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Old 03-06-2010, 08:15 PM   #1
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Greece on the brink

Clashes as workers strike in Athens - CNN.com
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Old 03-06-2010, 09:39 PM   #2
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Between Germany and Greece, a Chorus of Sturm, Drang and Pathos - NYTimes.com
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Old 03-07-2010, 12:13 AM   #3
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Who do they think they are, California?
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:00 PM   #4
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When Responsibility Doesn�t Pay - Mark Steyn - National Review Online

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When Responsibility Doesn’t Pay


Welfare always breeds contempt.

While Barack Obama was making his latest pitch for a brand-new, even-more-unsustainable entitlement at the health-care “summit,” thousands of Greeks took to the streets to riot. An enterprising cable network might have shown the two scenes on a continuous split-screen — because they’re part of the same story. It’s just that Greece is a little further along in the plot: They’re at the point where the canoe is about to plunge over the falls. America is farther upstream and can still pull for shore, but has decided instead that what it needs to do is catch up with the Greek canoe. Chapter One (the introduction of unsustainable entitlements) leads eventually to Chapter Twenty (total societal collapse): The Greeks are at Chapter Seventeen or Eighteen.

What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th-century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless, insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany, and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social-democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1 — or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: Ten grandparents have six kids have four grandkids — ie, the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility — the point from which no society has ever recovered. And, compared to Spain and Italy, Greece has the least worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe.

So you can’t borrow against the future because, in the most basic sense, you don’t have one. Greeks in the public sector retire at 58, which sounds great. But, when ten grandparents have four grandchildren, who pays for you to spend the last third of your adult life loafing around?

By the way, you don’t have to go to Greece to experience Greek-style retirement: The Athenian “public service” of California has been metaphorically face down in the ouzo for a generation. Still, America as a whole is not yet Greece. A couple of years ago, when I wrote my book America Alone, I put the then–Social Security debate in a bit of perspective: On 2005 figures, projected public-pensions liabilities were expected to rise by 2040 to about 6.8 percent of GDP. In Greece, the figure was 25 percent: in other words, head for the hills, Armageddon outta here, The End. Since then, the situation has worsened in both countries. And really the comparison is academic: Whereas America still has a choice, Greece isn’t going to have a 2040 — not without a massive shot of Reality Juice.

Is that likely to happen? At such moments, I like to modify Gerald Ford. When seeking to ingratiate himself with conservative audiences, President Ford liked to say: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” Which is true enough. But there’s an intermediate stage: A government big enough to give you everything you want isn’t big enough to get you to give any of it back. That’s the point Greece is at. Its socialist government has been forced into supporting a package of austerity measures. The Greek people’s response is: Nuts to that. Public-sector workers have succeeded in redefining time itself: Every year, they receive 14 monthly payments. You do the math. And for about seven months’ work: For many of them, the work day ends at 2:30 p.m. And, when they retire, they get 14 monthly pension payments. In other words: Economic reality is not my problem. I want my benefits. And, if it bankrupts the entire state a generation from now, who cares as long as they keep the checks coming until I croak?

We hard-hearted small-government guys are often damned as selfish types who care nothing for the general welfare. But, as the Greek protests make plain, nothing makes an individual more selfish than the socially equitable communitarianism of big government: Once a chap’s enjoying the fruits of government health care, government-paid vacation, government-funded early retirement, and all the rest, he couldn’t give a hoot about the general societal interest; he’s got his, and to hell with everyone else. People’s sense of entitlement endures long after the entitlement has ceased to make sense.

The perfect spokesman for the entitlement mentality is the deputy prime minister of Greece. The European Union has concluded that the Greek government’s austerity measures are insufficient and, as a condition of bailout, has demanded something more robust. Greece is no longer a sovereign state: It’s General Motors, and the EU is Washington, and the Greek electorate is happy to play the part of the UAW — everything’s on the table except anything that would actually make a difference. In practice, because Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland are also on the brink of the abyss, a “European” bailout will be paid for by Germany. So the aforementioned Greek deputy prime minister, Theodoros Pangalos, has denounced the conditions of the EU deal on the grounds that the Germans stole all the bullion from the Bank of Greece during the Second World War. Welfare always breeds contempt, in nations as much as inner-city housing projects: How dare you tell us how to live! Just give us your money and push off.

Unfortunately, Germany is no longer an economic powerhouse. As Angela Merkel pointed out a year ago, for Germany, an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. Over 30 percent of German women are childless; among German university graduates, it’s over 40 percent. And for the ever-dwindling band of young Germans who make it out of the maternity ward, there’s precious little reason to stick around. Why be the last handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lad working the late shift at the beer garden in order to prop up singlehandedly entire retirement homes? And that’s before the EU decides to add the Greeks to your burdens. Germans, who retire at 67, are now expected to sustain the unsustainable 14 monthly payments per year of Greeks who retire at 58.

Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still-just-about-functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn’t pay. You’ll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of “the rich” to fund the entitlement state, because in the end it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they’ve run out Greeks, so they’ll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2010 Mark Steyn
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:07 PM   #5
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Mark Steyn, what a brilliant man
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:20 PM   #6
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Mark Steyn, what a brilliant man
I know it's like rocket science to figure out that social programs have to be paid for. What a genius!
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Old 03-07-2010, 03:01 PM   #7
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Some of his criticism is valid in essence. But he makes it too easy for you and himself to perfectly ignore some Greek pecularities (with the great help of yours truthfully Goldman Sachs) which was to cheat on the balance sheet for years, spend on projects which were never going to pay, having set-up an imperfect social welfare system (which has Bismarckian aspects, but isn't Bismarckian) and so on. Their social welfare system was never grounded in reality, so it ought to fail. But his sentiment that this will be inevitably the case, backing it with one example which in some aspects is very extreme and leaving out important factors only because they don't help your point is greatly dishonest.
It was a known secret that when Greece finally was allowed to enter into the Euro they already cheated to perform within the guidelines of the Maastricht Treaty. It was a very unfortunate political decision to look the other way only so the implementation and acceptance of the Euro wouldn't have another setback.
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Old 03-07-2010, 03:17 PM   #8
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Mark Steyn, what a brilliant man
Much as it pains me to say it, I agree with him here.
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Old 03-07-2010, 03:46 PM   #9
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My problem with Mark Steyn is that he's ALWAYS dishonest in his presentaion of information. Like Vincent said, he ignores a lot and uses one example to prove his point. He's built his whole career on that tactic.
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Old 03-07-2010, 04:22 PM   #10
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Some of his criticism is valid in essence. But he makes it too easy for you and himself to perfectly ignore some Greek pecularities (with the great help of yours truthfully Goldman Sachs) which was to cheat on the balance sheet for years, spend on projects which were never going to pay, having set-up an imperfect social welfare system (which has Bismarckian aspects, but isn't Bismarckian) and so on. Their social welfare system was never grounded in reality, so it ought to fail. But his sentiment that this will be inevitably the case, backing it with one example which in some aspects is very extreme and leaving out important factors only because they don't help your point is greatly dishonest.
It was a known secret that when Greece finally was allowed to enter into the Euro they already cheated to perform within the guidelines of the Maastricht Treaty. It was a very unfortunate political decision to look the other way only so the implementation and acceptance of the Euro wouldn't have another setback.
Dishonest? He's just pointing out that Greece is farther down the river and much of the west (including the U.S.) is not far behind. If you want to get into "peculiarities" it still doesn't change exactly what needs to happen. Even socialist governments can be forced to cut spending.

Maybe I need to post another Aesop's fable:

YouTube - Aesop's Fables Part 2/5

Except I could add that the grasshopper asks for a bailout and taxes the ants.

This one is appropriate as well:

YouTube - The Greedy Fox
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Old 03-07-2010, 05:18 PM   #11
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It's dishonest if you present a case very one sided and leave out fundamental information to justify a point you are trying to make.
No one is even saying that cutting costs and making a social welfare system affordable and in line with your economic abilities isn't right. But his attempt at brushing with a big stroke saying that social welfare is, ad definitionem, leading to that outcome is stupid.
Greece had many government changes, but it basically went between conservative and socialist parties. Both are no more and no less at fault for the sorry state the government is in. The current government is just in since last October, and they are the ones who are making the deep cuts. It'd be silly to point fingers at the Socialists here.
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Old 03-08-2010, 07:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Vincent Vega View Post
It's dishonest if you present a case very one sided and leave out fundamental information to justify a point you are trying to make.
No one is even saying that cutting costs and making a social welfare system affordable and in line with your economic abilities isn't right. But his attempt at brushing with a big stroke saying that social welfare is, ad definitionem, leading to that outcome is stupid.
Greece had many government changes, but it basically went between conservative and socialist parties. Both are no more and no less at fault for the sorry state the government is in. The current government is just in since last October, and they are the ones who are making the deep cuts. It'd be silly to point fingers at the Socialists here.
I'd agree if it wasn't for leftists making big election promises in every democracy. If conservatives in Europe or Mark Steyn support lax Euro entrance rules I would disagree with them as well. The problem with Conservatives is what are they trying to conserve? This is how conservatives get blamed for socialist policies they don't fix or repeal. Bipartisan blame is the political game today. That's why it's fun to hear people say "where were you when Bush was over-spending?". This is supposed to be the two wrongs equal a right argument. My answer to that question is another question. "So what now?"

