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Greeks On A Teetering Greece

We bring in the Greeks to talk about what’s ahead as their country teeters.

A Greek national flag flies behind columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens on Thursday, Nov. 3 2011. (AP)

A Greek national flag flies behind columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens on Thursday, Nov. 3 2011. (AP)

It’s all about the Greeks in Europe this week, and really around the world. The Greeks’ debt. The Greeks’ crisis. The Greeks’ stunner of a sudden conversation about voting on whether or not to accept their own bail-out from Europe and the pain that would come with it.

The “hemlock ballot,” wags called it – and it’s off, apparently, already. Greece got in way over its head on debt and spending. Now it’s in a world of hurt and struggling over how to respond. In the Euro-zone, or out. In the streets, or off.

This hour On Point: we talk with Greeks about their close encounter with Greek tragedy, and ours.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Yanis Varoufakis, Professor of Economics, University of Athens, and author of The Global Minotaur: The true causes and nature of the current economic crisis.

Naya Kotsira, she is a civil servant who handles hiring and firing at Greece’s ministries.

John Psaropoulos, Greece correspondent for National Public Radio.

Vivien Ann Schmidt, Professor of European Integration at Boston University, where she is also Director of the Center for International Relations and Director of the Center for the Study of Europe

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Prime Minister George Papandreou appeared to be backing away from his plan to hold a referendum on Greece’s new loan deal with the European Union.
Before going into an emergency cabinet meeting, Mr. Papandreou suggested that he was prepared to walk away from the referendum proposal, saying that it “would not have been necessary if there had been consensus with the opposition.” He praised the opposition’s desire to support the new debt deal.”

The Wall Street Journal “CANNES, France—Europe’s leaders, making it plain that they’ve reached the end of their patience with Greece, demanded that the beleaguered nation declare whether it wants to stay in the euro currency union—or risk going it alone in a dramatic secession.”

Foreign Policy “ATHENS – Greece is no stranger to referendums. In fact, the world’s first plebiscite was held here in 483 B.C., when Athenian leader Themistocles won a vote to use silver discovered at the port of Laurium to build a fleet of 200 triremes. It set ancient Greece on its way to becoming a maritime superpower. Today, however, the words “Greece” and “superpower” don’t even belong in the same sentence. Themistocles’s descendants now face the prospect of another referendum — one that could decide whether Greece’s economy will sail on within the eurozone or sink into bankruptcy.”

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  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Given the debt that we owe the ancient Greeks, perhaps we could spare something to help out their descendants.  After all, what are the royalties on Greek philosophy, religion, science, mathematics, literature, government, and on and on?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know. While there’s no denying the great contributions the ancient Greeks have made given to civilization, I’m at odds with the premise that some Greek tycoon who’s been evading taxes for decades should be rewarded with a bailout because of something Aristotle wrote two and half thousand years ago. Really, what do any of the modern Greeks have to do with the indelible contributions of their forefathers. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing of having to ingest this hubris which is nothing short of some stupid American with an attitude berating the French or the British that we “saved their butts” despite not having lifted a finger in the process. Should we also reward the Jews for having given us Christ, the Brits for the Magna Carta and our basis for law, the Germans for Bach and Beethoven and on and on.

      Greece should be bailed out and aided based on modern terms and modern conditions and not because of something their forefathers did four thousand years ago. That only perpetuates a destructive cycle of irrational and illogical sense of entitlement. 

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        Come on, can’t you let a little sentimentality pass?  And while we’re at it, I do praise the cultures that you named for at least some of those gifts.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Have the leaders(?) of Greece made MORE sacrifice than they are demanding of the less-able?  Will the richer of those conducting black-market businesses donate their fair share to help their country?
         Parasites drag a country DOWN!   Rich parasites are the WORST!!

  • cory.

    I wish I had a crystal ball and could see what would happen if many nations refused to bow down to the global financiers.  Greece can be bullied.  Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and the like?  Not so easy to bully them all at once.

  • JustSayin

    I think what we as a nation should be asking is: How did bankers rig the system so that our personal retirement funds and tax base are financially linked to Greek tax evasion and uncontrolled socialism?

