Time To Fight Our Tea Party Policies, Or Wind Up Like Greece

USA Must Avoid Greece’s Fate By Fighting GOP’s Tea Party Policies (VIDEO)

By now we’ve all heard the same narrative repeated on the Greek debt crisis: this is what happens when people don’t pay their taxes. This is what happens when you have a generous welfare state that allows you to retire young with lavish benefits in a country where no one’s paying for it. Those lazy Greeks want to sit in the sun and enjoy the good life while their neighbors to the North in Germany and Finland are working overtime, and now they’re paying the ultimate price.

Slow down.

There is some truth to the narrative: Greeks were retiring at 58 while the Germans raised their standard age to 67. Tax evasion was so rampant that by 2009 the average citizen in Greece was making nearly double what they reported to the government when bank data is compared to government tax collection data. The problem was particularly rampant among the self-employed who report their own incomes.

However, one must be careful to recognize that when some have outsized political and economic power in a country, they have a disproportionate effect on that country’s policies and the enforcement of those policies. For decades, the oligarchs who run Greece’s shipping industry, soccer clubs and construction companies have been tax exempt, and have exerted control over a corrupt parliament that was told to look the other way as the elite made out like bandits. When Greece did make structural changes in the form of austerity measures, the economy shrank by 25% and wages fell for the middle and working classes, as they did in the U.S. during the 2008 financial crisis. In Greece, as in the U.S., bailout money was lavished on banks instead of the people who could use it to stay financially afloat. The corrupt elite remained in power, ultimately stoking outrage that led to the victory of left-wing Syriza earlier this year.

Now, Greece has confirmed that it will default on its payments to the IMF, and this is sending shock waves through the global economy even though Greece is only 2% of Europe’s GDP and .3% of the world’s. At this point no one knows whether Greece will receive more 11th-hour bailouts or leave the Euro zone. This is already having a strong impact on financial markets, as European stocks slide. My fellow Reverb writer Marc Belisle has written that the situation on the streets in Greece today reminds one of the Great Depression. Whether Greeks accept a bailout and more austerity or reject the Euro and default on their debt, either way they and the European and possibly global economy will feel the pain.

For progressives in the United States, we must educate ourselves about the corrupt elite in Greece that created a system in which government looked the other way while the rich paid nothing and the middle class paid less than they owed in taxes. Conservatives will argue that the United States must raise the retirement age, cut social security and medicare and slash food stamps to keep the country from sliding into crushing debt like Greece. We must counter that the Tea Party’s policies of cutting the IRS’ budget so that there are fewer audits and tax fraud is easier are putting us on the path toward a greater debt crisis. Giving tax breaks and subsidies to the already wealthy and allowing hundreds of billions to stay untaxed in offshore accounts is putting the United States on a path toward its own debt crisis. Allowing too big to fail banks to stay too big to fail and permitting the corrupting of our democracy from billionaire campaign contributions is also setting us on the path toward a debt crisis and long-term financial ruin. Just like in Greece, our own economic and political elite will tolerate corruption as long as it benefits them. It is the politically active and informed among us, then, who must take steps to elect leaders who are not beholden to the billionaire class and will ensure that the rich are not given a free pass while the rest of us pay for it.

How corrupt elites and austerity measures led to the collapse of Greece.

Photo Credit: YouTube Screen Capture, The Collapse of Greece

I am a history, economics and political science teacher and union representative at a Brooklyn, NY high school. I am passionate about education, labor rights, income inequality and creating an economy and government in the USA that is truly of, by and for the people

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I am a history, economics and political science teacher and union representative at a Brooklyn, NY high school. I am passionate about education, labor rights, income inequality and creating an economy and government in the USA that is truly of, by and for the people

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App