In precisely the Europe for which Barack Obama and his cronies hunger here, America may be able to see glimpses of its future in 3-D.
Greece is one of the poorest kids on the European bloc. It also is one of the most carelessly socialistic, which largely explains why it is so poor.
The birthplace of democracy, today it is a model of socialistic excess: deficit spending, confiscatory taxation, Marxist public-sector unions, government ownership, nationalized health-care, excessive federal intrusion into private lives. Greece's debt obligations exceed its gross domestic product (GDP) by a factor heading fast toward 2. In today's jargon, the place is a paradigmatic entitlement society.
A member of the European Union (EU), Greece is one of 16 countries to have dropped its own currency -- in its case, the drachma -- and embraced the euro. The consequence has been this: Unable to reduce its debt by inflating its own currency, Greece has had to call upon other EU countries to bail it out.
The EU was set up with no mechanism to do that. The plan just established pledges about $1 trillion from numerous countries (including, through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States) to help euro countries such as Greece -- and, soon, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain? -- so debt-ridden they cannot pay their bills.
Ideally, the $1 trillion fund would impose fiscal discipline on sovereign wastrels, but in fact there may be no way to do that. Greece has tried it, sort of, and rioters have taken to the streets in Athens and Salonika. Perhaps the operative question is: What happens if the most socialistic European economies don't get their game together, and keep spending and entitling their citizenries -- and the $1 trillion back-up fund runs out?...
..WHICH brings us to this side of the Atlantic.
The federal government owns the currency and owns the only presses that turn out dollars. Even with that, it boasts an accumulated deficit of $13 trillion -- headed for, oh, $23 trillion by 2020. Over the years, legislation has been approved requiring the federal budget to be balanced, but no one pays any attention to such anachronistic thinking anymore.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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