First They Came for the Greeks …

“”THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.” – pastor Martin Niemoller

The above is a well known verse, decrying the lack of German resistance to the Nazi rise to power. Niemoller is clearly indicating that we must all stand together in the face of tyranny – not just wait until it hits us personally.

Today marked another day of unrest in Greece. The country is facing economic meltdown and social meltdown as well. How much father can they go before they become dysfunctional as a state? I’d guess that’s a ways off yet, but they’re heading in the right direction. At issue is an IMF bailout with strings attached. In the words of Inigo Montoya: “let me explain; no, it’s too much; let me sum up.”

During the “good times” the Greek government ran up big deficits and made absolutely untenable promises to public sector unions (e.g., retiring with full salary at age 61). When everything’s growing, nobody really pays too much attention. We figure, we’ll just expand our way out of unrealistic promises. Then, the crash came. The Greeks have way too much debt and are set to default this month if they don’t get a big loan ($144 billion). That’s where the IMF comes in. The problem is that the IMF wants more than just a promise to repay. Hey, the last guy got THAT and he’s about to get stiffed for $144 billion. No, the IMF wants “austerity” measures. Raise taxes, cut spending – including public sector pay and benefits. Naturally, public sector unions oppose that move and would rather default on the loans. Perhaps they have a point, but that’s not at issue for this post.

I’ve said in the past that human atrocities are usually preceded by a dehumanization of the victim. Hitler felt he was killing “subcreatures”; It’s a “fetus” not a “baby”; you know the drill. The same thing holds here. The Greeks want “the government” to pay exorbitant wages. But there is no “government” paying the wages – public sector wages are paid by their neighbor’s taxes. So, what they really want is for their neighbors (facing MASSIVE unemployment) to shell out ever increasing pay for ever decreasing productivity. Somehow it’s a “right”. Clearly this line of argumentation won’t play well in the polls, so we have to pin it on “the government” (non human entity).

I point this out because we (the US) are in the same boat. Perhaps we have a bit more buoyancy than Greece, but we’re ultimately heading the same place. While the private sector has faced serious layoffs and wage deflation, the public sector (and its unions) continue to live quite well. Sooner or later, the good tax-payers of America won’t stand for it any more. Don’t get me wrong, if you oppose massive public sector pay increases (at your expense) you’ll be branded as greedy and opposed to (fill in public sector job and constituents).

The Greek situation could get really ugly before it’s over (or it could go out with a whimper). We should all pay attention – we’ll have to deal with it ourselves at some point.

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