Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek economist and academic who was appointed minister of finance in the government of the Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipra that came to power in January on an anti-austerity platform. Varoufakis was an outspoken critic of the harsh measures that were imposed by the IMF and the European Union and resigned in July when he felt that he had burned his bridges with his negotiating partners in those organizations and could not support the bailout package.
But he remains outspoken against austerity policies and accuses those pushing for austerity measures of waging a class war against the poor.
Austerity and deficit reduction are being used as a cover-story for conducting class war against the poor, an economics professor who served as Greece’s finance minister has said.
Yanis Varoufakis noted simultaneous reductions in taxes on the wealthy and cuts to spending on social security amounted to a redistribution of wealth away from the poor to the rich.
“The problem is that austerity is being used as a narrative to conduct class war,” Mr Varoufakis told the BBC’s Question Time programme.
“To be talking about reducing the state further when effectively what you are doing is reducing taxes like inheritance tax and at the same time you are cutting benefits – that is class war.”
Even after the Syriza government acceded to many of the demands made by its creditors and failed to shake free of the austerity measures, they were easily returned to power last week when Tsipras called a snap election. As bad as the austerity measures were, the voters seemed to feel that at least Tsipras was being honest with them and was better than his rivals.
Differing explanations were proffered for the unexpectedly handsome victory, which – despite nervous faces and much anxious cigarette puffing before the exit polls arrived – few claimed they had ever doubted.
Some reckoned voters who had felt betrayed by the party – that promised to “eradicate” austerity but, with capital controls in place and an exit from the eurozone looming this summer, ended up swallowing an even harsher dose – had realised Syriza was not truly to blame.
“They understood that in fact they should be angry more with the European Union and with the bailout agreement,” said Kostas Fothiadakis, who is unemployed. “That in the end they had to support Syriza, really, because they know it is the only party that speaks the truth about Europe, and that really wants change.”
This suggests that Greeks still hope for a reversal of those policies and that Syriza is the only hope for doing so.
Varoufakis is exactly right in his analysis and could just as well be talking about the US where the class war nature of austerity measures is even more blatant. The budget deficit is hauled out as a reason why earned benefits must be cut as part of austerity measures when it is tax cuts for the rich that caused the deficits in the first place. We should not forget that this is bipartisan, because it was president Obama who made the temporary Bush tax cuts permanent. And of course, even more tax cuts for the rich are now being proposed by Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rand Paul and others. They may differ in their details but the net result is always the same: the rich get a windfall.