considers what happens to the tax-collector hopefuls once of them is captured and beaten to an inch of his life or just an inch further…. should this plan pass, the Varoufakis government has at most a few days before it is swept from power, most likely violently.’
Oh dear. First up, these small traders are not the ones Syriza is after…but featuring them betrays a Troikanaut mindset. Varoufakis has himself said the priority is to “destroy the oligarchy”: Spiro selling baseball caps in the street is not who he has in mind.
Second, in case ZH hadn’t noticed, the Prime Minister is Alexis Tsipras, not Yanis Varoufakis.
Third, ‘beaten to within an inch of his life’ and ‘swept from power’ are just ridiculous generalisations that belong on the loopy wing of the Republican Party.
Finally, ZH is the only news provider to have gone with this interpretation. All the others on offer (beyond the usual lunatic fringe) are clear about Syriza’s real target for bringing tax evasion to an end. This, for example, on the February 23rd text from Reuters (my emphases):
‘Work toward creating a new culture of tax compliance to ensure that all sections of society, and especially the well-off, contribute fairly to the financing of public policies. In this context, establish with the assistance of European and international partners, a wealth database that assists the tax authorities in gauging the veracity of previous income tax returns….Staff adequately, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the GSPR and in particular the high wealth and large debtors units of the revenue administration and ensure that it has strong investigative/prosecution powers, and resources building on SDOE’s capacities, so as to target effectively tax fraud by, and tax arrears of, high income social groups….Identify cost saving measures through a thorough spending review of every Ministry and rationalization of non-salary and non-pension expenditures which, at present, account for an astounding 56% of total public expenditure…..’
The letter does indeed mention ‘robust use of surveillance technology’: but the rest of it leaves one in no doubt that such equipment is going to be in fat Ministries and on Ouzo Palaces, not street vendors and tavernas. The real problem of Greece’s economic development is crooked bureaucrats and tax-evading plutocrats. Varoufakis knows this. Obviously Zero Hedge doesn’t.
Anyway, tomorrow’s another day for all you Eurogroupies out there; let’s see what develops from the meeting. Thus far – in the light of this black op – the gossip is ironic: most attendees, apparently, have ignored the letter.