When Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., applauded Greeks for rejecting bailout terms being imposed by the nation's creditors, he was articulating an economic sentiment at the core of U.S liberalism — an abhorrence to budget cutting, deficit-reducing policies derisively termed "austerity."
Sanders on Sunday issued a statement endorsing the Greeks' decision, a move that could result in the country being forced to drop the Euro currency in the face of a fiscal crisis,
"I applaud the people of Greece for saying 'no' to more austerity for the the (sic) poor, the children, the sick and the elderly," he said.
It was hardly the first time the senator has weighed in on the subject. He has written op-eds for liberal media outlets including the Huffington Post and the British Guardian and often mentioned it in speeches and interviews.
"The new Greek government needs support in establishing pro-growth policies which create jobs, expand their economy and enable them to pay down their debts. Demanding that creditors are paid before any of that is allowed to happen may come at a very heavy price for more than just the people of Greece," he wrote in the Guardian in February.
That same month, he went so far as to call on Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen to use the U.S.'s clout to pressure the European Central Bank to back down on its negotiations with Greece.
Sanders argues that efforts by the nation's creditors to get Greece to pay its debts have only worsened the conditions in the country by stifling its economic growth and that more lenient terms should be used instead. The senator's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
His position is shared by many American liberal activists. A petition hosted by Moveon.org calling on Congress to "oppose [the] IMF assault on Greek democracy," had gained more than 12,000 signatures by Monday, one week after its initial posting. Campaign for America's Future co-director Robert Borosage called the EU creditor's efforts "part of a continued war of the few on the many."
To the liberals, the Greek situation is a clear example that deficit-reduction efforts, which generally threaten domestic spending they favor, don't work. They blame them for the country's deep recession, shrinking economy and high unemployment.
"The general argument that Sanders makes that, once more, banks have been bailed out while people suffer will have … resonance, even among those who have no idea where Greece is or what the Euro is," Borosage told the Washington Examiner.
The liberals are hopeful that the Greek's resistance will evolve into similar movements in other countries, weakening the power of large financial institutions.
"If (the Greek ruling party) Syriza succeeds in rolling back the EU-mandated measures, it could encourage dissident political movements in other parts of Europe; the right-wing governments in Europe's periphery are terrified of a Greek success at the negotiating table," Sanders said in his Guardian op-ed.
European leaders generally agree with Sanders on this point, says Scott Sumner, director of the Program on Monetary Policy at George Mason University's Mercatus Center. Giving in to Greek demands will spark similar movements in other debtor nations, undermining their ability to preserve the currency.
"They'll ask, 'Why not us too?'" Sumner said. For that reason, EU leaders including German President Angela Merkel are highly resistant to agree to the Greece's demands. There's public pressure too. Polls show Greece's stance has been highly unpopular with voters in the wealthier nations.
It is not clear precisely what liberals think Greece should do should the EU call the nation's bluff and refuse to renegotiate the debt. The liberals generally argue that any negative consequences will be the responsibility of the creditors.
Sanders has argued several times that requiring Greece to pay back its creditors would pave the way for fascism.
"We must remember that waiting in the wings should this recently elected Greek government fail is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. We cannot allow fascism to come to power in a European country due to our unwillingness to reverse harmful austerity policies," he said in his letter to Yellen.