  • BHA in Vermont

    Tom, are you going to ask about the widely held belief that Greeks, as a population, are the worst tax cheats in the world?

    If it is true, how much of their troubles are linked to their failure to pay taxes due for years? I’m not inclined to play the ant to the tax cheat’s grasshopper.

  • Diogenes with his lantern

    Many of my countrymen deserve a great deal of blame, and many other countrymen have been saying that for years.  But I ask a simple question:  If a tiny country like Greece can bring down the global economic firmament, can the root of the problem really be venality, patronage jobs and tax evasion in Athens (where most of Greece and its economy resides)?  Not to shirk blame.  But we must look honestly at the problem if we are to fix it.  Physician, heal thyself.

  • JMC

    send a copy of the bailout contract to every Greek citizen and allow them to see where their austerity is going and then ask if they feel it is fair, IMF does not want to provide this type of transparency because the details would be treasonous.

  • Doggypeg

    I always have problems when I hear about Greece living beyond its means or mismanaging its budget. I doubt very much whether the average Greek storekeeper, clerk or carpenter has been living high on the hog for the last 20 or 30 years.

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/onanov Donald Baxter

    “Greece invented democracy and built the Parthenon and then decided to call it a day.”  –David Sedaris

    • BHA in Vermont

      “built the Parthenon”

      Three times :)

  • Brad

    They should default.  OccupyGreece!  

    Maybe the modern Greeks to come up democracy 2.0 that derives an alternative to consumer capitalism that has not adequately solved the equity problem.

  • Rob (in NY)

    It seems to me that the issue before the Greeks represents a pressing matter a lot of western democracies will face in the foreseeable future, which is a tendency to vote themselves financial benefits that they can not afford.  Yes, Greeks have right to vote down the austerity measures demanded by the EU, whether through its elected leaders or referendum (depending on its political system).    The rest of the EU nations then have a right to force the Greeks to leave the EU and provide them with no financial assistance.  The EU and the rest of the world can also choose to cuts their losses, not do business with Greece, and write them off as a complete joke.   

  • Heather

    Just off the phone with family in Athens. Over 40 years’ time, you never had to look far for opinions on government and the state of affairs. Now — there are no answers. Many feel that it’s the culture of corruption — a legacy of the Ottoman occupation? — that has brought them low, and no referendum or election or EU bail-out will root that out.

  • Anonymous

    One only has to look at 20th century history to understand why the Greek people are suspicious of this deal.

    A brutal occupation by the Germans in WWII was followed by a vicious civil war fought as a proxy battle in the “cold war” (although in Greece is was very much a hot war). After that, Greeks endured years of a harsh right wing military dictatorship supported by the NATO powers.

    Is it any wonder that Greeks look at the decisions being made for them in Berlin, London, Paris, and Washington with an extremely jaundiced eye?

  • Anonymous

    Iceland decided to go it alone. I’m curious. How are they different than Greece?

    • Anonymous

      Iceland is a very different situation – they were never a Euro country or even a member of the EU, so when their banks were dragged down by economic crisis in other countries, they couldn’t look to the EU for a bailout.

      Iceland is also a relatively prosperous country of barely 300,000 people far removed from the European mainland. They crisis was dealing with the obligations in paying bad debts from their banks, not a massive economic meltdown caused by a deep structural problem.

      • Drew You Too

        Iceland WAS a prosperous country. Just take a look at what played out there economicaly over the past eight years. And once again there, the problem had absolutely nothing to do with the average citizen.

        • Anonymous

          Absolutely agree that the problems in Iceland had nothing to do with average citizens – they got left holding the bag for the extreme risk taking of a bunch of international investors that decided to use Icelandic banks as a base.

          Every Icelander is on the hook for bailing out those banks, and it sucks.

          That said, the country remains relatively prosperous in the overall scheme of things – the unemployment rate is about 6% (compared to the 20% range of countries like Greece, Spain, etc) and without the massive youth unemployment seen in much of Europe, the social safety net emerged relatively unscathed without the massive cutbacks the EU is demanding in Greece, the quality of life for most residents remains high, and the devaluation of the krona has allowed the export and tourist economy to help make up for the other shocks the system endured.

