We Are All Athenians…
We should watch closely to see how Greece handles its biggest problem — pensions — since the U.S. and Europe are certain to face the same problem eventually. Try to monetize it, which is what I predict the Greek government will do, and you get hyperinflation. Try to pay for it by reducing benefits and increasing taxes, which is what Greece’s creditors are demanding, and you get: 1) instant, ruinous deflation; 2) a plunge into poverty for nearly everyone; and, 3) taxpayer riots that pit the private sector against government employees.
Whatever happens, it will be fascinating to see how Greeks vote next Sunday, when they will be asked to approve or reject creditors’ stringent demands. Leftist parties all over Europe are urging their Greek comrades to hang tough. But then, it’s not French, Irish and Italian socialists who will suffer instant economic deprivation and calamity if Greece tells Belgium to suck eggs. Nor will they be the ones challenged to pay for life’s necessities with drachmas that are going to be spurned by the rest of the world and depreciating by the day, if not by the hour.
An op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal said Greece’s national identity and its “European dreams” are at stake, but that’s just twaddle. Under the best of circumstances, Greece will be panhandling till the end of time. It can never pay what it owes — not to Europe, not to itself, not to its retirees. The only question is whether Greek voters can grovel sufficiently next Sunday to get Germany to pretend, at least for the time being, that the economy of a deadbeat country can somehow be salvaged. As for the French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italians, they should practice kindness as events unfold, since they will all be belly-up themselves in the not-so-distant future.
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