Athens has proposed higher taxes on the wealthy and big corporations instead, but creditors worry that that would hamper growth. (As Greece shuts banks, fears grow of Eurozone instability, By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2015)
Have the leaders of the European Union lost their minds?
Are they so steeped in the ideology of the conservative right, as custodians of the purse at the European Central Bank, that any notion of hiking taxes on the wealthy and the corporations has become so anathema to their brand that they will risk not only the Greek economy but the very survival of the European Union itself.
There has been no denial or avoidance, by the Greek Prime Minister, of the debt to the IMF of $1.8 billion, due this Tuesday. What he has been seeking is an extension of the bail-out, linked to a reasonable plan to put the Greek economy on a stable footing, through both austerity of a moderate kind, and increased revenues from those who can most afford it.
Are we seeing the arguments of the Republican Party in the United States, blocking all attempts by the Obama administration, for six years, to raise taxes on the rich and the corporations, being echoed in Brussels, and in Berlin and in all of the capitals of the European Union, in unison, as if there is some kind of sacred and holy writ that obliterates such an approach from public consciousness?
If there is even a grain of truth in the connection between the EU response to the Greek approach and the Republican arguments over the last six years in the United States, then Europe needs to listen carefully to the arguments presented on the stump by Democratic candidate for President, Bernie Sanders.
Starting from a meagre single digit percent of Democratic support, compared with front-runner Hillary Clinton's double-digit lead, Sanders has now closed the gap to 8 percentage points, running at 35% to Clinton's 43%.
Sanders' arguments that too much wealth is being held by too few, and too much power rests in the hands of those few, even to the extent of being able to "purchase the election" of 2016, as a result of the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, permitting the free flow of corporate and private cash into the political arena, as an expression of "free speech"....are getting a serious hearing and his is personally getting a serious look from voters in all the primary states, including New Hampshire, Iowa.
Such arguments are not lost on the protesters in Athens, nor are they lost on the protesters in London, and in any other capital city where austerity measures are being imposed, while the wealthy are being protected by their political serfs in power. And the IMF, along with the European Central Bank need to take a long and serious look at what they are saying. The oligarchy that has been ruling the world for the last two or three decades is about to crumble. And, with the BRIC bank having been established by countries like Brazil, India, China and Russia in opposition to the IMF, where a different set of cultural and political norms prevail, there is a shift of both money and political power and influence away from the traditional seats of 'western power' to a different set of power brokers and economic influence purveyors.
It is not only ISIS that has access and use of social media, along with access to the multitude of information outlets around the world, albeit most owned by the corporate moguls. So too do the people! And the percentage of ordinary people with cell phones and access to the world wide web is growing exponentially and that means that access to information and its manipulation and is insertion into public arguments is more widely known, better digested and capable of providing bridges of identification between and among oppressed people everywhere.
No longer can secret meetings behind closed doors, without worry of public consciousness, or without the "safety" of stories being fenced behind national borders be the sole right of the rich and the powerful. It takes only a nano-second for the right person with the right platform to tell the world what is happening. And, even though the numbers of foreign reporters in the western media have declined, through more application of austerity measures by the same kind of thinking, the world is able to rely on ordinary citizens to provide information that may not have the "vetting" of an official and credentialed newsroom and editors, nevertheless, the information is getting disseminated, And for that information, as we come to recognize our collective and shared reality on a planet whose resources are being raped and pillaged by those very corporations who hold tax hikes as edicts from Hell, there is a growing and voracious appetite.
I am certainly not an expert on either Greek economics, nor on Greek politics.
In a similar vein the Pope is not considered an expert on either the environment nor on poverty, in the classical definition of the word "expert". However, my lack of expertise is not an impediment to my identification with the poor in Greece, the government workers whose pensions have been gutted or even abandoned, as part of the austerity program already imposed. My lack of "authority" is not impeded by my moral and political and human outrage at the growing and pervasive spread of the ideology of the right, that characterizes the Greek situation and "having their cake and wanting it too".
Even Marie Antoinette would decry any association the establishment is attempting to make with her historic epithet.
"Let the rich and the powerful eat humility" should be the rallying cry, not only of the Greek electorate when they go to the polls in the upcoming referendum, to oppose the conditions being imposed by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The world shares a basic need to learn to share, to learn that those with all the money must not be permitted to exercise all the power. The world knows, when it takes the time to reflect and to consider the full implications of what is really going on, that we are not feeding the starving, although we throw away more food than would be enough to feed everyone, that we are letting 17,000 children die every day from preventable illnesses, that we have now created the largest flood of refugees (some 60,000,000) through our collective abandonment of our responsibilities to bring Middle Eastern and African conflicts to a conclusion, that we have larger gaps between the average factory/floor worker and their CEO's than at any time in history, that we have unemployment rates that threaten the stability and the peace and security of too many states, some of them current members of the EU, and that Greece is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
If Greece is permitted to default, and to be forced out of the EU, will that set a precedent to be allied to countries like Italy and Spain that are also teetering? If Greece is permitted to default, will that start a run on European currency that could and likely will embroil the currencies of other countries including those in North America and South America, as well as Asia?
Sometimes, there are higher principles than those enclosed in the capitalist economic theory books. Sometimes, those books and their theories, and especially those theories that have become political dogma, must be discarded in favour of larger and higher principles, like the shared desire to survive of millions on the planet, whose voice will not only remain silent, but continue to be stifled, by those rich enough to control the decisions of the rich and the powerful, regardless of the continent, the country or the political structure they represent.
Ordinary people, after all, are the reason for the very existence of the political institutions in all countries in the first place, not to serve the special interests of the rich and the powerful. Their fiefdoms can and will no longer be tolerated, and the sooner they come to realize that truth, the sooner decisions will be made on the economy, on the environment and on the other perplexing issues like poverty, disease, hunger and universal health care and education that can and will only lead the world from the current darkness to a second enlightenment.
The rich and the powerful are not interested in such a new historic epoch of enlightenment, for in such an environment they will not rule, as they currently do. They will be stripped of their power and influence, and it will be replaced by decisions that respect the very existence and the dreams of the ordinary people.
If you don't believe me, and many do not, a brief encounter with Bernie Sanders website, and his political deconstruction of the current morass we all face would go a long way to educating you out of your slumber.