          While I would never argue that the “New Vikings” disaster was good for Iceland, the reality is that even with the tremendous cost to Icelandic citizens, the country is coming through the crisis and remains “a prosperous country.”

          • Drew You Too

            You’re right, I perhaps should have said that Iceland was an extremely prosperous country before the financial and deregulation fiasco began. They have weathered the storm better than most but only because they were better prepared. In fact, prior to the nightmare that ensued I felt that Iceland was the model that the rest of the world should look to. What happened there jut goes to show that no matter how well you have your affairs in order, once the fox is allowed into the henhouse things will never be the same again.

          • Karen

            I would also like to add that it helps that Iceland boasts a 100% literacy rate and they immediately got rid of their scheister prime minister and replaced him with a lesbian woman.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Drew and Ter. This may sound simplistic but if Greece is in such a no win situation I just don’t see why they are so intent on playing the game. More imagination is needed as well as more invovlement of the Greek people who’s future is being so altered.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

      If I remember corectly, Iceland was bailed out with a $5 billion loan from the Russian Government. It seems to me that Russia should be involved in the rescue plan of their Orthodox Greek brothers.

  • Joe in Philly

    Europe abandoned Greece in 1453. And, during the Ottoman Occupation more damage was done to Greece by the marauding Crusaders than by the Turks. Recall, it was the Crusaders who pillaged Orthodox Churches and ancient sites.

    It abandoned Greece after the First and Second World Wars. Germany, Italy and Turkey – Axis Powers – were treated far better after the Second World War, especially wrt boundary creation and reconstruction. 

    It abandoned Greece during the ’60s and ’70s, by propping up the junta and in the handling of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. 

    Sadly, Brothers and Sisters, Europe has abandoned Greece in 2011. My family is from Sicily, which was founded by the ancient Greeks. I feel your pain my Hellenic Brothers and Sisters!

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      The Crusades were long over by the time that the Byzantine Empire fell in 1453, and Europe had the Turks to deal with all the way to Vienna by the 1640s.  Modern-day Greece is the creation of Romantic poets.

      • Joe in Philly

        Brother Greg, you are right. Europe abandoned Greece as far back as 1096, the “start” of the First Crusade. Thanks for reinforcing my point of a sad history of abandonment by the West. To be fair, it would be only correct to credit the efforts of Byron and other Romantic Poets, who understood that the idea of Greece was worth fighting for.

        • BHA in Vermont

          I don’t think the European countries in existence 1,000 years ago had a design of a cohesive continent. Pretty much, whatever the other country had was your for the plundering, if you had the might to take it.

          Kind of like capitalism in the USA.

  • Erin in Iowa

    I tried to get an answer to this question before the bail outs in this country in 2008: Why can’t the PEOPLE be bailed out? Why can’t the debts of the Greek people be paid off?  Let the banks fend for themselves. Couldn’t the money be better spent paying the debts of the people and their government?

    PS – The idea that their tax collection system is an honor system is ridiculous.  They need to collect taxes the way we do in the US. 

    • BHA in Vermont

      There is plenty of cheating here as well. I’m not sure we are the best model.

  • Drew You Too

    This caller is an insult to humanity

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Care to elaborate?

    • nj

      You realize that we have no way to know which caller you’re referring to, right?

  • Anonymous

    I think that Greece has to stay in the EU, and the Euro has to stay the currency of all countries in Europe.  I guess this means that the banks will have to take a loss — that is their business to take risks.  No one promised them no risk.

    Neil

    • BHA in Vermont

      In fact, the banks should NOT, on the whole, be taking risks. They did in this country and we had to bail them out. If you make loans, some will be bad. But your portfolio should be heavily on the ‘will return’ side so you DON’T lose.

      • Anonymous

        Right — but if they mess up and do make a loan that is too risky, then they have to take it.  Otherwise, they have internalized the profit, and externalized the risk, which is the root of the problem.

        Neil

    • Steve

      I do not thnk the banks will be the ones taking the loss.

      This is an easily predictable and most likely planned concentration of wealth by the upper classes.

      The brunt of the sacrifice will be carried by the tax payers of Europe and the US.

