by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of American Reporter Correspondent
January 29, 2015
A VICTORY OVER AUSTERITY IN GREEK ELECTIONS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- If Americans are wondering why the leftist Syriza Party resoundingly won the Greek parliamentary elections this week, consider these statistics.
Greece's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined 29 percent since 2010, the year the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monatary Fund - known as "the Troika" - demanded massive cuts to health care, education, public infrastructure and pensions, as well as layoffs of public and private workers and a massive sell-off of publicly controlled assets, in exchange for bailout loans.
The unemployment rate in Greece is about 26 percent. More than 60 percent of Greek youth are without work. Wages have been cut by about 30 percent, and pensions have been reduced by 45 percent.
About one-third of Greeks live below the poverty line. A similar number are without health insurance.
Writing in Dollars & Sense magazine, sociology professor Mike-Frank Epitropoulos says these figures are worse than the U.S. economy in the 1930's, at the height of the Great Depression.
Syriza, led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipiras, campaigned on a platform of reversing the austerity measures imposed by the Troika in exchange for $284 billion in bailouts, and for renegotiating the terms on its debt.
The party won 149 of the 151 seats it needed to form a majority in Parliament, and it was able to quickly form a coalition government with another anti-austerity party, the center-right Greek Independent Party.
"The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity," said Tsipiras on the day of the election. "Democracy will return to Greece."
Ending the financial nightmare that the Greeks find themselves in is easier said than done, but Syriza's victory gives hope to other EU countries - such as Spain, which has elections later this year - that are suffering under Troika-imposed austerity.
The modest amount of economic stimulus that the Obama Administration got through Congress in 2009 helped prevent the United States from sliding into a deeper recession.
The European Union got budget tightening and destructive economic policies that have left the Eurozone with a region-wide unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, compared to 5.6 percent in the U.S.
The battles against the forces that pushed the world onto the brink of financial collapse in 2007 and 2008 - and into the unrest that sparked the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt - also fueled the rise of the Indignados in Spain and made inevitable the creation of Occupy Wall Street in this country - and are still being fought around the world.
Many of the bankers, the hedge funders, the speculators, and assorted other grifters that caused the collapse of 2007-08 still occupy places of great influence in the financial world. And they have yet to be punished. All of the punishment has been directed at the victims of the looting, who have been told for more than seven years that austerity is the only remedy - for them.
Syriza's victory might be the first major blow in the fight to reclaim the European Union from the bankers and money men who now call the shots. That's why so many of the bankers and money men are nervous: If one country is successful in standing up to them, others might follow.
Never underestimate the power of ordinary people coming together in a common cause. The next people-powered revolution may be revving up in Greece.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.