Having already faced off intense–and violent–public opposition to immense austerity measures, Greeks got another taste today:
Greece has approved an austerity bill that helps pull their debt-ridden country back from the brink of an immediate default. After days of public unrest and impassioned debate, the Greek parliament voted 155-138 on Wednesday in favor of the controversial bill, which authorizes $40 billion in brutal budget cuts and tax hikes over the next several years for a nation already reeling from previous belt-tightening measures.
The tense legislative showdown came as the country continued to squirm in the grip of a 48-hour nationwide strike and as tens of thousands of angry protesters thronged downtown Athens in noisy opposition to the austerity package. Police in riot gear scuffled with some demonstrators and tried to contain the kind of violence that on Tuesday left dozens of people injured, shop windows smashed and tourists running to escape tear-gas fumes.
The government says the new spending cutbacks — some of the toughest in recent memory — are imperative if Greece is to stave off having to declare bankruptcy in a matter of weeks.
Without the new austerity package, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have threatened to withhold the next installment of funds from the financial bailout they granted Greece last year. That would leave Athens unable to pay bills coming due in mid-July.
For all of the outrage at spending cuts–threatened and real–American workers continue to be relatively polite in their anger compared to their European (Socialist) counterparts, as the peaceful protests in Wisconsin and other states that have curtailed workers’ rights and benefits have shown.