AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined right now by Richard Wolff. He’s professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, visiting professor at New School University here in New York, and hosts a weekly program on WBAI 99.5 in New York City calledEconomic Update every Saturday at noon. He’s the author of a number of books, including, most recently, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.
Richard Wolff, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why is Cyprus so significant?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, Cyprus is significant for several reasons. First, it marks an escalation in what we call austerity economics. It is an effort to pay for the cost of this now six-year-old global crisis in a new way. It is an effort to fund the bailouts of banks in a new way. And the new way was agreed last week by the European forces that control this—the central bank, the European Union and the IMF—and to impose on Cyprus this new step, which is literally to go into the bank accounts of the citizens of Cyprus, roughly a million people on a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean, and snatch money out of their accounts. See, unlike other austerity, where you levy a tax and you cut back social programs, like we’re doing here in the United States, that money dribbles in over a year or longer period. This way, the government can get the money to bail out the banks quickly and cleanly and neatly. Friday night, the people of Cyprus went to bed with a certain amount of money in their accounts—they thought—and Monday morning, last Monday, they were supposed to awake with X percent less money because the government had taken it. So, that’s an amazing new step of austerity. It suggests that this crisis is far from over and that the authorities are desperate to find the money, other than by taxing corporations, other than by taxing the wealthy, in order to solve their problems.
The second reason it’s important—and you stressed that—is that the people of Cyprus woke up, took one look at this, and said no—and did it dramatically. And in a matter of hours, they undid everything that the European governments and their own government had agreed to a few nights earlier. So it’s a demonstration of people power in this little corner of the world that’s very impressive, and the basis, I think, for some optimism about opposition.