We are all Greeks now.
There is a sense of relief that Thursday's market roller coaster was a computer glitch and not the opening day of another season of panic.
That is a false security because the Greek drama is just the first act in a show that is expected to open soon in Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain. A hung Parliament in the United Kingdom increases the likelihood that Great Britain will join the conga line of countries heaving under the burden of more than a decade of profligacy.
The United States is on the same course, with an annual deficit that has exploded from $160 billion in 2007 to at least $1.4 trillion this year.
This year's red ink doesn't include a "stimulus" or a TARP. It is just pure profligacy, the consequences of putting Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House and David Obey in charge of the Appropriations Committee. The latter has announced he's "bone tired" and thus is retiring, which must strike people who work for a living as risible. Obey's off to a sinecure as a lobbyist backed up by a lifetime pension with great health benefits, and he is "tired?" That is Beltway arrogance for you.
A greater arrogance – a disconnectedness from reality actually – pervades the public sector. Its Democratic office holders and their public employee union clientele think that Greece doesn't have anything to do with them. They have concluded that it is possible to screw the debt holders of GM and not have that massive breach of contract come back to haunt them.
But they are wrong. The November elections will be fought on one huge issue and one issue only unless Iran and Israel refuse to postpone their confrontation any longer.
The only domestic issue of consequence will be how the U.S. will seek to avoid the Ghost of Christmas Future that is Greece. Will it be by a painful restructuring of all public contracts, beginning with Obamacare and including changes to the retirement age of Social Security and a redo of most of the retirement deals with the public employee unions that are crippling the states and their local economies?
Or will it be by massive tax hikes that suffocate economic growth for a generation?
David Cameron avoided tough talk on Great Britain's looming fiscal crisis and the voters there, bone tired as they are of Gordon Brown and Labor, did not reward Cameron with a majority. Candor about the exceedingly difficult choices ahead would have given him a mandate and perhaps a majority. Now he looks doomed to muddle through with Labor carving up his every move. The lesson: The Opposition must articulate not just what their opponents have done wrong but what they will do to right those wrongs, and they must do so with the specificity that this age of information saturation demands. The vague is quickly marked down as not credible. Specifity is candor's companion in any successful appeal for trust.
The GOP must learn from the UK vote. It's leaders and all of its candidates must spell out the danger ahead, must point to Greece and tell voters that is where we are headed – fast – if we don't change.
And they must reject the tax hikes that Democrats will push as "necessary." They need to grab Paul Ryan's "roadmap" and spread it on every table in every congressional district
The Democrats have a map, too, and it ends up in Athens.
The GOP has to reject the soft politics of David Cameron's Tories and embrace candor, specificity and seriousness. The voters are ready but not for babble, but rather for a plan that will put the government back in a fiscally sane box.
The GOP needs to give it to them.