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In Astoria, Queens, the far-away financial crisis in Greece is a local story

On the streets of Astoria, Queens, where signs are in Greek and English, there are no whiffs of tear-gas, but passions run high. Despite words of blunt criticism, many wonder how they can help.

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Another retiree, Dimitrios Psomostithis, who worked as a ship’s steward, says “corruption is everywhere,” a problem that must be resolved if the nation is to dig its way out of its problem. “People have big houses, they have two or three cars, and then they tell the Greek IRS they don’t make any money.”

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On a table outside of Taverna Kyclades, waiter Giannis Drakopoulos, recounts how only 150 Greeks in an upscale part of Athens told the tax authorities they had a swimming pool—something that could be taxed. “Someone did a Google earth search and found there were a couple of thousand,” he recalls.

Drakopoulos says he can directly relate to how tough it is going to be since he has a relative who is an electrician in the Greek Air Force. His wage has gone from 1,300 Euros a month to 950 Euros. “You really can’t take from the normal people,” he says. “The average person in Greece is poor.”

At the same time, many Greek-Americans think the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou needs to get tough. Mr. Sirigos says that in a recent survey by the National Herald, 91 percent of respondents said the Greek government should fire redundant workers. Only 2 percent were opposed.

Apparently, one way many Greek-Americans think they can help is to book flights to Greece to enjoy one of the sunny isles. Dimitra Sarabalis Tarazonas, manager of the Astoria branch of Homeric Tours, says business has been good. “People love their country so much,” she says.

Sirigos says some Greek islands have been reporting a 10 percent increase in business this year. “The numbers have been up until the last few weeks,” he says.

While some Greek-Americans may be planning vacations, many on Wall Street are just relieved there appears to be some sort of resolution, even if it’s only temporary. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 72.73 points.

“It looks like the financial markets have settled down,” says Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Oregon. “Now the markets can focus on what’s going on in the US to see if we are going to emerge from this slow stretch.”


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