WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, wants the U.S. government to help insure that newly-elected leaders in Greece have the support they need to end austerity programs that have caused widespread suffering to its citizens. In recent years, the Greek economy has shrunk by one-quarter, unemployment is 25 percent, wages have been substantially cut, health care services have been devastated and many are now living in dire poverty.
Sanders today asked Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to provide assurances that American lending policies will not make the horrific economic situation in Greece even worse.
“The United States cannot stand idly by while the European Central Bank undermines the new democratically elected government of Greece, induces deflation and risks financial instability. President Barack Obama was right when he recently noted, with regard to Greece: ‘You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of a depression. At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits,’” Sanders said.
Recently, the European Central Bank tried to pressure the new Greek government into accepting the austerity policies that the Greek people strongly rejected in the recent election - such as privatizing assets, cutting off electricity and undoing a minimum wage hike. The continuation of austerity on Greece would have a devastating impact on the lives of people who are already suffering terribly.
Sanders also spoke about the political consequences of the new government in Greece not being able to carry out the program it was elected on, and noted that the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn came in third place in the recent elections.
“It would be a terrible mistake for the world to forget what happens when a democratically-elected government, as was the case in Germany in the 1920s, is unable to relieve the severe economic suffering of its people. We must remember that waiting in the wings should this recently elected Greek government fail is the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn party. We cannot allow fascism to come to power in a European country due to our unwillingness to reverse harmful austerity policies,” Sanders wrote. A copy of his letter can be found here.
Last month, Sanders wrote a letter to the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund raising similar concerns about the economy in Greece. That letter can be found here.