Who are the extremists here? Is it the European authorities, which some identify with the Germans but it’s more than them? Or is it Syriza? Back in May of 2010 when they signed their first agreement with the IMF, the debt was 115% of GDP. Then the IMF and the European Commission said, “Okay, you do what we want and you’ll recover and your debt will be sustainable.” So now that that debt is over 170% of GDP — they’ve had six years of recession; they’ve lost a quarter of their GDP; 26% of their labor force is unemployed (double that for youth) — it’s clear who’s been wrong here.
Now if you want to say that they should do more, they’ve already paid a huge unnecessary price. Clearly, there was some adjustment that had to take place. The purpose of any kinds of loans or aid should be to make that adjustment easier, not to make it ten or fifty times worse than it has to be. That’s what they’ve done. So now they’ve adjusted. They’ve had one of the biggest adjustments in imports in the world — 36%. And they have now a primary budget surplus and they have a current account surplus. And the question is, when do they get the recovery after six years of this? And that’s what this fight is about. And Syriza is saying, “Look: we’ve paid too much of a price, we’ve enacted a lot of policies that were really regressive — like a big cut in minimum wage, 40% cut in healthcare spending, change in labor law that weakens the bargaining power of labor, laying off 20% of the national government workers — and we’re going to reverse some of these because we want the economy to grow. We don’t want 16% unemployment in 2018, which is what the IMF is projecting if everything goes well according to their program.”
So I think if you’re looking at it from a more neutral point of view, it’s clear that Syriza is the voice of reason as compared to the extremists that have destroyed not only the Greek economy, but have brought 11.5% unemployment in the Eurozone — which is more than twice what we have in the United States.
Interviewed on CounterSpin