Streams

Opinion: Greece Offers Cautionary Tale for Our Economic Foibles

Thursday, November 03, 2011 - 01:22 PM

The story of how Greece has gotten itself into the mess it faces today is beyond dead horse... they spent far too much and taxed far too little for decades and now the problems are coming to roost. To have any chance of averting total economic collapse, they have to convince people who loaned them the money they borrowed to take a huge loss, while cutting spending so they don't just need to ask the same thing in a few months.

This is reality.

It is also reality that the Greek economy is suffering from the cuts in government spending. This is leading many on the left, especially in Greece, to argue that they shouldn't cut spending. But nowhere in that argument is a magical pot of gold at the end of some rainbow would pay for the debt that will come if they don't cut more.

Fact is, the money just plain doesn't exist. There isn't enough inside of Greece to get themselves out of the hole they've dug for themselves, and the rest of the world has little appetite for giving much more to a nation that is likely to ask them to take a loss on whatever they give them again on down the line. The only reason they're getting any help now is European nations that are in better fiscal shape fear the economic ripple effects if Greece crumbles.

The Greeks don't want to admit that they don't have any good options left (or mediocre, or even bad... just terrible) and the situation they are in is almost entirely of their own doing. No amount of mass protests will make the debt magically go away, or tens of thousands of jobs magically be created. In fact the opposite is needed, especially when you're talking about huge strikes... they need people to GO to work, make money, pay taxes, pay their bills, pay down their personal debt, expect less from government, spend money on their local, regional and national economy and sacrifice some so the next generation isn't screwed over as badly as this one is - because of the previous generations' selfishness.

A fitting analogy for this might be someone who's been eating terribly for decades, and is complaining about the choice between not doing anything following a mild heart attack, and just going on with their life as they were... hoping for a miracle, or making drastic and painful lifestyle choices and going under the scalpel for some artery clearing surgery.

This is the same fate our country will face in a generation or two if we don't change course, but that's a whole other can of worms. As much as it would be economically suicidal if Greece didn't take the deal they are being offered, it should be up to the Greek people to decide their own fate. Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou probably is trying to pawn this off to help his chances of keeping office, but ultimately it is the right move.

The Greek people are the ones that will have to pay for whatever is done. They're also the ones that elected the politicians who got them to where they are now fiscally. They need to be made aware of the likely outcomes of what either choice will bring, but the choice should be theirs to make... not a few people in government, and certainly not anyone in other countries.

It's disillusionment time for the Greek people, and having them collectively vote on what to do with the problem they created is just the sort of reality check they need.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.

Tags:

More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [2]

Soylent greenie from USA

I'm afraid that Greece is to the rest of Europe what California is to the rest of The United States. We are witnessing the failure of elected representative government. Greece has dug herself into this deep, deep hole because her government has been captured by government workers' unions whose leadership is blind to realities other than their ability to buy and to bully the politicians into bending to their will. Witness the government hiring Goldman Sachs to assist in cooking the books so that they could borrow more money when they knew that repayment or even keeping current on existing debt was impossible. No sane person, unless one considers a junkie sane, would make such a decision.
Greece was the birthplace of Democracy, and I fear that it will also be the place where it also begins to die. Hello Golden Dawn.

Nov. 02 2012 08:19 PM

Mr. Kleinsmith;

You have raised a most interesting question in your piece.

If I'm not putting words in your processor, you feel there are some circumstances in which questions facing a democratically-elected government [parliamentary in the case of Greece, somewhat different in the US,] should be put up to a direct vote by the people, rather than being decided by the government.

I should like to ask you if you believe a similar action should ever be undertaken in the United States and, if yes, under what conditions?

The questions are not trivial. They bear directly upon the degree of power [essentially absolute in the US if in agreement with the constitution,] which is to be granted to elected officials.

Nov. 04 2011 11:45 AM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Sponsored

About It's A Free Blog

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a blog, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at revsonfoundation.org.

Feeds

Supported by