  • Xtine65

    Callers keep criticizing greeks for misleading others but we know GOLDMAN SACHS taught them the sins of the AMERICAN financhial crisis mainly how to cook balance sheets

  • BHA in Vermont

    Sounds like socialist Greece is full of Republicans. Don’t tax the rich, don’t tax the people who made a fortune while the average wo/man’s lot in life was made worse. 

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      What’s a wo/man?

      • BHA in Vermont

        Shorthand for woman or man. I’m sure you figured that out.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          It’s ugly.  Why not just use “person”?

    • your listener

      ** wo/man **

      I think it’s creatively used!!  :D

  • Constantinos

    Mr. Varoufakis (whom I’ve been reading for some time now) has been advocating a hard-line vis-a-vis the rest of Europe for some time now (a kind of bravado game of chicken). Given the reaction in Cannes the other day does he seriously believe his ideas stand a practical chance?

  • taylor

    the american congress should be seeing themselves when looking into the “Greek Mirror”. Our political leaders are against paying our incurred debts and addressing our own financial situation in a rational and effective manner

  • Harry in Madison

    I’ve read in the NY Times that Greece has a revenue problem which is rooted in part in failure to enforce tax laws.  There is apparently, a level of cynicism about the government and taxation that some use to justify flouting the tax laws.  The example used in the article is that there is a tax on swimming pools (there are many) which almost no one pays.  Please ask your guests to speak to this issue.  Is it true?

    • BHA in Vermont

      It is certainly true in the USA. The logic is “it isn’t illegal unless you get caught”. And, more often than not, if you get caught, you are still ahead because the penalty is less than what you didn’t pay.

      For example, in my city: If you finish your basement and don’t tell the city (as you are required to do), your property taxes don’t go up. If they find out at some point (most likely when you sell, if then) there is NO PENALTY, not even back taxes. But if you are a SINGLE day late paying your property tax, even if you have paid on time for 30 years, you get nailed with a several hundred dollar fine plus a percentage of what is owed.

  • Drew You Too

    And yet another “brilliant” mind on the phone.

  • ML

    Greece is the mine canary for the whole capitalist model.  A model based on unfairness isn’t viable.  Money makes money when it is labor that should create wealth.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Isn’t the single source theory of economic value too simplistic?  What about resources, money, labor, marketing, need, invention, and so forth?

    • Steve

      “We all have it comin”

      Who gets to inforce “fairness?

      • Heaviest Cat

        Steve “we the people” get to ‘enforce fariness’ . That’s what democracy is about. Of course, th eelites tend to have more ccess to the levers of power than we do so the laws tend to reflect their interests but if we would hold govt. more accountable ,we could put a major dent in that privliged access.

    • Heaviest Cat

      Well put ML

  • RD

    My sister used to work for a Greek company with headquarters in Athens. While in America, they worked long hours, the HQ in Athens was shutdown for month or so during summer. They enjoyed long Christmas vacations… The company went kaput…
    Please don’t tell me that this was an exception. How can one feel sorry for Greeks?

    By the way, I worked in Belgium before coming to America and had similar experience. For the entire month of December, I was in Brussels, there were only 3 people (including me) on the office, all consultants from India. Europeans are known to provide more work-life balance but it may have gone little too far…

  • Steve

    Jack is correct

  • Constantinos

    All of my family is in Greece – the concept of Greece out of the euro (and apparently the EU according to the European Commission) means that almost overnight people that actually had any savings will be found impoverished with a massively devalued “new” drachma while the whole economy will become unhinged with little possibility of external trade after a default. A complete social breakdown will follow. I live in daily fear of what will happen to them.

    • sunny

      This is what the rest of the world does not get.

  • Mike McGlynn

    How much BILLIONS went into the 2004 Summer Olympics and the ripple effect down the road – National ego over common sense – What are the venues doing now ?  Greece was upset Atlanta held the anniversary games in 1996 BUT at what price Ego ?

  • john

    Audacious Americans… isn’t the per-person debt of our country even greater than that of Greece? We could at least muster some empathy since we are perhaps even more guilty than they of blind, stupid, unfettered greed!

  • Drew You Too

    When will there be an acknowledgement that Scarcity is an illusion? It is a condition that is entirely created by humans. There are solutions but not so long as the true problem continues to be ignored.