The public in the end will have to take a stand to support fiscal prudence so politicians can feel safer doing the right thing. If a socialist wants (or has to) balance the budget then I won't stop them. If there's any weakness for politicians on either side of the spectrum to balance the budget that blame lands squarely on the protesting interest groups that will use the media to villify as many cuts as possible to prevent real deficit fighting. I'm sure conservative governments (if they had the mandate) would have balanced the budgets a long time ago if there wasn't popular dissent, just like the Democrats would have passed health-care reform by now if there wasn't a large dissent amongst the population.
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Old 03-08-2010, 09:50 PM   #13
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I'd agree if it wasn't for leftists making big election promises in every democracy.
So only "leftists" make big election promises? What world do you live in?

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This is how conservatives get blamed for socialist policies they don't fix or repeal. Bipartisan blame is the political game today. That's why it's fun to hear people say "where were you when Bush was over-spending?".
What? Oh, please do explain, in less than three sentences, what the hell this means...
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Old 03-09-2010, 06:21 AM   #14
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I'd agree if it wasn't for leftists making big election promises in every democracy. If conservatives in Europe or Mark Steyn support lax Euro entrance rules I would disagree with them as well. The problem with Conservatives is what are they trying to conserve? This is how conservatives get blamed for socialist policies they don't fix or repeal. Bipartisan blame is the political game today. That's why it's fun to hear people say "where were you when Bush was over-spending?". This is supposed to be the two wrongs equal a right argument. My answer to that question is another question. "So what now?"

The public in the end will have to take a stand to support fiscal prudence so politicians can feel safer doing the right thing. If a socialist wants (or has to) balance the budget then I won't stop them. If there's any weakness for politicians on either side of the spectrum to balance the budget that blame lands squarely on the protesting interest groups that will use the media to villify as many cuts as possible to prevent real deficit fighting. I'm sure conservative governments (if they had the mandate) would have balanced the budgets a long time ago if there wasn't popular dissent, just like the Democrats would have passed health-care reform by now if there wasn't a large dissent amongst the population.
In my view that's a real cop-out. Everything that goes wrong within a given society, therefore, is just due to the left giving the poor Conservatives such a hard time leaving them with no other option than increasing spending. Most European conservative governments never looked that pitiful to me, but if that's the case, well then I would kindly ask them to grow some balls.
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Old 03-09-2010, 08:35 PM   #15
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In my view that's a real cop-out. Everything that goes wrong within a given society, therefore, is just due to the left giving the poor Conservatives such a hard time leaving them with no other option than increasing spending. Most European conservative governments never looked that pitiful to me, but if that's the case, well then I would kindly ask them to grow some balls.
Politicians grow balls when there's a popular mandate. I'm pretty sure Barack Obama has balls but he's banging them against popular opinion. Most politicians are worried about approval ratings and polls. I guess Barack is tough because keeps getting a beating and keeps on ticking.

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So only "leftists" make big election promises? What world do you live in?
When it comes to spending promises the left is bigger than the right at this. I mean you are aware of the political spectrum aren't you? Bush was the big spender ("compassionate" conservative) until the congress turned Democrat (spending increased) and then when Obama came to power the spending increased even more. Even a moderate like McCain was talking about a spending freeze last election. The last time the budget was balanced was when the Contract with America was on. Clinton did the right thing by not getting in the way. BTW in your reponse don't attempt to equate military spending with welfare spending. Anybody who is serious knows that when the cat's away the mice play. I'm looking at you China, Russia, and Iran.

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What? Oh, please do explain, in less than three sentences, what the hell this means...
Here's an example: Obama trying to get Republicans (even just 1 or 2) to support his health-care plan to then call it bipartisan. How about Obama trying to meet with conservatives he likes so he can ostracize the more conservative types (Talk Radio) and appear like he cares about bipartisanship? Bipartisanship allows you to share blame. Is that short enough?

Obama And Conservatives Break Bread At George Will's House

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Obama has pledged to be a uniter once in office. He's also said he is willing to take policy suggestions from any source, regardless of ideological affiliation, as long as they work. So far, he's living up to his word.
As an aside this made me laugh:

The Courtship | The New Republic

Quote:
That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. “I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.” In the fall of 2006, two days after Obama’s The Audacity of Hope hit bookstores, Brooks published a glowing Times column. The headline was “Run, Barack, Run.”
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