America’s Coming Greek Tragedy [Reader Post]

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Characteristically, the protagonist in Greek tragedies fell victim to hubris. Ajax, Oedipus and Orestes all shared such a fate. One day, bards will add Barack Obama to that list.

Greece is in the throes of economic death. An era of obscene pensions and spending profligacy has left the country at war with itself.

In Greece, two major unions went on strike and tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday. It is a public protest against government plans to toughen the country’s austerity measures and save the country from financial ruin.

More than 20,000 people took to the streets of Athens, and in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, another estimated 20,000.

They were protesting against government plans to raise taxes and cut spending.

Sound familiar?

Greeks are up in arms about the draconian demands from the government:

The reform cuts benefits, curbs widespread early retirement, increases the number of contribution years from 35-37 to 40 and raises women’s retirement age from 60 to match men on 65.

Greek unions view this as a massacre:

“The draft pension bill … is slaughtering fundamental pension rights,” public sector union ADEDY said in a statement.

It’s a slaughter?

ATHENS — Vasia Veremi may be only 28, but as a hairdresser in Athens, she is keenly aware that, under a current law that treats her job as hazardous to her health, she has the right to retire with a full pension at age 50.

“I use a hundred different chemicals every day — dyes, ammonia, you name it,” she said. “You think there’s no risk in that?”

“People should be able to retire at a decent age,” Ms. Veremi added. “We are not made to live 150 years.”

Perhaps not, but it is still difficult to explain to outsiders why the Greek government has identified at least 580 job categories deemed to be hazardous enough to merit retiring early — at age 50 for women and 55 for men.

Greece’s patchwork system of early retirement has contributed to the out-of-control state spending that has led to Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Its pension promises will grow sharply in coming years, and investors can see the country has not set aside enough to cover those costs, making it harder for Greece to borrow at a reasonable rate.

As a consequence of decades of bargains struck between strong unions and weak governments, Greece has promised early retirement to about 700,000 employees, or 14 percent of its work force, giving it an average retirement age of 61, one of the lowest in Europe.

The law includes dangerous jobs like coal mining and bomb disposal. But it also covers radio and television presenters, who are thought to be at risk from the bacteria on their microphones, and musicians playing wind instruments, who must contend with gastric reflux as they puff and blow.

The damage in Greece is self-inflicted:

For successive governments, power has been used to dispense patronage and reward voters with jobs – a practice that increasingly triggered labour unrest and dragged down the economy. In the shadow of bloody civil war, the state was the great connector.

By the time the modernising socialists were elected last October, the civil service was not only bloated but at bursting point with even the finance minister George Papaconstantinou admitting in an interview with the Guardian that he was “clueless” as to the real number of employees.

“Until now the only dream of nearly every Greek has been to get a state job,” says the author Nikos Dimou. “Because they knew that it was not only a job for life but involved little work.”

Greece and its unions want to give up nothing and still want a bailout. Germany is being asked to provide the funding for that bailout and it has the Germans displeased:

“The Greeks go onto the streets to protest against the increase of the ­pension age from 61 to 63. Does that mean that the Germans should in future extend the working age from 67 to 69, so that the Greeks can enjoy their ­retirement?”

Sound familiar? Think “unions.”

Now the other shoe drops for Greece. The bailout delays the inevitable.

AN IRREVERENT official at the International Monetary Fund recently installed a jarring ringtone on his mobile phone. It is the sound of cans being kicked down a road. That, alas, is what Europe’s politicians and the IMF look set to do with their latest rescue plan for Greece. Though the details are still being hammered out, it is already clear that the package—likely to involve an extra €85 billion ($125 billion) or so—goes only part way, at best, towards dealing with Greece’s economic woes.

Bailouts delay the inevitable. Who woulda thunk it?

Which brings us back to the US and another stupid Obama program.

After pouring billions down the HAMP hole, Obama has decided to dump in another billion.

