Maria Margaronis’s excellent "Greek Drama" [March 8] neglects to mention the size of Greece’s military expenditures as an element in its budget crisis. Holding the Athens Olympics in 2004 may have cost the country 5 percent of GDP that year, but annual defense expenditures average 4 percent of GDP every year–the highest in the EU and second only to the United States. Similarly, she rightly decries the reported 30 percent of Greeks who work in the public sector but overlooks the 2.9 percent of the country’s active population engaged in the military sector–the highest in NATO! Unfortunately, Greece’s ongoing arms race with its neighbor Turkey, abetted by its arms-supplying NATO partners, makes any serious reining-in of military spending unlikely in the foreseeable future.
18 Million (Living Wage!) Jobs
Flushing, N.Y.; New Canaan, Conn.
Congratulations to Bob Pollin ["18 Million Jobs by 2012," March 8] for raising the ante! Pollin estimates that creating 18 million jobs in the next three years would bring the official unemployment rate down to 4 percent, a level the country has reached only twice since the late 1960s. At 4 percent unemployment we would achieve the "interim goal" of the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978–remember that hard-fought but nearly forgotten legislation?
Even in better times, unemployment is a chronic problem. For example, in 2000, when unemployment was at the 4 percent level, 13.3 million people were either officially out of work, employed for fewer hours than they would like or discouraged from looking for work. Millions more were working poor. Therefore, Pollin’s target rate should be considered an interim goal, a first step on the way to living-wage jobs for all. Let’s remember what Franklin Roosevelt had to say in the depths of the Great Depression: "We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people…is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and insecure." And let’s not forget FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights, which began with "the right to a useful and remunerative job." To achieve these economic rights we need a movement like the ones that brought civil and political rights to all our citizens. Visions like these can help inspire a social movement strong enough to overcome our grim political realities.