‘We Don't Want to Become Greece!'
This is a phrase I've heard more than once during the campaign season. I've spent a great deal of time in Greece; it is one of my favorite places in the world. I worked for a yacht charter company there for many years as a way to finance my passion for sailing. I speak the language and even my blog photo was taken on the island of Santorini.
Greece had a universal health care system until just recently, when the austerity measures were enforced. It was a wonderful system, which I had firsthand experience with on a small island a few years back when one of my clients had a hypoglycemic episode. Now every person must pay for his own healthcare. An article appeared in the New York Times recently about how this has impacted the people in general and one woman in particular. It is a tragic story.
I have a friend in Germany who is angry with the Greeks and resents the continuous funding the country requires. I understand where he's coming from. I also remember sitting in a Piraeus café two years ago observing the comings and goings of fashionable Greeks driving luxury cars to their yachts. "I thought this country was out of money?" I asked my host. He replied, "Yes, the country is out of money because people like this have figured out how to not pay taxes. They're doing just fine." This article is evidence of that.
The situation angered me. Most of the Greeks I had met worked long, hard hours in the tourist trade as waiters, shopkeepers and boatyard workers. They paid their taxes and were the ones suffering from cutbacks. They are the ones now out of work (nobody is taking holidays in Greece right now) and the ones living with the austerity measures, not the wealthy Greeks who didn't pay their taxes to begin with.
The US may not want to become Greece, but here is a comment from a doctor in Athens who is volunteering his services for the unemployed: "We are moving to the same situation that the United States has been in, where when you lose your job and are uninsured, you aren't covered... In Greece right now, to be unemployed means death." Greece has become us.