Letters: Finance and democracy clash in Greece

These letters appear in the 1st July issue of The Independent

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I can’t help but wish the people of Greece well in their desperate and lonely struggle to escape the straitjacket of the IMF/ECB/Juncker prescription of ever-increasing austerity, which threatens to bear out the old medical adage: “The treatment was successful; unfortunately the patient died.”

True, their previous leaders may have behaved recklessly, but it seems to me scandalous that the EU behemoth should continue to punish the entire population, while demonstrating so little creativity in finding a more promising and humanitarian solution. 

Having had years to prepare for this crisis facing one of its own, that complete lack of flexibility and out-of-the-box thinking must surely highlight one of the major and frightening weaknesses of the EU across many fronts.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

 

The Greek people have voted for a positive alternative to austerity, and I support their right to democratic self-determination.

In the months since the Greek election the negotiations have made clear that the eurozone is actually a neoliberal disciplining device. This has become a struggle between democracy and financial markets. Allowing financiers and corporations to prevail poses a serious threat to the principles of democracy in Europe.

It is clear that Greece cannot pay its debts. European Greens are calling for a debt conference to agree debt cancellation for Greece and other countries that need it. This must be funded by recovering money from the banks and financial speculators who were the beneficiaries of bailouts.

Austerity has enforced terrible suffering in Greece. Rather than adding further chapters to this Greek tragedy, the EU should be helping to unlock the huge potential Greece has for economic recovery by supporting investment in sustainable sectors of the economy. With the right investment, Greece could become the EU’s largest exporter of green energy.

Molly Scott Cato MEP

Green, South West England

European Parliament, Brussels

 

I am bemused when I hear reports from the Greek government that they feel “humiliated” by what they feel to be unfair treatment by other EU members and the European Central Bank.

I think they should feel humiliated, but for a different reason, since their country has allowed itself to accumulate such an enormous debt, of which it now cannot even pay back instalments without first gaining further loans.

The attitude I have seen displayed by Greek government officials is disgraceful; it is as though they have forgotten that they are seeking assistance from their creditors for a situation of their own making.

Laurence Williams

Louth, Lincolnshire

 

The answer to the Greek debt “crisis” is simple, if the hidebound economists at the IMF and European Central Bank would get out of the way – invent the money.

It’s what Roosevelt did for America in the 1930s, to get them out of the slump caused by stupid bankers then; it’s what was done for Germany and the rest of Europe after the Second World War, to get Europe back on its feet; it’s what capitalism does all the time. The Bank of England calls it “quantitative easing”.

You invent money, masses of it, enough to  get people back to work, to enable them to use their energies to earn money  – and to spend it – and then the stuff you “borrow” can gradually be returned, cancelled out over the next 10, 50 years or so.

 

Tony Cheney

Ipswich, Suffolk

Where is our response to terrorism?

The Prime Minister is to be congratulated for recognising that Isis poses an existential threat to the UK; which is presumably why the defence budget is being reduced while vast sums are being committed to a railway no one needs.

 

Some kind of lateral thinking?

Jim Bowman

South Harrow, Middlesex

 

Israel has long made it crystal clear to any would-be aggressor that should even one Israeli be killed by terrorists, the perpetrators will suffer heavy and rapid military retaliation. How pitiful that Britain does not have the courage and confidence to follow suit.

Nicky Samengo-Turner

Hundon, Suffolk

 

Christian candidate to lead the Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats are opposed to discrimination on grounds of religion; why then in an article about our leadership contest (29 June), does Matthew Norman rage against Tim Farron because of his religious beliefs?  

He compares him to Blair and Bush, yet not only did Tim support our stance against them, a very large number of Christians did not believe that God was on the side of Blair and Bush.

As to Tim’s judgment, who made the best political judgment? Tim, who voted against the rise in tuition fees and the bedroom tax, or those who followed the leadership’s approach and voted in favour?

Nigel Jones

Newcastle under Lyme

 

As a secular atheist humanist myself, I suspect that Katherine Scholfield (letter, 25 June) gets as annoyed as I do when she hears religious leaders complain ingenuously about “militant secularists”. So she does us no favours when she conflates secularism (separation of state and religion) with atheism (non-belief in a deity). 

As a Christian, there is nothing to prevent Tim Farron being a committed secularist and, for all I know, he may well be one.  Secularism, which involves treating the religious and non-religious equally and fairly, without privileging either, is highly compatible with Liberalism. 

In complete contrast, our present “We are a Christian Nation” Tory Government took the first opportunity to privilege the religious by passing a law allowing local councils to impose prayers on non-believing local government councillors during council meetings.

Ian Quayle

Fawnhope, Herefordshire

 

How tax and benefits affect the poor

Your graph showing that the poorest fifth of the population pay the highest proportion of their income in tax (30 June) is no reason to oppose cutting the top rate of income tax.

The fact is – as Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson found when they cut the top rate from 83 per cent to 40 per cent – that rates above 40 per cent bring in less revenue, and encourage tax avoidance.

Rather, your graph is one of several good reasons why the Chancellor is right to take people on minimum wages out of tax completely, and why he must now take them out of National Insurance completely too.

Scrapping NI on low wages would more than offset the planned reduction in tax credits, and would be far simpler than paying people with one hand and taxing them with the other. It would also raise the incentives for people to get themselves off benefits and into work – which is by far the best form of welfare and independence.

Dr Eamonn Butler

Director, Adam Smith Institute, London SW1

 

The spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions quoted in your report “Benefit cap cut ‘will force families out of the South-east’ ” (22 June) describes opposition to the iniquitous tightening of the benefit cap as “scaremongering”.

It is the DWP itself that  has been scaremongering over the past five years, implying that there are hundreds of thousands of families living the life of riley at taxpayers’ expense.

The DWP and the Secretary of State have been regularly caught out misrepresenting the evidence of the impact of the benefit cap. Of course, some of those affected have gone into work. But the proportion is not much greater than the proportion of claimants who move into employment in normal circumstances.

The inner-London families caught by the £500-a-week cap that Z2K’s advisers have helped over recent years have frequently been forced out of their homes, either into overcrowded conditions or to resettle far from their home boroughs. Others have been tided over by short-term discretionary housing payments, which will expire in coming months. Ministers ignore this evidence in favour of their own prejudices.

The Chartered Institute of Housing is right to highlight that the cost of family-sized housing in London, including some housing association homes, will take up much of the £440 the Prime Minister now wants to allow families, leaving them little to feed and clothe their children.

Joanna Kennedy

CEO, Z2K anti-poverty charity, London SW1

 

Killer questions to shut up the Eurobores

There’s lots of chatter at the moment about the pros and cons of the EU. I find that the best way to shut these bores up is to ask them the following. What is the Council of Europe, the European Council and the Council of the European Union? What are the five principal EU institutions?

Nobody can seriously talk about the pros and cons of the EU without knowing these elementary facts.

Barry Tighe

Woodford Green, Essex

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