They are called the PIGS -- Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain. What they have in common is that all are facing deficits and debts that could bring on national defaults and break up the European Union.
What brought the PIGS to the edge of the abyss?
All are neo-socialist states that provide welfare for poor people, generous unemployment, universal health care, early retirement and comfortable pensions. Most consume 40 percent to 50 percent of their gross domestic product annually, a crushing burden on the private sector.
Dying populations is a second cause. After two world wars, the Europeans lost their faith and embraced hedonism and materialism, la dolce vita. Large families fell out of favor. Women put off marriage and babies, and went to work. Birth control and abortion were made readily available in every country and, if not, just across the border.
For 30 years, the fertility rate of Europe has been below the 2.1 children per woman necessary to replace a population. In Russia and Ukraine, a million people disappear yearly. In Western Europe, the passing of the native-born goes on quietly, as Third World peoples come to fill the empty spaces left by the aborted and unconceived.
Turks are in Germany. Pakistanis, Indians, Arabs and Caribbean peoples are in Britain. Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans occupy the southern coast of France and the banlieues around Paris.
These newcomers have neither the education nor skills of the Europeans. Hence, they earn less and contribute less in taxes, but consume more per capita in social benefits.
As the number of young entering the European labor forces shrinks, the number of seniors and aged grows. And thanks to advances in medicine, these retirees live lengthening lives. Thus the burden of pensions and health care grows steadily and the need for higher taxes and larger worker contributions increases.
Then there is globalization. In Europe, wages and taxes are high, regulations heavy, unions strong, and lawyers ubiquitous. Manufacturers, to cut costs, have been outsourcing production to where the labor is cheap and abundant, the unions are nonexistent or weak, and health, safety and environmental regulations are lax. Welcome to China.
Greece is the first European nation to hit the wall. As an EU member state, she is obligated to keep her deficit to 3 percent of GDP. But this year's is 12.7 percent, and Athens needs to issue $75 billion in bonds alone to finance the deficit and roll over debt.