Feature

Greece: Raging against a looming default

Thousands of angry youths rioted after the Greek parliament passed another brutal austerity plan in order to receive a second bailout package from the EU.

Don’t the Greeks have enough problems without burning their cities? asked Claes Arvidsson in the Stockholm Svenska Dagbladet. The riots last weekend, after the Greek parliament passed another brutal austerity plan, were painful to watch. Thousands of angry youths threw rocks and set buildings alight—to protest what? “Don’t they get it? The money is gone. Revenues are too low and spending is too high.” Without severe cuts, they face national bankruptcy. Still, perhaps they deserve some compassion. After years of profligacy, they’re simply no longer used to seeing a bill come due. Now their salaries and pensions are being slashed and their taxes raised. “No wonder they are in despair.”

Who wouldn’t be? said Nikos Konstandaras in the Athens Ekathimerini. We are at risk of losing “our identity, our civilization.” If Greece defaults and gets kicked out of the euro zone, we will find ourselves alone with the very vices that got us here: squabbling politicians, a bloated bureaucracy, corruption, and unaccountability. “If EU regulations could not limit our sloppiness, incompetence, and indifference, what will make us better when we find ourselves in proud isolation?” That’s why we have to make these new reforms work, said the Athens Ta Nea in an editorial. “We still have a long way to go, with new and even more painful sacrifices than those already made.” But if we implement this latest austerity plan quickly, we can regain the confidence of the international community and get the promised second bailout package from the EU.

Dream on, said Andrew Lilico in the London Telegraph. No matter how austere a budget Greece passes, it “probably won’t ever see a cent” of the bailout. The brutal truth is that when the euro zone countries agreed last year to another bailout, “Greece was not expected to last this long.” Many countries never would have agreed to the deal if they thought they’d actually have to pay, and they will now come up with all kinds of technical objections to excuse themselves from doing so.

Just put Greece out of its misery, said Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times. Let it default. The austerity plan will not help matters—“after a few months it will become clear that the cuts in Greek wages and pensions will have worsened the depression.” I’m not saying we should kick Greece out of the euro. Let it “default inside the monetary union, and then use a sufficiently increased rescue fund” to help it rebuild. Granted, this will be very expensive. “But to ignore reality for another two years will be ruinous.”

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