Homeowners facing foreclosure can now tap into a $1 billion program of emergency loans to help tide them over a temporary financial crisis, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced.

Beginning today, homeowners in 27 states can file preliminary applications for the Emergency Homeowner’s Loan Program (EHLP). Eligible homeowners can obtain interest-free loans of up to $50,000 to help cover mortgage expenses for up to two years.

And you might not even have to pay it back!

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the nonprofit NeighborWorks America said the program will provide hundreds of local borrowers with interest-free loans of up to $50,000 over a two-year period. In some cases, the money will not have to be paid back.

Democrats are idiots who never learn.

Subsidize failure, get more failure.

Subsidize poverty, get more poverty.

Subsidize ignorance, get more ignorance.

And it is utterly contemptible that those who did not deserve these mortgages and would not and will not pay those mortgages are rewarded while those of us who have conducted ourselves responsibly get to pay for those who do not. We are paying for the Clinton-Rubin-Cuomo socialization of the housing system. Ironically, the three of them have profited immensely since pushing this country over a cliff.

The constant housing bailouts only delay the inevitable. They delay a housing recovery.

Out of control spending. Absurd pensions. Unions working in collusion with government. The echoes are unmistakable.

How does one say “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” in Greek?

DrJohn has been a health care professional for more than 30 years. In addition to clinical practice he has done extensive research and has published widely with over 70 original articles and abstracts in the peer-reviewed literature. DrJohn is well known in his field and has lectured on every continent except for Antarctica. He has been married to the same wonderful lady for over 30 years and has three kids- two sons, both of whom are attorneys and one daughter on her way into the field of education. DrJohn was brought up with the concept that one can do well if one is prepared to work hard but nothing in life is guaranteed. Except for liberals being foolish.

21 Responses to “America’s Coming Greek Tragedy [Reader Post]”

  1. 1

    oil guy from Alberta

    If it moves, tax it. If it continues to move, regulate it. If it dies, subsidize it. ( Reagan thinking out loud )

  2. 2


    I FEEL THAT GREECE should be left to pay the price , that
    that is a total crumble of the UNIONS POWER, TOTAL ELIMINATION OF THEM,
    AND THEIR REVENUE stop and cease by lawfull decree,
    on the fact that the means are no more there to supply their hungry demands.
    OFcourse there would be a devastation by the mob in charge of inciting the crowd,
    but then they would realise that they are destroying their own house,
    and gradualy take a step back to reality that they are only punishing themself and their loved one. they now have reach their limits,
    time to stop and pause for thought
    there is a time to spend and the time to pay has come for the government where it hurt, meaning their own pocket first

  3. 4

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    The real tragedy is that many people will still vote for Obi. He has the “gift of gab”. Granted most if not all he preaches is pie in the sky stuff. But Obi understands one major fact. That many Americans want the Eutopia he preaches about. But more importantly they believe him, and think that he is the only one who can lead them to the gates of that Eutopia. I am anxious to see what more free goodies that he will promise to his flock as election day drawa near. And one must remember, that Greece did not have Obi at the helm. And That Obi will ensure that they recieve their just dues if he gets re-elected.

  4. 5


    Gary G. Senchonis hi,
    I was thinking of: HOW can he promiss to pay their expanse if there wont be any moneys,
    that again would be a blatant lie, would it, to get some votes,
    but now the people will not be fool twice, they will not trust the MEDIA, or the telepromter,
    they know how important this ELECTION IS and AMERICANS WILL RISE UP TO THE CHALLENGE
    THIS TIME FOR SURE. they are the master of the future, and their voice will make the liers tremble
    this time

  5. 6


    We’re a very,very long way from Greece’s fate. I’ve been reading about the impending death of the US for years now and we’re not even close.

    We’ll get there, but probably not for another 10 years or so.

  6. 7

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    @ilovebeeswarzone: Good question Bees. But i doubt that we will get any straight answers anytime soon from our government on that question. And I do hope your right that someone will come along and put politics second to the country, and stop this decent into anarchy.