  • Rob (in NY)

    Tom what about the view that the idea that a nation such as Greece and Germany should share the same currency seems flawed? I believe Margaret Thatcher was correct in assessment that the Euro state would be viewed as a folly may be correct

  • Joe in Philly

    Is Greece the “canary in coal mine?” Debt at all levels (sovereign and personal) will cripple the Developed Nations. Can’t we just all take a hair-cut, let the Chinese feel the pain, and re-start with a clean slate? What’s an IOU among friends?

    • BHA in Vermont

      My hair hasn’t grown back from the last haircut in 2008/9.

  • Anonymous

    To your point Andrew if you were educated as to what has been going on in Wall Street and Washington for the past 30 years, let alone the past 12 years, you’ld realize that we Americans have voted in the politicians who are voting themselves benefits that we have to pay for but the country cannot pay for.

    I’m tired of being a 99%er because I cannot afford to own a senator or congressman…. maybe I can find someone to give me a loan to buy one?

  • JustSayin

    While listening to the program I was reminded of post WW-I Germany. Europe wanted to punish their German malefactors, and the shunning created a fascist state out of abject poverty.

    The EU better step up and forestall the decay of Greek society.  The resultant military operations will likely cost more than the bailout.

  • Bexhilldun

    To show no sympathy for the Greeks, would be like showing no sympathy to Katrina victims. Greeks have lived conservatively and for the most very simple folk. The primary problem is that the Government has never understood a simple dynamic- when you create opportunity, you generate revenue for both, the public and state. This is the only difference between Greece and Germany.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

      Unfortunately, the honest Greeks are having to pay the price for the tax dodgers, who are among the most skilled in Europe, and for the political corruption that has created so many high-paying, no-show patronage positions.

      • sunny

        Yes the systemically corrupt Greek Government has a wonderful way of saying it failed to do its job in creating and then collecting taxes: they say people are just tax dodgers. Try dodging the tax in this country; one has a better chance of robbing Fort Knox.

  • Elizabeth in RI

    The question was asked, “Could it happen here?” It IS happening here, and has been for sometime. Just look at the employment numbers, private sector jobs are growing while local and state governments are laying off workers – or privatizing to lower cost/no benefits firms that in the long run further reduce the middle class. Globalization, technology and the corporate function of maximizing profit (and executive pay) means that eventually there will be a leveling of worker pay and quality of life globally, essentially eroding the American/European standard of living.  If we are unwilling or unable to recalibrate the financial markets and corporate mindset this steady expansion of the divide between those at the top and the rest of us will only increase until it is unsustainable, which if the protests are an indication, we are rapidly approaching. As Henry Ford II was reminded as he queried a union representative regarding how he was going to get robots to pay union dues, who is going to buy things in the US and Europe if no one has jobs?? Maybe those at the top need to be reminded that they can not stay that high without the rest of us! We need to get people back to work and then work on reducing our collective debts, otherwise there is no way to make this work.

    • EDG

      I agree with what you say about the divide between those at the top and the rest of us.  I think that the OWS demonstrations– which are about publicizing the problem, rather than arguing over the solution– are revealing that the level of inequality already is unsustainable.  Central to getting people back to work is addressing this issue of inequality.  The system is already orienting itself to the principle that current levels of unemployment are “normal” and acceptable.  This is because (contrary to our current dogma) the people with the most economic and political influence prefer a financial system in which they get more, even if it shrinks the pie.  A larger pie is only desirable if the top gets more of it.  If the way to maintain this model of distribution involves having fewer people working in capital intensive industries–rather than labor intensive, or the public service sector, such as infrastructure– than that is what the system leaders will endorse.  The top can easily abandon the public service sector, and to a large extent already have.

    • Erin in Framingham

      Elizabeth this is why I asked what I did. When listening to the other callers like Rachel blame it on “socialism” and taking no pity on the Greek all I could think was “THIS WILL BE US SOON!!!” And I wonder how one could have their head so far in the sand to not see this? These people would be the same people holding their hands out to the world if it were us asking for sympathy and relief.

