Greece. What a country! From its storied history as the cradle of democracy to leadership in modern security techniques (allowing stray dogs to sleep atop airport X-ray machines—no joke), from novel solutions to reduce speeding (traffic lights and stop signs are routinely ignored, resulting in a seven-miles-per-hour average speed in Athens) to having a good, old-fashioned rivalry (hating the Turks), there’s something for everyone in Greece.
And to top it all, the legendary Greek work ethic (clock in, coffee, siesta, set up construction cones, break, coffee, siesta, lunch, siesta, ouzo, siesta, afternoon break, double-shot ouzo, siesta, remove construction cones, baklava (with ouzo), siesta, clock out) has resulted in Greece being the catalyst for the coming Dark Age in the West. Far be it for anyone to expect Greek workers to put in an honest day’s work, and to suggest increasing retirement age to something beyond what seems like 37.
Pay no attention to the fact that those asking for commonsense reforms are the ones footing the bill for the Greeks’ lavish, and ultimately unproductive, lifestyle. That list of benefactors includes countries (such as the United States), financial institutions, investors, and, ultimately, hard-working citizens around the world.
Oh, to be Greek!
Because of the immense entitlements bestowed upon Greek civil service workers, such as lavish holiday pay and early retirement (achieved through Social Security-type compensation packages that blow away those in the States), the Greek government has a problem. The Piper finally came calling, but the government couldn’t pay. It ran out of money several years ago.
Not wanting to leave a fellow European Union member twisting in the wind, the EU’s braintrust decided to send a bailout package Greece’s way. It was a combination of increasing the Euro money supply (contributing to inflation) and using OPM (Other People’s Money).
And in return for the sacrifice others made for the “greater good” of Greece (such as being asked to forgive 50 percent of Greece’s debt), what was asked of that nation? Reforms that would, in theory, get Greece back on solid financial footing, as if that were even possible for a nation whose debt exceeds an unfathomable 180 percent of its GDP.
But the bailout was made, with self-congratulatory, albeit clueless, Euro-technocrats preaching that all would be well again.
And things were great, at least in Greece, as the message of austerity was received loud and clear—with a wink, of course. Translation: “We’ll just continue with Business As Usual.”
And as any fifth grader could have deduced, the Greeks ran out of money—again and again and again. Not willing to cut their losses, the EU did exactly what Greece knew it would: open up its coffers … again and again and again.
We are on the sixth installment of the bailout, still predicated on austerity measures that simply aren’t happening.
And how are the Greek politicians doing in their quest to enact reforms that, while not popular, are necessary if Greece is to avoid default?
Uhhh … put it this way. Predicting that Kim Kardashian would be divorced after just two months was an infinitely better bet than thinking the Greeks would do the right thing.
The latest development, mistakenly called a “bombshell” but an obvious next step to all but the Euro-geniuses, was the decision to pass the buck by calling for a referendum on austerity measures.
So the Greeks, who have been rioting because they don’t want the party to end, would be asked to voluntarily turn off the free-money spigot. Sure they would.
However, due to intense international pressure, the referendum appears to be scrapped and the bailout package will be ratified by the government. But given that nothing is ever easy in Greece, don’t hold your breath. And does it really matter anyway?
After all, the European Financial Stability Facility (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and the European Central Bank continue their insane polices of bailouts and bond-buying initiatives (where they buy bonds of financially weak countries). In addition to the black hole called Greece, Portugal and Ireland have both received bailouts, and, not surprisingly, neither worked. So more Other People’s Money will be heading their way.
Not to be left out, Italy and Spain are next. And since they are some of Europe’s big boys, their bailout needs are exponentially greater than those of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined.
Where does it end?
The most significant, yet least discussed, issue in this entire debacle is that no one is offering solutions to fix the problem. Instead, they are merely buying time so that the can is kicked down the road again, praying the implosion occurs on someone else’s watch. Throw more imaginary money at the problem, say the right things to keep sheep-like investors duped, and don’t get caught holding the bag.
While that plan has worked for decades, too many fundamental economic principles have been violated for far too long to keep the Piper at bay much longer. The Ponzi scheme of socialist-leaning Western economies is quickly approaching implosion status, and when it blows, the 1929 Great Depression will look like a walk in the park.
The crisis certainly cannot be attributed only to Greece; that country just happens to be the poster boy for what occurs when socialism and laziness trump free markets and personal initiative.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s push for a referendum was labeled a high-stakes gamble, a bet that the Europeans’ prior bailouts have them in so deep that even if the Greek voters rejected austerity, the bailouts would continue. The alternative, we were told, was far worse: default.
But the truth, which no one seems willing to admit, is what transpires in Greece doesn’t matter. Given the complete lack of will of America and Europe (and the absence of an even basic understanding of economic principles), an unprecedented crash and massive social unrest is inevitable.
This is no longer conjecture, but reality grounded in cold, hard facts.
Ultimately, even Bernie Madoff was forced to confess to a Ponzi scheme. When will reality force our leaders to do the same?
The writing is on the wall, and it is anything but Greek.