Thomas Piketty: Strong Anti-Austerity Parties Are Just What Europe Needs

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Thomas Piketty: Strong Anti-Austerity Parties Are Just What Europe Needs

French economist celebrates rise of Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece as antidote to punishing economic policies pushed by elites

Anti-austerity parties in Greece and Spain are "good news for Europe," says prominent French economist. (Photo: Universitat Pompeu Fabra/flickr/cc)

The prominent French economist Thomas Piketty says the rise of new the anti-austerity political parties in southern Europe, including Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, are just what the European economy needs in order to push back against the tide of regressive economic policies that have punished the continent's most vulnerable people at the behest of the wealthy and powerful.

In an hour-long interview set to air later this month with Pablo Iglesias, the de facto leader of Podemos, Piketty argues that the increasing popularity and political power of the leftwing populist parties—which have built their base of support around a rejection of austerity measures—is "good news for Europe."

Piketty, author of last year's bestselling book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," argues Europe's fixation with austerity since 2008 has been a "failure" for the economy and said those challenging such policies are doing a great and important service.

In a boon to Podemos, Piketty has agreed to act as an economic advisor to the party, which Iglesias said was "an honor" and would surely benefit their overall economic thinking.

Speaking of Syriza in Greece, Piketty said that though portions of their economic plan remain murky, "You have to offer them support because they want to build a democratic Europe, which is what we all need."

Summarizing portions of the interview, the Guardian reports:

Piketty described austerity policies as “a failure” and supported the Podemos agenda of a basic income for those most affected by the crisis as well as restructuring debt, a policy that has been heavily criticised by Spain’s hitherto dominant parties, the Socialists and the Partido Popular.

He pointed out that at the end of the second world war France and Germany’s debt was 200% of GDP, “when there was no such thing as public debt”. “It’s incredible,” Piketty said. “It’s an act of historical amnesia to tell southern European countries that they have to pay all their debt, down to the last cent, with zero inflation.”

The economist believes that European countries have tried to get rid of their deficits too quickly. The result is that “their citizens have suffered the consequences in the shape of austerity policies. It’s good to reduce deficits, but at a rate that’s commensurate with growth and economic recovery, but here growth has been killed off.”

Last week Piketty poured cold water on the Spanish government’s claims that the crisis was over and insisted the eurozone still faced the risk of stagnation, weak growth and negative inflation.

Recent polls in Greece and Spain have shown both Podemos and Syriza maintaining high-levels of support. Greeks are going to the polls on January 25 to vote for a new parliament. Spanish general elections are not yet set, but could happen before end of the year.

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