Saturday, March 31

Tante Belle Cose - Italy does some spring cleaning

Although today's headlines seem to decry the opposite is true, citing of all things, that Over one half of Italians declare earnings under 15.000 euro per year (that's about $20,000), certain corners seem to be taking a (cosmetic) hit on extravagance this month. Here's my quick guide to pruning the rotten trees that unfortunately have very deep roots (note: the rotten apples are still left to bear more fruit):

After Prime Minister Monti cancelled Rome's Olympic run, they actually went and closed the office. Of course, only after spending 300.000 euro in preparation of the preparation of the bid; which by some accounts amounted to three meetings in which nothing was accomplished (except, perhaps signing for their paychecks). 

The Rome-based pork-barrel political office of Arcus was also finally going to be closed, after years of lawsuits for their blatant corruption, heads dismissed while undergoing trial, and reams of denouncements by consumer's associations.   This office, supposedly created to support Italy's 'Cultural Heritage' put new meaning in the word, pork-barrel: one son of one politico received 500.000 euro just to hold a convention on the five races of pigs.  

A few past Parliament Presidents have decided to forego some of their "farewell benefits" which include an office, a number of paid staff, and of course, a car & driver.  Actually, they had already passed this law that would take effect in 2023 [better not to shock the poor suffering souls who already retire with more (legal) money & benefits than many a despot dictator, not to mention all the handouts] but a few have decided to tighten their belts and relax on their top salaries (double that of any other European country), benefits and other perks.

A public letter was penned by the Directors of many a museum in Italy, including the Uffizi Gallery, decrying the fact that gophers in Parliament (not to mention the barber who makes more than Barack Obama) make about ten times what they make.  Prime Minister Monti who believes he can usher in an age of meritocracy merely by waving a magic wand, was last seen still scratching his head.

And my favorite, Berlusconi buddy & TV News show Director & Anchorman, Emilio Fede, was finally sent packing from "leading" the news with his own brand of fairly hilarious reality TV commentary.  It wasn't enough that he was caught with his pants down in Silvio's villa, that he allegedly procured hookers for the sex shows in Sardinia, but that more recently, a Swiss bank refused him when he showed up with a suitcase of money.  In his defense, at 81 years old, he says his firing was ageism, pure and simple. Talk about meritocracy.  

As for our culture of tax evasion (at the top), it's no wonder why half of Italians feel it's their right to take a little off the top given the exemplary models in their midst. 

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