Tag Archives: Greek austerity measures

Hey Merkel, leave the Greeks alone

Illustration by Manos Symeonakos

A year ago, a month ago, perhaps even a week ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about Greeks needing to work more would have gone down as badly in Athens as a joke about room service in the Strauss-Kahn household. They would have sparked another exchange of barbed comments between Athens and Berlin and further histrionics from the more rabid elements of the media in the two countries. This time, Merkel’s words landed quietly on a pile of other comments made about Greece over the last few days.

Greeks have been hit this week by a barrage of opinions on debt restructuring, new loan agreements and even political consensus. And at the end of it, they are none the wiser. Restructure now, say some economists and European officials. It is too early, others say. Only soft restructuring should be discussed, argue some experts. Substantial haircuts are required if Greece is to survive, say others. Greece will need new loans to stay afloat, say the whispers in the corridors of power in Brussels and Washington. We are not applying for any more emergency funding, say those who hold power in Athens. Get your political parties to agree, says a European commissioner. It is our democratic right to disagree, says the leader of the Greek opposition.

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Standing in union

Illustration by Manos Symeonakis

Whether it’s Athens, Wisconsin, or Athens, Greece, it’s the same old story: “I don’t want my son to go to school and have 35 people in his kindergarten class.” These words could have come from a parent in the Greek capital concerned about the PASOK government’s plans to merge schools and reduce education spending as part of its austerity measures. In fact, they were spoken by a father from another Athens, the community of 1,000 or so people in the American state of Wisconsin.

Tony Schultz expressed his fears to The Associated Press earlier this month as thousands of Wisconsinites stepped up protests against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s drastic budget cuts, which include $900 million being slashed from funding for schools, in an effort to tackle a deficit expected to grow to $3.6 billion within two years. Like their Greek counterparts, civil servants in Wisconsin are also having their salaries cut. The similarities do not end there. As in Greece, many voters in Wisconsin feel Walker’s measures have been rammed through the legislature with little respect for transparency or the democratic process.

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