Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

Bringing out the worst in us

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Society

The government is openly hostile to the elite, it admits to overtaxing and annihilating the middle class and once a year throws a bit of pocket money from the budget surplus at what it calls “weaker households” in what is nothing less than a blatant effort to fish for votes.

The problem with this recipe is that the longer the government keeps failing to produce any wealth, the more marginalized the poor become and the smaller the percentage of citizens who can be considered somewhat well off.

It was just a few days ago that Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis admitted that the tax burden is significantly greater on critical categories of society: the middle class, freelance professionals and conscientious taxpayers. “It was a conscious decision that the government adopted as a temporary measure in order to bolster the economically weaker, the more vulnerable social strata,” he said. The question now is whether this policy has succeeded.

Addressing SYRIZA’s parliamentary group last Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras lashed out at the country’s elites again, calling them “representatives of cynicism,” and went on to blame the parties of the opposition for destroying the country when they were in power. Who can argue with a prime minister’s desire to “sort out the mess of all those who have parked their money” in tax havens? Having already experienced the failure of authorities to do anything with other such lists of wealthy depositors that have come into their hands in the past, however, everyone knows that proclamations of this kind promising to crack down on large-scale tax evasion are mainly politically motivated and aimed at making an impression.

In the meantime, the political middle ground is staggering, weak, and the extremes have been left unfettered. Investments that have been signed and sealed are prevented from going ahead by successive new obstacles and growth is being hindered.

Who, then, is benefiting from the policies of the coalition government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks? Critics will say that what the administration has produced so far is a prevalence of crime and a tolerance for terrorism and the shadow state, all in the name of the greater good.

The failure to find solutions, to bridge this chasm, leads to demagoguery, to responses that are so inadequate in offering some kind of prospect for the future, they serve only as tools of division. They don’t cleanse the political system, they don’t limit overtaxation and they don’t offer any relief to the weak. Quite the opposite. They play into an unfounded sense of class division and anger, while rewarding society’s worst instincts.

What the government is ultimately addressing is our worst selves. It teases them up to the surface, feeds them and empowers them.

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