PARIS – After months of wrangling, the showdown between Greece and its European creditors has come down to a standoff over pensions and taxes. Greece is refusing to acquiesce to demands by its creditors that it cut payments to the elderly and raise the value-added tax on their medicine and electricity.
Europe’s demands – ostensibly aimed at ensuring that Greece can service its foreign debt – are petulant, naive, and fundamentally self-destructive. In rejecting them, the Greeks are not playing games; they are trying to stay alive.
Whatever one might say about Greece’s past economic policies, its uncompetitive economy, its decision to join the eurozone, or the errors that European banks made when they provided its government with excessive credit, the country’s economic plight is stark. Unemployment stands at 25%. Youth unemployment is at 50%.
Greece’s GDP, moreover, has shrunk by 25% since the start of the crisis in 2009. Its government is insolvent. Many of its citizens are hungry.