  7. 8

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    @Ivan: I agree with you on how we all have been reading about the impending doom of America for years. But I did not believe it at the time. I figured that more factors had to be introduced into the mix. many of those factors are now reality. And other factors can be seen over the horizon if our so-called leaders don’t get there act together, and real soon. We always thought that we would be much older, and or dead by the time that we reached this stage of decline in our nation. So it was no concern till 2008. Then everything went on fast forward. What happened in Greece is a real possibility and much sooner than I would like to see happen. Our leaders have put many of these issues on the back burner for years now, but now they have come together to make one mean monster. I just hope that they will find the courage to deal with it. But I seriously doubt it. Like all leaders they will be insulated from many of the negative consequences that the rest of us will have to deal with when the bottom does fall out. And I still hope that you are right. 10 years will put me out of the picture and into the Magic Kingdom! Where every payday is a Fortune! Every weekend a Holiday in Rome! And every meal is a Kings Feast!

  8. 9


    Gary G. Swenchonis, hi, I think of someone who rise above any attacks like
    immune from it, and never giveup the focus on AMERICA WITH LOVE
    and this person would put every thing behind the prime goal to save this NATION,
    on the other side, and when you will see them, hear them trying to gently throw a stone at the BRIGHT

  9. 10

    Why is it that only policies which benefit Americans with average to below-average economic assets are blamed for debt problems? The demons destroying the economy are all those policies which most benefit undeserving average to poor people, who are just sucking all of life’s juices out of our living and breathing economy.

    I know you’ll roll your eyes when I quote Fareed Zakaria, but sometimes even mainstream leftist pundits say things which make a lot of sense:

    I’ve been watching the Republicans on the campaign trail and what strikes me so far is that conservatives in America have gone through a strange transformation.

    It used to be that conservatism was a hard-headed set of ideas rooted in reality.

    Unlike the abstract theories of Marxism and socialism, it started not from an imagined society, but from the world as it actually exists.

    “This is the way things work,” conservatives would patiently explain to wooly headed liberal professors. “Whatever you may want it to look like, this is what it really looks like.”

    what is the actual evidence that massive tax cuts are the single best path to revive the U.S. economy? Taxes as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest levels since 1950. The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies.

    So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts, either past or present.

    It is simply a theoretical assertion.

    The rich countries after all are in the best shape right now with strong growth and low unemployment are ones like Germany, Denmark and Canada – none characterized by low taxes.

    Meanwhile, many Republican businessmen have told me that the Obama administration is the most hostile to business in 50 years.


    More than that of Richard Nixon, for example, who presided over tax rates that reached 70 percent, regulations that spanned whole industries like airlines and telecommunication and who actually instituted price and wage controls?

    In fact, right now any discussion of any government involvement in the economy – even to build vital infrastructure – is impossible because it is a cardinal tenet of the new conservatism that such involvement is always and forever bad.

    That’s the theory.

    Meanwhile, in practice across the globe the world’s fastest growing economy, China, has managed to use government involvement to create growth and jobs for three decades.

    From Singapore to South Korea to Germany, evidence abounds that some strategic actions by governments can act as catalysts for free market growth.

    But conservatives now resemble the old Marxists who refuse to look at actual experience. “I know it works in practice,” the old saw goes, “but does it work in theory?”

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach, CA

  10. 11


    Sorry, Larry, but that piece is pure tripe, and very misleading. His implication is, that because our personal tax rates are somewhat low, historically, that that somehow translates to our tax rates overall compared to foreign countries being low, and that it results in a complete destruction of the rhetoric we hear from the conservative side. Hogwash, and B.S.

    The U.S. has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, when federal and state rates are combined, and that is what the conservatives are talking about. Not the personal income taxes. That you think that guy somehow makes sense kinda worries me, Larry, as I know you are smarter than that.

