Last year, just around this time as it happens, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was, aside from Greece itself, the world’s most ardent proponent of Greek economic salvation. Translation: the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (then headed by Strauss-Kahan) arranged for a $147 billion bailout of the debt-riddled country that had never known a moment’s austerity.
In exchange for such largesse, the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, wearing a tie of dark purple (the color traditionally worn at Greek funerals), announced cuts in spending and tax increases amounting to 30 billion euros. There would be, Greeks were warned, and anxious donors promised, massive pay freezes, further cuts in workers’ benefits, and higher fuel taxes, among other sad alterations. Retirement age would be higher, pensions would be lower. Greek unions were, predictably, outraged. Greek politicians sanguine. Strauss-Kahn hailed, not for the first time, a savior.