1. Question: Greeks borrowed too much, isn’t that right?
Answer: Maybe, but who didn’t? In 2008, before the banking crisis wrecked Greece’s economy, their debt-to-GDP ratio was 100%. Not great, for sure. But not horrible or unsustainable. Compare that with the current numbers for the U.S. and Japan – 101% and 220%, respectively. Even Germany, who loves to lecture people on debt, is at 75%; the U.K. is at 90%.
Next, look at this chart below (from The Guardian):
On a global level, the total debt – government, household and corporate debts – is more than $200 trillion or 300% of world GDP!
The whole world needs to go to “debtaholics anonymous.” So, yeah, let a person from a debt-free country cast the first stone.
2. Question: But shouldn’t the Greek people take responsibility for their debt? Didn’t they lie about their finances to get into the EU?
Answer: Are we always responsible for the actions of the leaders of our country? As individual Americans, are we responsible for the $18 trillion of debt — about $60,000 per person? How would you feel if you are asked today to pay $60,000 and take responsibility for your country?
As for the fudging of the numbers, it was Goldman Sachs that worked with a handful of Greek and Italian bankers to fudge the debt numbers for those two countries. Should all Greeks and Italians be held fully responsible for the actions of a few banksters?
By the way, the Goldman Sachs guy who was responsible for this manipulation is Mario Draghi, and he is now the president of ECB (European Central Bank) that is demanding blood from the Greeks.
3. Question: Why can’t the Greeks just stick to the austerity plan and reduce their debt like the other countries?
Answer: Because, austerity doesn’t reduce the debt burden. Look at the chart below for the crisis in Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Every single one of them has higher debt-to-GDP ratio now than in 2008. The medicine is worse than the disease. They are all worse off today than before. They are all getting “Walmart-ized” –part-time jobs (replacing full-time jobs), lower wages, smaller pension, reduced benefits, dwindling government revenues, higher income and wealth inequality, huge layoffs of public employees, profitable public assets being sold off to international corporations, and so on.
50% youth unemployment, 25% reduction in GDP, 35% increase in suicides – those are the austerity numbers for Greece.
Austerity is a neoliberal wet dream that is a nightmare for 90% of the population.
4. Question: But everyone knows that Greeks are socialists who are tax avoiders, right?
Answer: Obviously, these are extremely insensitive and prejudicial statements that should never be made. Greece is #1 in small business ownership in Europe, with close to 60% of workers working at firms with less than ten employees. Greek people also work the longest hours in Europe. You know how American media and politicians always claim that small business is the backbone of America? So, unless America is aspiring to be a socialist country, Greeks are not socialists.
As for tax avoidance, yeah, tell me one country in the world where small business owners report 100% of their income. How come the same people, who get mad at the average small business owner, never seem to mind Boeing, Apple, Google and other corporations dodging trillions of dollars in taxes?
Plus, what good is going to come from all those hardworking people paying more taxes which will end up in the coffers of foreign banks and Greek oligarchs? Until we hear an American politician running on a populist, winning platform of “tax increase,” perhaps we shouldn’t demand that from the ordinary hardworking Greek citizen.
5. Question: Don’t Greeks retire early and get amazing pensions?
Answer: You mean that if they are all Walmart greeters, working for $7/hour, they will be much happier? In a world run by bankers, yeah, pensions are always prime targets. And the banksters have a lot to smile about the current status of Greek pensions – they have been slashed by 40%, with the average pension being €600 a month. People are also now required to work many more years than before to collect pension, and plans are in place to raise the retirement age to 67.
Anyone who is supporting austerity for the Greeks … is voting for crushing austerity for their own country in the very near future. Hunger Games in real life is no fun.
P.S. For most people in the western world, this is their first exposure to this kind of an economic situation. However, this is not new at all. The exact playbook has been used for many decades to take over countries around the world. Two good books to read about austerity, neoliberalism and corporatocracy are “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins and “Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein. There are also many good videos of those two authors online – such as this one for John Perkins and this one for Naomi Klein.