Greece Is the Word

Greece Is the Word

By

Leonard Zwelling

         Wait a minute! This may well be Zorba’s “full catastrophe.”

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/business/international/greece-debt-crisis-euro.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

         An entire country votes overwhelmingly to reject a deal from
all of the surrounding countries to lend it money if and only if the nation
in severe debt begins to act like a group of responsible adults. Now, the
lefties like Jeffey Sachs and Paul Krugman believe those other countries should
act like “statesmen” and give Greece a break? What am I missing? If I had used
this logic on my father, he could have only used his belt to keep his pants up.
And I would have missed far fewer episodes of Howdy Dowdy for misbehaving.

         If Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to send Greece down the toilet
by refusing to allow it to stay in the eurozone without the Greeks exercising a
little more discipline with regard to early retirement, paying taxes, and
welcoming government handouts, more power to the German leader. If Greece
chooses to convert to Russian or Chinese currency from the Euro, go ahead. Make
our day. For the other eurozone countries to behave otherwise would be like
having the faculty of MD Anderson reward Dr. DePinho with a Faculty Achievement
Award for clinical care, political skill, good taste, civility, or propriety.
That dog won’t hunt!

         At some point, the people of the United States may also have
to pay the price of the enormous number of government programs that transfer
wealth from taxpayers to those not paying taxes. Thus far, the country (or at least its elected representatives) has
determined that it is a good idea to make the transfers. I agree when it comes to
public schools, school lunches, the War on Poverty, housing assistance, the
police, the Department of Defense and a great deal of what HHS does in public
health. I would also be fine with a transfer of taxpayer dollars to health care
for all by closing all these damned insurance companies who are beginning to
act like the airlines in their consolidation toward monopoly and escalation in
prices. As long as there is going to be a monopoly that pays for health care
why not make it the one paying for the care of those over 65? The government
can’t do it? Really? Ask anyone over 65 if he or she would forego Medicare.

I
am less sure about the wisdom of tax dollars going to certain organs of
government like the NIH, the FDA, the SEC and a host of other federal agencies
meant to protect and defend us but which do neither all that well. Consider the
poor rate of grants being funded while the intramural program of the NIH
siphons off resources including those used for running a hospital, the
Byzantine path to drug approval through the FDA (partially paid for by the very
conflicted drug companies the conflicted agency is supposed to regulate), or
the crooks who still inhabit most of Wall Street.

         Government should do only what is needed and what the people
are willing to pay for. If the people will not pay taxes, then the government
cannot be expected to support social programs. It’s a choice that the Greeks
seem to have made only halfway. They still expect the service despite not
paying their taxes.

         This is also what is happening in health care in the US due
to a whole host of forces from ObamaCare to greed to partisan politics (see my
book, Red Kool-Aid Blue Kool-Aid: How
Partisan Politics and Greed Undermined the Value of ObamaCare
available at amazon.com). There are not enough people working in the
US to sustain Social Security for the now retired. There is not enough in
Medicare taxes to sustain that program as the Baby Boomers retire into
ill-health and senility so if it is Medicare for all we need to move the money
going to insurers to support the new program and hopefully less of it than the
insurance companies steal. The states will not expand Medicaid for the poor as
they cannot sustain an expansion in their budgets and cannot borrow money from
China as the federal government can. I’m with Jackie Mason when it comes to
Congress and all state legislatures. “Put ‘em on commission.”

         Greece is just the first of what may be around the corner
for a host of democracies that will not face the limits of the social contract
and allow the people to weigh in on both the spending and taxing sides.

         As we learn in Inside
Out
, anger is not all a bad thing for it is a reasonable response to
unfairness. Things are not as they should be. I am angry with Greece because my
understanding is that they have been living on borrowed time and borrowed money
for quite a while and the bill has come due and they don’t want to pay it. Me,
neither, but someone has to. If it is to be the rest of Europe, then Greek
austerity and responsibility is neither an option nor an unreasonable request.
And if the Greeks feel that they have been austere already, it has clearly not
been sufficient.

         Greece is down the slippery slope. Only the rest of Europe
can provide some friction, but it may well not be enough or even a good idea.

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