  • Diane

    The callers with no sympathy for the Greeks are like H. Cain who blames the unemployed for being unemployed.  If Greeks are to blame, then Americans are also.  Americans watched the private sector- banks and the real estate industry- drive up the price of homes and pass out easy mortages.  Americans have shopped for Chinese made goods while factories closed in the USA.  Americans voted and reelected a war hawk administration that spent trillions trying to colonize the middle east.

  • EDG

    I have to ask myself why average Greek citizens would vote in favor of the austerity measures.  What do they get out of it?  There may be something in it for the bankers and the wealthy, but what do the average citizens get out of it?  Ten years of draconian austerity, even starvation, followed by a return to near current status with all the debt still over their heads.  Certainly nothing to gain.  If they default, they can start over– it’d be incredibly difficult (same starvation, etc.), but there would be light at the end of the tunnel. 
    Some analysts have said that the current US “recession” is worse than the Great depression in a similar respect.  In the 1930′s things were worse for many people, but there was hope.  Right now, an equally large slice of the US public is on the verge of despair, with no end in sight.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Euro blow up, and for the effects to reach across the pond.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

    One of the callers brought up the role of Wall Street and the financial institutions that loaned money to the Greek Government. During the past year, I saw an interview with a Greek economist who teaches at Tufts University or at the affiliated Fletcher School. This economist stated that the Wall Street Wizards had been involved in the preparation of the financial filings demonstrating that Greece would meet the required 3% annual deficit, which was a necessary condition for entry into the EuroZone. According to this economist, in preparing these financial statements, the Wall Street Wizards had “securitized” all of Greece’s future tax revenues from TOURISM–projections that have not panned out. I also recall reading that the Wall Street Wizards were involved in fudging the Italian financial filings.

    • sunny

      Its completely believable. Greece is a Wall Street dream come true, much like the subprime mortgages, they love to sell unverifiable debt, that can never come back to bite them because they can simply state the borrowers lied.

  • Gustavo

    Tom:

    Why is it that neither you nor almost anyone else is actually exposing the real culprits of who actually caused the Greek mess.  It’s not that I am in love with Max, but he seems to be the only one who talks about the real crooks.

    Perhaps you can watch these videos:

    http://www.realecontv.com/videos/europe/what-it-means-when-your-country-goes-broke.html

    http://www.realecontv.com/videos/europe/mad-max-runs-the-greek-numbers.html

    Looking forward to seeing you step out of your comfort zone.

    Gustavo

    • sunny

      This is an uniquely American phenomenon- to look for a simple villain in a complex train wreck; we tend to do it even during acts of God, as it is often the only solution to the problem we desire.

  • Noah

    Hi, 
    I’m a 12 year old sixth grader, and I was wondering, what is the view of each guest on the show right now about how to fix the Greek economy?

  • Ted

    The international community owes Greece much. Everything in modern western culture originates in Greek culture, – from philosophy to art to athletics, ethics, science, philosophy, mathematics, law, and democracy.
    The least we can do is give them another Olympics and a World Cup in the next decade. Now that they have the infrastructure in place and don’t need to spend capital to pull off an event, the clear profit will serve as stimulus to turn the economy around and save Europe.

  • John

    I just relistened to a podcast from February 2010 which featured Carmen Reinhart. Her comments and analysis read like the headlines today. Please have her back on the show for her view of the ongoing economic train wreck we are witnessing. Many comments below mention social programs, etc. Prof. Reinhart said it best, “debt is debt”. It does not matter if it is social programs, military spending or poor tax policy.

  • IfTheNameFits

    Where’s Edgar?

  • Slipstream

    The guests on this show were very interesting, and I have been wanting for some time to hear what some actual Greeks think of this crisis, so thanks, OP!  It was a little hard not to hear the emotion and the fear in their voices as they spoke frankly about this mess, which is sure to effect their country negatively for years, if not decades. 

    A number of the callers seemed to take this as an opportunity to hammer away at socialism & social programs, and they have a point, but the real problem is not that Greece gave in to the evil of socialist thinking, but that they gave in to the evils of borrowing money they could not repay and not being honest with their people about how bad the crisis really was.  Greece may not be a rich country, but it is a beautiful country, and hopefully it will continue to be one, fiscal austerity or not.

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