Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decision Time

I was reading the latest news on Greece’s economic woes when it hit me that although the story datelines were current and the opinions reported were those of the new folks in charge of all sides of international efforts, nothing I read was actually new.  It had all been said—and tried—before.  I felt as if I were watching one of those looping videos in a Wal-Mart that every three minutes repeated some “new earth shattering housecleaning discovery.”

But for Greece, its loop de loop cycle of “new” miracle cures was more like three months.

Nine months ago: “The answer to Greece’s problems is more taxes.” 


Six months ago:  “The answer to Greece’s problems is austerity.” 

Uhh, uh.

Three months ago:   “The answer to Greece’s problems is even more taxes.”


Today:  “The answer to Greece’s problems is increased austerity.”

It reminded me of a parable on the wisdom of making a choice between bad and worse alternatives and sticking to it.

A man was summoned by his king to answer for crimes that the king believed he’d committed.  But considering himself a fair king, he allowed the man to choose between two punishments: ten lashes of the whip or consuming a cauldron of the vilest concoction imaginable.

The man looked at the giant holding the whip and chose the cauldron.

But as he began to drink he became so violently ill that he begged to be whipped instead.

After the second lash he screamed for the beating to stop and went back to the cauldron.  

But as much as he feared the whip, at the first taste he begged again for the lash.

Then he begged for the cauldron … and again for the whip … back and forth until his indecision had him nearly drain the cauldron and he’d suffered all ten lashes.

There was a lot of discouraging financial news this week on what Greece is experiencing, but what troubled me most was reading that 500,000 Greeks (almost 5% of the population) have no income at all, 45% of all the unemployed (a 17.5% unemployment rate) are under 24, and the country’s suicide rate is now the highest in Europe.

I don’t think there is any question that the great majority of Greeks believe a far-reaching, thoughtful plan to get Greece moving again, and determined political will on the part of Greek and international leadership to see it through, is long overdue.  They know the process will be painful and drawn out.  But they also know that the inevitable results of indecision will be far, far worse.



  1. The biggest downside is that European Union is not willing to honestly help, they just want to find a a favorable credit arrangement for the Greece.

  2. Adults in their thirties know they have no job security. Adults in their twenties know there are no jobs. The most recent census in the US shows that number of marriages have fallen drastically. They are hesitant to make a commitment without some degree of financial security and they are afraid to have children they can't support, In that the family is the foundation of society, it doesn't bode well for the future.

    My children are in those categories and they are part of a new lost generation. They have known for a long time that they will never have what their parents have. Home ownership is a pipe dream after seeing the foreclosure nightmare. In the US, the suicide rate of young adults is buried under the euphemism "sudden illness". Where there is life, there is hope but when there is no hope life is frightening.

    Nikita Khrushchev famously said that the United States did not have to fear fallen to a foreign enemy. The United States was going to fall from within. We had no idea that the rich would destroy the country through greed. We had no idea that patriotism, all citizens working together to make the country strong, would fall to a civil war with no solution unless there is a will among all social and financial classes to look beyond their specific interests.

    How can any country be strong when it fails its young?

  3. As you suggest, Lil, I don't think it should come as a surprise that Greece is not of concern to the rest of the EU except insofar as it impacts on the overall health of the union. Help begins at home.

    And, Beth, even the finest-bearing fruit tree needs controlled pruning and attention to stay healthly and productive in the long run. You cannot just pay attention to the top of the tree without risking rot at its roots. Thus spoketh the Tree Farmer.

  4. That is horrible about Greece. People must be starving. There is no hope for so many.

    And the people have protested en masse. Why won't anyone at the top listen?

    And the U.S.? Report last week that nearly one-half of the population is poor or low-income. The Census Bureau recently reported that the median income in the U.S. is $26,000 a year.

    In a Dickensian nightmare, debtors' prisons are eppearing in several states.

    One article told of a homeless New Orleans onstruction worker, arrested and held in jail for a debt of $498. A woman arrested while driving on a highway: Her crime? Having a debt she didn't even know she had.

    Many young folks cannot find jobs after graduating from college with huge debts.

    And the Occupy Wall Street movement has been routed in a national sweep. They're out there telling the truth. People were joining them, people without jobs, and many others with grievances.

    I guess it hit home too hard and told the truth about the 99% and the 1%. And they were holding democratic General Assemblies, quite a bit different from Congress these days which is caving in to the super-rich daily.

  5. Kathy, I've been saying for quite some time that to keep up with what's going on in Greece just follow what's happening in the US and change the names. The similarities are striking. That report on such a huge sector of the US population hovering below or near poverty is chilling.

    Even more so is your point about debtor prisons. The right to declare bankruptcy and get a new start in life was at the foundation of our country--in response to those very Dickensian sorts of situations you alluded to.

    A few years ago (before the financial crisis), in connection with revising the US Bankruptcy laws, credit card companies and banks were able to get Congress to "limit" what was dischargeable in bankruptcy. Those who decried those changes as the harbinger of a new "economic feudalism" were ignored as uninformed about what made our economy work...unlike the all-knowing US financial sector.

    So, how's this for a Dickensian plot: "Bankers responsible for bringing the world economy to its knees now seek to put their victims in prison to get every cent they can out of them, as lawmakers who allowed it all to happen do nothing...except of course take more campaign contributions from you know who."

    Nah, who'd believe anything that sinister could happen here.

  6. These feel like dark times. I can't watch the news shows right now. A Lot of my emails suggest that Congress live on the benefits the ordinary person has. One email wants an amendment that Congress shall make no laws that don't apply to them as well as us. Insider trading anyone? I do notice more people being more friendly and the popularity (at least with me) of sites like this. Maybe it's just the holidays. Btw, have a happy with those you love.