  11. 12


    WELCOME BACK, but It’s sad to take CHINA as an exemple of creating growt and jobs by GOVERNMENT
    IT’S not to be compare with AMERICA, have you ever heard of human rights abused?
    I sure hope the GOVERNMENT don’t start taking them as a model, maybe who’s to say,
    they sympathise a lot with them, maybe because they borrow money like there’s no tomorrow from them,
    it’s in their interest to give them a good word, is that what you base you comment on good publicity.

  12. 13


    @johngalt, #11:

    The U.S. has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, when federal and state rates are combined…

    Yes, but hardly any of them actually pay those rates. Have a look at this 2008 Reuter’s article.

    If there’s been any change in corporate tax paying habits since the recession began in 2008, it’s only been for the worse. They’ve been paying even less, despite having had some of highest profits in history.

  13. 16



    Yeah, it’s not quite as simple as you make it out to be, Greg. Yes, there are corporations that don’t pay the rates suggested by me, but one must take into account that the higher corporate tax rates of the U.S., including the states within that, drive away business, and the jobs you always rail about, to other countries. Along with that, corporations are given special tax incentives to keep them in business not only within the U.S., but within particular states. So yes, I am right to object to Larry’s piece that he linked and highlighted, as well as my claim that the higher tax rates on corporations are partially responsible for the lack of economic activity.

    I don’t care about what the corporations subjected to the tax rates actually pay. I am more concerned with the discouragement such high tax rates evoke amongst corporations either deciding to move business here, or ones that are here deciding whether to send jobs overseas. If you cannot see that point, then it is no wonder you missed my point to Larry.

  14. 17

    Gary G. Swenchonis I will agree with you on how the rebublicans have gradually changed from reality based solutions to pie in the sky dreams over the 25 years at least. But at least more and more people are seeing that now, and demanding that we have true conservatives to vote for. I hope we do. Can a true conservative really win the presidency at this time in American? I have my doubts.

  15. 18

    Gary G. Swenchonis

    @ilovebeeswarzone: Again, I hope you are right Bee. Its been along time since we have had a truly strong conservatiive for president. And I am more than sure that the media will do everything in their power to ensure that he/she is not elected. Bye!

  16. 19


    Gary G.Swenchonis, yes, the MEDIA lost a lot of credibility with their critical analysis
    on CONSERVATIVE that lead some people to be influence to hate enough to publicly add death wish
    on their site: this has gone far too far not to be notice by the public, which can
    make their own conclusion on which is the haters in the NATION, and decide to check more closely both sides of the medal.
    I trust the people to open their critical mind and decide accordingly.
    I just love that song

  17. 20



    …So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts, either past or present.

    America’s economy is “grinding to a halt” for many reasons, most of which Fareed Zakaria ignored.

    1. Out of control spending, that demands more and more taxation and the buying of US debt to pay for all the spending that taxation does not cover. Every time the federal debt limit is raised, the government immediately tries to spend up to the new limit. When someone consistently maxes out their credit cards beyond what they take in, the answer is NOT to raise their credit limit.

    (Even local and state officials around the nation have still been spending like drunken sailors and going over budget and then trying to decide how to cut services to the public. (Heck in my local area, the government has been throwing money at building brand new fancy “ivory towers ” and beautification projects, and at the same time they are telling the voters that they have to lay off teachers, policemen, fireman, etc…because they can’t afford them.)

    2. Growth in the size of government and the considerable expenses to sustain it.

    3. Energy and monetary policies that are creating stagflation.

    4, The failure to create private sector jobs and “free trade” fanaticism that has resulted in two decades of steady de-industrialization of America, where factories and jobs are relocated to foreign shores.

    5. Refusal to seriously audit agencies and entitlement programs to reduce waste, abuse. An unwillingness by leaders to review how they operate and to: improve their effectiveness, promote common sense solutions over stubborn bureaucratic ritual, revise regulations and end unproductive or failed programs.

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