My Greek Uncle Rathos spent two months living in the dark. In September 2011, in response to pressure from its European creditors, the Greek government imposed a new property tax to be paid via electric utility bills. A construction contractor hit hard by the financial crisis, my uncle couldn’t make those tax payments and so his electricity was cut off. Reportedly, 350,000 other households suffered the same fate. This was just one in a series of austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund and other lenders to deal with the supposed debt crisis: i.e., that Greece’s ratio of debt to Gross Domestic Product was too high. But rather than find ways to pump up Greece’s economy and thus its GDP, the IMF and Eurozone leaders have focused on bringing down its debt. Austerity measures toward this end have included wage cuts and layoffs of civil service workers, reduced job security and severance pay for private sector workers, reduced benefits and imposed budget cuts, all of which have exacerbated unemployment levels that, as of this writing, are about 27% overall and 60% for those under 25. Additionally Greece was called on to engage in “structural change,” that is, to make its economy more conducive to market processes via methods such as privatization. There is no alternative, the people are told Continue reading
Over at Delliberately Considered, Tim Rosenkranz reports on a recent piece by Jurgen Habermas in a German news magazine in which he excoriates the German Chancellor for her “opinion-poll dominated opportunism.”
While the article focused on the problem of European integration and the continuing democracy deficit of the institutional frame of the European Union, Jürgen Habermas points his finger at significant systemic problems of today’s democratic political process – between civil society, the public sphere, political elites and the media-sphere – the problem being the loss of larger political projects in a process driven by the short-term politics of public opinion polls.
Read the piece here.