A green solution to the economic crisis insists that people and the environment can be saved together. We must dare to envision prosperity in conjunction with sustainability, social justice, nonviolence, and participatory democracy.
A rational analysis would make it clear that the Greek people did not “create” the economic crisis. Yet the poor and middle classes are being asked to “pay” for it. There is massive corruption in the public sector in Greece. But this should not blind us to the fact that the Greek people do not bear the major responsibility for creating the crisis. Those responsible include:
- the international money interests (the 1%) who at this very moment are charging 26% interest on the Greek national debt and “hedging” their “bets” (betting for and against a complete collapse of the Greek economy) and hoping to “win” (make money on their bets) in either case;
- the international military industrial complex (which US President Eisenhower warned might one day control the world) that is selling more arms to Greece per capita than to any other country in Europe;
- the industrial interests in the larger countries in Europe which viewed the eurozone as an open market to sell their products (thus raising the GDP in industrialized countries like Germany);
- European leaders who promote the interests of their own players in the international financial, military, and industrial marketplace above the good of the whole;
- the Greek governmental elite (the 10%?) who have pocketed bribes and stolen money from public coffers;
- and finally the Greek people (the 99% or the 90%) who have participated in or benefited in small ways from a corrupt system.
Greece has a huge national debt. I have yet to see a rational analysis indicating how much of it is due to interest rates on the national debt, how much to the military budget, how much to spending on the Olympic Games, how much to nonpayment of taxes, how much to graft, and how much to the items in the budget that Europe has asked Greece to cut, including public salaries, health care, public works, and pensions. A first step in a rational European economic policy would be to lower the 26% interest rate on the Greek debt.
Greek politicians (the 10%) share some of the blame. Former Minister of Defense Akis Tsohatzopoulos reportedly told a judge that “one day” 2,000,000 E “appeared” in his bank account and that he had “no idea” where the money came from. Government officials must be punished and made to pay back the money they have stolen from the public. Because so many are involved, this will require a complete break from the two major political parties.
Yet a Minister of Defense could not have gotten so rich if Greece had a rational military budget. We need to move higher up to find those who created the problem. It is a well-kept secret that while Greece was cutting wages and pensions and imposing new taxes in 2010, it was spending 1 billion E on French and German weapons, with a total of 7.1 billion E on all military spending. It is almost impossible to speak of cutting the military budget because the international military industrial complex is too powerful. A rational economic policy for Greece (and Europe) must involve major cuts in military budgets.
The “solution” to the Greek economic crisis proposed by the European Union is “Austerity” packages combined with loans to pay the interest (but not the principal) on the Greek debt. Since the imposition of the 1st “Austerity” package, sales taxes have risen to 23%. Taxes have been imposed on primary residences, many of which are owned by the elderly whose pensions have been reduced. Public sector salaries and pensions have been cut beyond any rational minimum. Small businesses are struggling; many have already closed. More than 20% of the population is unemployed, while youth unemployment may be over 40%. The new “Austerity” package will require more cuts. The euro itself introduced inflation in prices with no increase in salaries. The new taxes make survival almost impossible for many.
The Greek people voted “against” the two major parties and “against” the 2nd “Austerity” package already negotiated with the European Union. The 90% and the 99% are being asked to pay for a situation created by the 10% and the 1%. The “Austerity” packages are not a solution as they do not pay down the debt. The best hope for Greece is a coalition government with new voices that can convince the European Union to renegotiate the terms of the second “Austerity” package. Such a new package should focus on lowering the 26% interest rate on the national debt, taxing the rich, going after tax evaders and corrupt politicians, drastically cutting the military budget, and reducing the intolerable burden already being paid by pensioners, the poor, and the middle classes.
A green solution to the economic crisis insists that people and the environment can be saved together. Green proposals for the economy include attending to island issues, recycling, promoting Greek organic products and olive oil, year-around ecotourism, local planning for sustainable energy, and preserving the natural beauty of Greece. We must dare to envision prosperity in conjunction with sustainability, social justice, nonviolence, and participatory democracy. We are the 99%.
Carol P. Christ is running in the Greek national elections on the Green Party ticket. She has worked with Friends of Green Lesbos and WWF-Greece to protect wetlands in Lesbos and with Lesvos Go Green on recycling. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute.