The burning question beneath the more obvious issue of whether Greece should abandon the euro is what price the Greek people will pay if they decide to abide by the harsh austerity policies imposed on them by the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Banks.
Greece’s creditors are insisting that it impose severe tax hikes and pension cuts to secure much-needed loans. The level of imposed immiseration behind such policies seems unimaginable in the 21st century. For example, in addition to the call for increased taxes and reduced benefits, there is an insistent demand to further reduce by 200 euros the meager pensions most Greeks receive.
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Existing austerity measures in Greece have already left millions in utter precarity while leaving the resources and lifestyles of the financial elite untouched. The unemployment rate in Greece hovers around 27 percent. Throughout Greece, people now inhabit what might be called zones of abandonment, spaces defined by the need to simply survive. These are spaces inhabited by people who lack viable employment, adequate food, health care and sustainable pensions. It is estimated that more than 1.3 million are jobless, while many people sift through garbage cans for food to survive.
It gets worse. The decision to stay the course with the euro has to be measured against the hard realities of human suffering as evidence by the fact that suicides are rising in Greece at alarming rates as a result of the economic hardships produced by the imposed austerity measures. For example, a 2014 study found a link between spending cuts and increased suicide rates among Greek men, while a 2013 paper found a similar connection in Spain following the financial crisis.
What these reports make clear is that austerity policies of the financial elite have inflicted misery and suffering on most of the population. By imposing such measures on Greece and other countries, the troika has embarked on financial warfare.
The Greek people have been brought to their knees under the imperatives of an austerity policy that is not only counterproductive but brutally punishing. Abandoning the euro offers the possibility of bringing this brutal austerity project to an end by putting the needs of the Greek people before those of international banks. Staying with the euro and paying off Greece’s massive debt means a future in which a predatory financial system inflicts more pain, protracted suffering and hardship for the Greek people.
Dumping the euro at least speaks to the possibility of another choice, one that will be hopefully far more humane than the punishing strictures of the current politics of austerity inextricably tied to an embrace of the euro.
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