NEW YORK – The words spoken by President Barack Obama in support of Greece during his interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria were very welcome to the Greek-American community, but so were his criticisms and focus on the need for reforms.
“You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression,” Obama said, and then added: “There is no doubt that the economy of Greece was in dire need of reform.”
The National Herald spoke to readers across the country about what the President said. The comments of some of them follow:
Kathy Stickna now lives in Florida. Her mother was born in Thessaloniki and she hails from Massachusetts. “I am for it” she said of the support Obama expressed for Greece. She also noted it is terrible the way the U.S. tends to take Greece for granted given Greece has been and friend and ally of the U.S. for more than 100 years. ”They should get support from the United States,” so Germany does not think it can push Greece around.”
Nicholas Demas lives in Cookeville, TN and his family is from Sparta. He has a doctorate in nuclear engineering, and being trained to examine things very carefully, he was more cautious.
“You can make statements of support, but what does that mean” he asked. “Is the United states willing to underwrite some of Greece’s debt? Obama didn’t say that,” Demas noted. Regarding the wider issues of Greek recovery, he agrees that negotiations between Greece and Europe on the debt need to take into account that there must be growth for Greece to be able to pay back.
“The other thing Greece must focus on is reform,” Demas said. “Have you ever tried to deal with the Greek government…in the smallest business dealings,” the government becomes an obstacle. “The other thing is the Greek people themselves must be given reasons to believe the system is fair.”
The idea that things like the Lagarde list could be misplaced or ignored is ridiculous he said. “The Greeks know that. You will never get the Greeks to be happy with their government and to pay their taxes unless they are convinced that everybody is operating under the same rules,” he concluded.
Penny and Anthony Pappas live in Prospect Heights, IL. Her roots are in Tinos and his are in Crete. Penny told TNH “I’m OK,” with the new Greek government…Anything is better than what they had.” She is happy with Obama’s statement and said, “The U.S. should help Greece because it is a very important country, to the whole world, and to the U.S. I think the Germans should change their mind about helping them out.”
Regarding the president, she said, “I like Obama. I voted for the man. He thinks before he talks, but he needs to be a little more pushy. “
“I’m glad that the leader of our government is supportive of the Greek government,” said Panos Salagianis, a retired pharmacist in Walla Walla, WA. His parents have roots near Karpenisi in Central Greece. Agreeing that while the Europeans must also be willing to compromise,” he said the Greeks must make changes. “Especially given the way things happened in Greece. The money the EU sent just disappeared. They don’t know where the money went. That’s why they don’t trust them,” he said.
Claire Rigas, lives in Bellaire, OH and her husband and parents are from Patmos. She too is happy Obama is supporting Greece. “I just hope is works out. I hope the new government is capable of doing what they are supposed to do in the right way because it’s been very bad for Greece.”
With respect the new government, she said “It sounds good, but I don’t know.” The reforms are key, Rigas said, and she wondered “Are they going to make them?” She added, however, that “The Europeans have to compromise too.”
Georgia Bouzakis from Brooklyn has roots in the obvious place: Crete. She told TNH, “It’s about time he spoke up for where democracy began. Greece doesn’t want a handout… but I am glad he is taking the initiative” and that Greece has the attention of the U.S. government.
Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) suggested Obama understands what Tsipras is facing.
“The president took office when our economy was in a free fall – a worse state than what Tsipras inherited in Greece. He responded with a policy that if it were available to Tsipras, the Greek economy would go through the roof. He cut taxes on the middle class and offered investment credit, but the Greek government did not have those tools.”
He said Obama is right when he says “you cannot cut your way to growth” – and out of a depression, “therein lies the loggerhead with Germany, as Paul Krugman writes.
“Obama underlined last week you just can’t bleed these people” – the Greeks – “any more.”
“I personally have not been giving Obama high grades on Greek issues,” Zemenides continued, “but he has always talked about growth in Greece, ” and he believes America has helped behind the scenes, especially regarding the IMF.
Finally, Zemenides echoed the others TNH spoke with when he said, “Obama clearly agrees with Greece on a lot of things, but one point cannot be lost, and we know this in the Diaspora: he underlined the need for reform.”
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