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Rioting in Greece over debt -- could it happen here?

May 6, 2010 |  9:58 am

Protesters at anti-government rally in Athens May 5, 2010 protesting harsh new austerity measures by AP Photo
In Athens, government workers are rioting in the streets, protesting cuts in their salaries, benefits and pensions. Three bankers burned to death after protesters set their building on fire while they were at work. Police are using tear gas. Officials in France and Germany, which is underwriting much of Greece's debt of $141 billion, are watching with alarm.

With U.S. debt also mounting -- much of it owed to the Chinese -- pundits are beginning to wonder if those street protests in Greece are a window on America's future. These are not riots from the Right -- the "tea party" is angry about deficit spending, but hardly the kind of movement that would target businesses or government cutbacks. These are attacks on capitalism from the Left.

Conservative Michelle Malkin noted that already the SEIU marched in the streets of San Francisco last fall over budget cuts and layoffs. In Santa Cruz, at a May Day march for workers and immigrants' rights, protesters used makeshift torches to break windows and write what the police dubbed "anarchist graffiti" on buildings, including an Urban Outfitters. Even in Asheville, N.C., a bastion of conservatism, more than 20 black-clad, self-described anarchists, went on a rampage, smashing windows and vandalizing cars with hammers.

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Still, concern about runaway federal spending is not the exclusive purview of conservatives. As Ticket reported earlier this year, 9 of 10 Americans approved of President Obama's State of the Union call for a freeze on federal spending. , And on Monday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sounded the alarm. "Never in my decades in Congress have I seen a public so outraged by deficits and debt," he said. "It is enough to look across the Atlantic at Greece’s extreme economic crisis and understand it can happen here. If we don’t change course, it will happen here.”

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Demonstrators protesting against government austerity measures at rally in Athens Wednesday. Credit: Associated Press

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