Austin Bay

SYRIZA's young and charismatic leader, Alexis Tsipras, a former college Communist, contends ND and PASOK are corrupt and spent political forces. A recent Tsipras interview with Reuters included this fist-pounding assertion: "Greece needs courageous and decisive leaders who can use the rage of our people ... as a weapon to negotiate for the benefit of the country." He sees himself as that decisive leader, of course.

He has decisive rhetoric. But is he decisive economically? If SYRIZA led the government, what would it actually do? SYRIZA touts a conveniently vague "national recovery plan" promising efficient government and punishment for wealthy tax cheats. Truly efficient government would ultimately require fewer public-sector workers. Is SYRIZA efficiency stealth austerity? A prior PASOK-led government advocated tax reform.

Attacking foreign lenders stirs nationalist passion. It also undermines lender confidence. Tsipras and SYRIZA don't offer real solutions, they simply channel populist rage.

In the face of the debt monster, populist rage is a spent force. Even if lenders offer Greece new bridge loan terms, and EU officials suggest they will, defeating the debt monster ultimately requires forceful cuts in spending. Which is why this 21st century Greek tragedy will likely end with Greece departing the eurozone. Defeating the debt monster demands a political will Greece has yet to muster.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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