Greece's Grim Future Portends Western Decline; Unions Fight Austerity Measures, Demand the 'Rich' Pay
Byline: Matt Patterson and Crissy Brown, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In 490 B.C., the brand-new democracy at Athens faced its first existential challenge: a vast Persian army intent on crushing the Greek city-state for supporting the enemies of the Persian Emperor Darius the Great.
The Athenian army and its allies numbered perhaps 10,000 men; the invading Persian forces, the sources tell us, numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Despite being outnumbered, the Greeks attacked the Persians on the plain of Marathon, about 26 miles from Athens. It was a rout. After a pitched battle, Darius' army was crushed and the Persian invasion thwarted.
Today, 2,500 years later, an angry horde is succeeding where the Persian army failed: Greece's public-sector unions are rioting in the streets and sacking the capital in protest of the government's desperate attempts to save the nation from fiscal collapse, a collapse that is certain if things don't change - soon.
Greece's elected leaders know it. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has proposed an austerity budget that would reduce public spending by 12 billion euros ($15 billion) over the next two years, including cuts to welfare as well as public workers' salaries and pensions. Although projected to temporarily prolong the country's financial pain, it is hoped the austerity eventually will right the ship and produce a budget surplus, Greece's first in 10 years.
The thought of more hardship has people literally rioting in the streets. Two of Greece's largest public unions, representing half of the nation's labor force, mobilized more than 50,000 teachers, air traffic controllers and other public-sector workers in their third 24-hour strike this year, bringing Greek life to a crashing halt. The unions vehemently oppose the austerity. In the place of budget reductions, they think Greece should default on a portion of its debt and take from the rich the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy. As Sotires Martalis, an Athenian high school teacher who was on the National Council of the Public Employees Union Federation, said of the unions: Their main idea is 'We don't pay for your crisis, not even one euro. Take the money from the rich.'"
Americans should take heed. …