Observing the Greek crisis makes me thankful for the resistance President Obama has shown to the banker-driven austerity agenda of the Republicans. Many are disappointed that the resistance was not stronger, or at least more effective, in reducing unemployment. I sympathize with these voices. But imagine the situation in Greece: being trapped between choices of massive unemployment and enslavement to foreign bankers, and massive unemployment and no credit at all. Then imagine being governed by forces that welcome enslavement to bankers, like the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.
The situation in Greece is not unlike the dilemma facing workers in a multinational-owned factory that seems doomed to being moved overseas, but the company keeps holding you up for wage and benefit cuts to keep an ever dwindling fraction of the jobs. The workers don’t have the power to stop the runaway. If they refuse to bend over and take the abuse, the company leaves town and blames the union. On the other hand, simple dignity argues against being forced to beg for crumbs. I recall one shop that took the desperate step of striking and trashing as many of the machines as possible on their way out.
Greek workers do not have the power to overthrow the French and German banks, and their governments. Chances are very remote of reforming the European Union into a progressive fiscal governing body that forces banks to take the full haircut in losses they deserve and brings the necessary stimulus that Greek recovery demands – the alternative to austerity. The latest banker demands include new cuts in the minimum wage, pensions and tens of thousands of public jobs. This comes on top of three previous rounds of drastic cuts. If Greece chose to go it alone and leave the EU and the euro, the cuts would be no less, perhaps even more, devastating than submitting to austerity. Leaving the euro in favor of a domestic currency would result in a 50% or more devaluation, and all Greek debts would still have to be repaid in euros. The economic restructuring would be no less intense and fearful in a go-it-alone strategy, and the risks of a military takeover would be high given the level of chaos – in fact the danger of that is high anyway.
The U.S. has immense resources compared to Greece, including its own currency and the most powerful central bank in the world. Unlike Greece, the people of the United States have the power to roll back the prerogatives and privileges of the too-big-to-fail financial sector. They have the power to turn around from austerity. This is really what the 2012 election is all about. There is no defect in the Obama campaign which cannot be corrected with sufficient mobilization of working people and their natural allies in the democratic, peace, equality and justice movements. If we ALL become Greeks, and join their chorus of mass resistance to austerity, we can not only save ourselves, but, by our own example, help save the world from depression and its threats of war as well.