Democratic presidential candidate and US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on Monday applauded the people of Greece for overwhelmingly voting “no” on a bailout proposal from Greece’s creditors.
“I applaud the people of Greece for saying ‘no’ to more austerity for the the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly,” Sanders said in a statement after the vote. “In a world of massive wealth and income inequality Europe must support Greece’s efforts to build an economy which creates more jobs and income, not more unemployment and suffering.”
On Sunday, Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan from a group of creditors — including European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission — that would have helped the Mediterranean country stay afloat, but also would have imposed more cuts to government spending.
In a statement to The Huffington Post last week, Sanders — a self-proclaimed “Democratic socialist” — sided with Greece’s left-wing government, railing against Greece’s European creditors for imposing the austerity measures that Sanders claims killed growth and perpetuates inequality, hurting poor Greeks the most.
“If Greece’s economy is going to succeed, these austerity policies must end,” Sanders told the Huffington Post. “The IMF must give the Greek government the flexibility and time that it needs to grow its economy in a fair way.”
Sanders has long held that financial creditors like the IMF are unfair to small, poor countries.
In a 1998 House of Representatives Banking and Financial Services Committee hearing, the then-House member sparred with then Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan over the effectiveness of the IMF, slamming the organisation for granting loans that included stipulations that made life worse for average citizens living in those countries.
“Why in God’s name would anyone want to continue along the incredible path of failure that has been the record of the IMF?” Sanders said. “That to my mind, would be insane.”
Many of the presidential candidates haven’t weighed in on the referendum or the Greek debt crisis in general. The US does not have a major role in the negotiations, though the IMF is generally cosy with US government and business interests.
Several Republican presidential candidates, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), and real-estate mogul Donald Trump have warned that the US could be headed toward a Greek-style debt crisis if Congress doesn’t reform increasingly expensive entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Since US debt is different than Greek debt, these Republicans’ assertions aren’t exactly a fair comparison. But the sentiment reflects an appetite within the Republican Party for similar reforms that could cut into the US debt.
Graham told Business Insider on Saturday that Sanders was one of the members of Congress who would never support a bipartisan ‘grand bargain’ entitlement reform package.
“You’re not going to get Bernie Sanders [to agree on cuts], you’re probably not going to get the folks on the right to agree on revenue,” Graham said. “We’ve got to have a bipartisan plan in order to avoid becoming Greece.”
Jindal called out Sanders more directly on Monday.
“If you want a peek into our future with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, then look at what’s happening in Greece today,” he tweeted.
But Sanders’ outspoken progressive stance appears to be paying off and earning him stripes with the Democratic Party’s liberal base. Sanders is rising the polls in the key early-voting states of New Hampshire and Iowa, and one speech last week earned him the largest crowd of any presidential candidate to date.
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