By Bill Wilson — It is with no small irony that Athens and Rome are among the first to fall in a new struggle that has emerged between sovereign governments and a transnational elite that seeks to shift primacy from representative bodies to international financial institutions.
The week saw Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou call for a national referendum on whether or not the Greek people even wanted to participate in the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) — wherein Greece has received €110 billion in refinance bailout loans.
Of course, the bulk of that money actually went to bail out European banks that lent Greece the money in the first place. Meanwhile, Greece has had to accept big spending cuts and tax increases as the price for the refinance loans, which have proven to be exceptionally unpopular — as evidenced by the ongoing riots, general strikes, and other protests in and around Athens.
The outcome? Papandreou was summoned to Brussels by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicola Sarkozy, who feared the Greek people would reject the deal. And so it was that Greece, which invented democracy, was bullied into cancelling the referendum and accepting the austerity measures — all against the popular will.
This is a helpful warning to countries like Iceland that have considered joining the European Union — that the price of membership includes everything up to and including the liberty of the sovereign people.
Some have speculated that Papandreou’s gambit was actually designed to draw the opposition New Democracy party into supporting the austerity measures — leaving the Greek people without any true representatives in their government to stand against the dictates of Brussels.
The week was capped off by a contentious confidence vote that nearly ousted Papandreou’s government. He survived the vote, and planned to step aside so that a “transitional” government could implement the deal unabated. After all, can’t have those “pesky” democratic institutions or elections interfering with bailing out the European banks, right?
Italy is probably not far behind, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi barely survived a confidence vote in October. As the debt crisis spreads across the Ionian Sea, the pressure is already coming from Brussels, as Berlusconi has accepted International Monetary Fund (IMF) oversight of its own austerity measures.
As reported by the International Business Times, “a reluctant Berlusconi accepted the measure in the wake of extreme pressure from other Eurozone members at the G20 summit meeting in Cannes, France.”
Already dependent on the European Central Bank printing money to provide refinance loans to Rome, now the international financial elites are making their demands known. And so passed Italy, which is credited historically with founding the republican form of government that has become the basis for free governments all over the world.
The only question is whether Washington, D.C. is next. To be certain, before heading out of town for the G20 summit, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner paid a visit to House Speaker John Boehner to brief him on his trip.
Surely, Geithner bothered to mention that the G20 was considering boosting the IMF, which U.S. taxpayers fund, to help bail out European banks that bet poorly on sovereign debt. Because, as reported by Radio Free Europe, G20 leaders have now agreed to increase the IMF by anywhere from $300 billion to $350 billion.
The U.S. funds 17.72 percent of the IMF, and has already chipped in about $20 billion through the bank to prop up Europe. Under this new proposal, American taxpayers would be responsible for anywhere from $53 billion to $62 billion.
But it could be even worse than that. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ (R-WA) office has estimated that the actual U.S. contribution to the IMF may be more like 33 percent of the bank. If true, that would raise the U.S. stake in the European bailout to anywhere from $136 billion to $152 billion.
McMorris-Rodgers has penned legislation, HR 2313, that would take American funding away from the IMF and relieve U.S. taxpayers of the burden of bailing out foreign banks. House Republicans should force a vote on this bill, and include provisions that will explicitly prohibit any other U.S.-funded institutions, like the Federal Reserve, from bailing out Europe, too.
According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the ongoing European bailouts are being backstopped by both the Fed and the IMF, all without any vote in Congress. Whether we still live in a representative government may be determined by if there ever is such a vote.
This is not democracy. It is a global financial plutocracy that is headed at break-neck speed for authoritarianism.
Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Bill on Twitter at @BillWilsonALG.