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It’s a Family Affair: Political Incest in Greece

What’s all this fuss about?

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is about as a funny as a Republican defending legitimate rape, but he did manage to come up with a good one when he said he wants to ban Members of Parliament from hiring their relatives. Talk about closing the barn door too late.
There are 300 Members of Parliament and you can’t spit in the building without worrying it will hit one of the family members on their payroll. If someone started the Hemophilia party they’d be a shoo-in to win the next elections.
But Samaras, already fending off fury over the austerity measures he’s going to impose after promising he wouldn’t before pledging he would then saying he wouldn’t, but now will, doesn’t want any more political brushfires, so he’s trying to dampen anger against some well-publicized family hirings by politicians, not particularly brilliant moves when unemployment is 23.1 percent, and nearly 55 percent for those under 25.
One of Samaras’ New Democracy deputies, Vyron Polydoras, hired his daughter a few days before Panos Kammenos, the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks – and a former New Democracy big shot – admitted he hired his cousin. Another New Democracy MP, Yiannis Tragakis, also hired a relative to work in his parliamentary offices, but they can argue they’re removed three people from the list of nearly two million people without work in Greece.
Samaras, a patrician who’d fit right in with Boston Brahmins, obviously doesn’t want the ban extended to politicians hiring friends because then the government would have to fire 800,000 people instead of the 145,000 he’s going to finally lay off, but only because of pressure from international lenders who know patronage when they see it. Meritocracy may be a Greek word but it’s not practiced here because if you’ve got a pulse and know a politician you too can be appointed a rocket scientist. It helps if they’re your dad or mom.
That gives Samaras and his buddies, as well as the PASOK Socialists and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leaders a chance to get ready to hire their friends when Samaras’ uneasy coalition government falls. The big loophole in this phony ban is that if an MP can’t hire someone in his family, he can hire his friends, and other friends can hire his daughter or son or cousin.
Greece is drowning in nearly $460 billion in debt because New Democracy and PASOK governments hired hundreds of thousands of unnecessary workers for generations in return for votes. In democracies – unlike Greece’s plutocratic oligarchy – that’s called vote-rigging and is a crime, but it’s as common in Greece as corruption or blaming the Ottoman Empire for everything that’s gone wrong.
Samaras has made sure he’s taken care of his friends too. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wryly pointed out that when Samaras was Culture Minister in yet another one of his no-heavy lifting jobs, that he packed the New Acropolis Museum with hires from his home area of Messenia and Samaras didn’t deny it, so let’s not hear him complaining about MP’s hiring their entire families.
Polydoras pointed out that he’s entitled as an MP to hire six people but hired only one. He didn’t say what her salary was, of course, nor did Kammenos – the King of the Hypocrites who had railed against corruption – nor Tragakis. One thing’s for sure: it’s a lot more than zero, which is what 500,000 unemployed Greeks whose meager monthly benefit of $475 have run out are not getting. There’s another 1.15 million people still collecting their paltry unemployment checks – but pay taxes on it.
Greek political leaders are rich or married into money, like Kammenos, tied to the Fage dairy cartel that charges more for yogurt in Greece than the rest of Europe or the U.S. Samaras – who doesn’t need the money – can always fall back on his wife’s family fortune in the Kyknos tomato business, so he’s got both juice and sauce. That’s inbreeding of a different type, but political incest is the preferred method the rich and privileged use to make sure commoners don’t put their hands on the money.
Kammenos, oblivious to why he was being criticized, fessed up right away but his indignation wasn’t feigned as he can’t understand why Greeks who were hired for no-work jobs are upset that he’s hiring his cousin to do, well, no one know what he’s going to do. “Yes, I brought him to Parliament to have him close to me,” said Kammenos, according to media reports.  “He is a university professor and has taken on organizational tasks for the party. He works from morning until night. What’s the problem?
And, sounding a lot like Roseanne Roseannadanna, he said: “Why all this fuss?” Politics makes strange bedfellows after all, but maybe Kammenos is keeping his cousin too close, or maybe they’re kissing cousins, but Greece, after all, has perfected featherbedding so why not keep it all in the family?
Kammenos suggested that he was being targeted by opponents because he had criticized the government for failing to keep state TV channels broadcasting via analogue signals, thereby forcing viewers to get digital decoders, so someone please check to see who has the decoder contract. Polydoras may have made the smoothest move though as he was acting as Parliamentary Speaker for just one day following the inconclusive May 6 elections and sneaked his daughter in the back door when no one was looking.
She’s still working for him, as Kammenos’ cousin is for him and Tragakis’ relative is too because under the Greek Constitution it’s virtually impossible to fire anyone, even if they’ve been disciplined, reprimanded, robbed the treasury, set their desk on fire, killed their supervisor, or never bothered to show up. Apparently all of Samaras’ friends are still working at the museum too, and since most every Greek civil servant got their job the same way the families of Members of Parliament did, why all the fuss? Never mind.

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