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The idea that you can destroy democracy and drive everyone to poverty in order to "pay back debt" I thought was abandoned in the Middle Ages.
As a side note - it wasn't abandoned. Treaty of Versailles.
But you are right, of course. Thinking people abandoned that idea long ago, because it never worked except in a few very limited circumstances.
But in order to restore a primary budget surplus it's the standard treatment: its what happens when you default, just on a much bigger scale.
I'll set aside of course the fact that Germany is not giving money to Greece but loaning money to Greece, at 5%, making a nice profit since it borrows it a 2%.
Except, of course, you, and me, and just about everybody else understands that Greece is neither able nor willing to ever pay that money back.
Which makes that "loan" what?
Note that austerity, isn't an answer to the debt problem (destroyed economies don't pay back debts), it's an elite political strategy against labor and against the achievements social Europe, everywhere in Europe.
I doubt that. First, "Austerity" is a big word without a decent definition. Germany ran "austerity" politics for most of its recent history and yet has one of the most advanced social networks in Europe. Basically, what got us off track, financially, were three things: the unsuccessful Keynesian episode in the 70ies, Kohl's economically botched reunification, and of course the current crisis. Each of which dwarfs the ones before it.
The point of prudent financial policy isn't a balanced budget per se. Others have noted that one method of dealing with debt is growing out of it (which, fwiw, is only sustainable as there actually is long term growth, which leftists tend to oppose for ecological reasons). So, yes, you can increase debt, in a limited fashion, but only as much as far as it is compensated by growth - and preferably somewhat less.
And if THAT is austerity, well, its the only long term sustainable policy at all. All other policies lead to the Greek end game.
Note that I do not reject Keynesian boom-bust spending by that - at least not the way it was originally conceived. The problem with Keynesian reality is that there is no political system that ever managed to implement the "and in boom years we pay back the debt we incurred in a bust period" part.
Not even Germany. Especially not Germany.
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