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America’s Greek Tragedy

The Left has always pined for an America that was more like Europe…

The Left has always pined for an America that was more like Europe. Liberal politicians like John Kerry and Barack Obama are more popular there than they are in their home country because their policy proposals resemble the socialist agendas that most of Europe long ago embraced.

But socialist policies have resulted in a Europe that’s been far less than resilient to the economic crisis. Many of the over-spending, over-borrowing and over-expanding European Union governments are heading towards financial bankruptcy and utter collapse. And yet, Obama and his allies still insist on remaking America in Europe’s crumbling image.
 
Europe’s fiscal chaos is an affirmation of Thomas Jefferson’s axiom that “a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”

The violence in Greece this week is the inevitable result of too much government. But Greece is not alone. Many other E.U. countries are on the verge of default. And given the Obama administration’s socialist impulses, its addiction to spending and its unflinching devotion to unions, there’s no reason to think a Greek tragedy could not happen here too.

The extent of the Greek government’s paternalism is hard to understate. Most Greeks are on some kind of government pension, disability or government benefit. Many citizens are given lavish government-guaranteed bonuses and retire in their early fifties.

Government entitlements have reached a breaking point as the national fertility rate is just 1.3 children per woman, resulting in a society without enough workers to pay for the leisure of their retired progenitors. The government’s national debt is larger than its yearly economic output, and millions of people cheat on their taxes.

In order to avoid financial default, the Greek government agreed this week to “austerity measures.” The government will receive $160 billion in loans over the next three years from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. In return, Greeks will have to undertake a number of reforms.

The retirement age will rise to 60 for government workers, whose salaries will be frozen for three years. And they will no longer collect yearly bonuses that amounted to two months’ pay. Other reforms include higher taxes and cuts in government spending.

As you might expect, the Greek unions are not happy. The unions organized a one-day nationwide strike that brought much of the country to a standstill (more lost productivity), and union officials said union-affiliated protesters alone totaled more than 60,000.

The protests quickly turned violent as hundreds of leftists smashed windows of stores and fast food restaurants. Police were attacked; cars were set on fire; Molotov cocktails were thrown; and three people died when a bank was fire bombed. The scene produced all the rage and lawlessness we’ve come to expect when Leftists don’t get their way.

Greece is on the verge of total economic and political collapse, but there’s little reason to think the chaos won’t engulf other financially troubled European countries. Analysts worry that Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy may face similar crises.

The question for America is whether we want the New World to follow in the Old World’s stumbling footsteps.

America’s chronic deficits and exploding debt leave us vulnerable to some of the same problems that many European countries are experiencing. While the U.S. dollar is still relatively strong, we have suffered from too much spending, too many taxes, too much welfare and too much regulation.

Our deficit is more than 10 percent of GDP, and within a decade our debt-to-GDP ratio will be an unsustainable 90 percent.. Our unfunded liabilities exceed $100 trillion. Liberal politicians, beholden to the unions, have made promises to public employees that they simply cannot keep.

Liberals like to blame America’s economic problems on capitalism and Wall Street bankers. But the real problem is the irresponsible spending of politicians. And it will only get worse with the $10 trillion deficits that the Obama administration is projected to produce. The U.S. budget deficit for fiscal year 2010, which ends September 30th, is projected to hit an all-time high of $1.6 trillion.

The inevitable outcome of the Obama administration’s incontinent spending (which even it admits is “unsustainable”) will be either bankruptcy or austerity that could produce the type of chaos and leftwing, union-led violence we are seeing in Greece.
 
The left and its media allies constantly tell us that talk radio and Tea Party activists encourage hostility and foment violence among Americans who are unhappy with our over-indulgent government. But the situations in Greece and across Europe suggest something quite different. Our real concern should be the U.S. government’s devotion to socialist policies which could result in left-wing violence when such policies inevitably fail.

Capitalism did not push much of Europe to the brink of fiscal collapse. The socialist expansion of government and its stranglehold on industry choked Greece’s economy.  The violence that erupted in the streets occurred when workers accustomed to their government handouts were told that it could not continue.

The present collapses in Europe should be a cautionary tale for the Obama Administration who has yet to find a problem that they wouldn’t solve with more government spending and larger federal programs.  It’s time they learned what the floundering leaders of Europe refuse to admit; Big government is the problem, not the solution.

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Written By

Former presidential candidate Mr. Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.

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