By Mr. Curmudgeon:
The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes is famous for holding a lamp to men’s faces saying, “I am looking for an honest man.” That man is in the person of Greek journalist Alexis Papachelas. As his nation disintegrates, with unemployment at 27%, 36% for those ages 25-34, an economy contracting 6% annually and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 176.7%, Papachelas believes it’s time his countrymen stopped kidding themselves and assess how they got here.
“There is nothing easier than blaming X or Y for our problems,” said Papahelas in the Athens daily Kathimerini, “Did any politician openly call for measures to rein in the deficit and deal with the skyrocketing debt? … Workers’ unions played their own role in the shipwreck by controlling the political parties and acting like battering rams every time a crucial decision had to be taken … The media played a role because it never launched a meaningful debate as to whether the Greek state could sustain any more debt, any more appointments and even greater deficits. Every effort at addressing the issue was met with a tsunami of reactions. Newspapers ran headlines slamming ‘brutal austerity,’ TV stations screamed about measures ‘against the people’ and in the end, nothing was done. The media also often acted the part of the monster that would scare politicians over the cost of doing something viewed as too harsh.”
If the Greek disaster above strikes you as a foreshadowing of America’s future, you’re in a very small minority. The pinstriped Wall Street banker feasting on pheasant, and the scruffy Occupy Wall Street protester storming police barricades, are united in their belief that the tragedy now unfolding in the “cradle of democracy” can’t happen here.
Wall Street loves government bailouts, lavish Washington spending and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing – actions that artificially (and temporarily) lift the markets; the Occupiers want their “rich” Uncle Sam to fund … well … just about everything.
Americans and Greeks seem incapable of grasping the harsh reality that our economies no longer produce the wealth our governments love to redistribute. Have you looked at the manufacturing label on most of your household items? “Made in China” is most likely what you’ll find.
Missing from President Obama’s State of the Union address and Sen. Marco Rubio’s Republican response was this stark reality: the $1.2 trillion sequester cut in government expenditures spread out over a decade, is not the disaster it’s cracked up to be. That’s because the so-called “reduction” is nothing of the sort. Over that same decade, federal spending will increase by $7 trillion. The only one to mention that dismal fact was Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky during his Tea Party rebuttal. Unlike Obama and Rubio’s remarks, the major networks didn’t think Paul’s dose of reality worthy of airtime.
Many believe the solution to America’s fiscal crisis is political. Democrats say Americans should bite the bullet, pay their “fair share” of ever-increasing taxes and bear the costs of a depreciated dollar and chronic, high unemployment – with a smile. You know, shared sacrifice … misery loves company … kind of stuff.
Republicans, on the other hand, say we can have our entitlement state and low taxes too. Tinkering with the tax code, they say, will allow our economy to grow along with entitlements.
If you want to see a microcosm of politics in Greece, and America for that matter, you need go no further than your local Toys “R” Us. From nearly every aisle, arise ear-splitting shrieks from children disappointed by their parent’s refusal to buy that one special (and usually expensive) toy. The reaction from responsible parents is, “I’m very sorry, but we can’t afford that.” Sure, the child cries as he or she is dragged from the store, but the family budget remains secure, and food will grace the dinner table once more.
The fundamental difference separating a parent from a politician is, of course, love. Politicians may claim the mantle of “compassion,” but their love is focused on themselves; or, more accurately, their careers.
Voters tend to elect politicians that pander to their prejudices. If voters believe they can have something for nothing, it’s not likely you’ll hear a politician, no matter their party, disagree. It’s this pandering to the unreasonable, child-like demands of voters that is accelerating the downward spiral of Western democracies. This unhealthy explosion of self-love – the politician for himself and the voter for a “free lunch” – is really not love at all. It’s selfish, childish greed.
Recently, comedian Chris Rock told the press, “The President and the First Lady are kinda like the Mom and Dad of the country. And when your Dad says something, you listen …”
I’ve been listening to President “Dad” for a little more than four years, and the one thing I don’t here is, “No!” “No!” to reckless, unsustainable spending; “No!” to a growing, nation-killing debt; “No!” to America becoming Greece.
If Washington politicians prattle on like children, it’s because they mirror the children that elect them. The shelves at Entitlements “R” Us are nearly bare, and replenishing them is depleting an increasing number of dinner tables across America. But politicians can’t say no to the wailing toddlers now dropping to the floor, refusing to move until they get that special, expensive toy. That’s because politicians are parents without love.
If I were a candidate running for office, I would carry one prop. A lamp. When the press asked, “What’s with the lantern?” My Diogenes-like answer would be, “I’m looking for an honest, American grown up.”