Greece austerity protests reminiscent of America’s troubles
Published: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011 21:10
This word has plagued the news media as of late and while a person can infer its meaning from the context, what does it actually mean?
The Random House dictionary reads that it is "an austere quality, severity of manner, life, etc.; sternness."
In the most simplistic terms it means severe self-denial.
Currently around the globe, many local, state, and federal governments seek to impose austerity measures in the wake of the financial crisis and the modern day depression.
They deprive their constituents of services to save money, services that have been deemed unnecessary by bureaucrats who make good salaries, have health benefits and live in affluent neighborhoods.
In the case of Greece and her citizens, the government has decided to change taxation protocols, impose a number of public sector, spending and benefit cuts and privatize state- owned utilities.
This is what has the Greek people protesting. They are screaming and walking off jobs because they believe that the government is being unrealistic in its attempt to remain solvent and keep the Euro Zone stable.
Until 2011, people in Greece could retire with full pensions as early as 50.
In an effort to save the country money, they increased the standard retirement age to 65 and did away with the early retirement possibility.
They also instituted a whole host of new taxes, including ones on property owners that have people scrambling to pay while others flat out refuse to help.
Also, wage earners used to enjoy a tax-free earnings limit of 12,000 euros, but that was lowered to 8,000 euros in an attempt to recover revenue that has gone uncollected.
The key to tax collection, however, is wages paid out.
Greece has decided to slash the income of public sector employees by as much as 15 percent and will only be filling half of the jobs left by workers retiring out of the workforce, therefore reducing paid wages.
But, those who are leaving the workforce and looking to the Greek social security program will find that those benefits have been reduced and if they haven't worked for 40 plus years they won't receive them all.
The government decided that they should suffer with the people and they reduced spending in key areas such as education, closing almost 2,000 schools.
It has terminated temporary public sector employees and sold off major percentages of port authorities, financial institutions, the electric company and the telephone company.
Next year the water company, airports and transportation systems are going up on the block.
So it's possible, in order to prevent the destabilization of the European Union and, by proxy, the global economy, Greece has decided to let its people shoulder the burden and sell off infrastructure to the highest bidder.
The people, on the other hand, disagree. They have spent the past weeks walking off of their jobs, showing the government how important they are and withholding taxes the state says it desperately needs.
How long before the government sees that in the grand scheme of things they need the laborers?
How long before our own nation realizes that no money can be made to fix the floundering economy with no employed work force?
Politicians can stand in front of groups of individuals talking about creating jobs and fixing the defunct systems we have, but it will only happen one working class taxpayer at a time.
When the CEO of America's favorite soft drink gets on the nightly news and says China is open for business and America makes it harder to thrive, then we have a problem.
A country built on the dream that anyone can start a company and that small business is the life blood sure hasn't shown it in a great many years.
The conglomerates flourish and the mom and pops fold. It's a sad day when you can't change doctors because every one of them in a 50- mile radius is owned by the same medical group.
How long before we follow in Greece's footsteps?
Before we sacrifice everything that made us great to pay the bills instead of cracking down on the tax codes to recapture funds that should be in national coffers?
How long before we cut standards in education and social programs to the point that we most resemble the conditions from the Cold War USSR that spurned that country's drive for democracy?
What does it take to couple our great technological advancements with ideals of the past to help put America back to work like she wants to be?
I wonder about these questions and often times sadly, I think another Great Depression is just what we need as motivation, but enough austerity measures could be levied so that those days, I'm afraid, will be long forgotten.
Mandie is a junior majoring in secondary social science education. She is married with two children and serves on the Board of Directors of C.A.R.E.S. Suicide Prevention.