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The Tentacle


February 8, 2012

Eurozone Crisis: It is all Greek to me!

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Now that the Super Bowl is over there may be no better time to focus some attention on the continuing Greek tragedy that is unfolding over in the economic Twilight Zone, known as the Eurozone.

 

There is a growing sense that Americans, somewhat exhausted after a decade of foreign wars and international conflict, have grown increasingly isolationist in their worldview.

 

That may be a good thing to a certain extent. The United States cannot continue to pay the price of maintaining the planet’s police force.

 

While other nations concentrate that portion of its gross national product to strengthening its industrial base, quality of life and economy – think Germany – that would otherwise go to defense spending if it were not for the United States, our nation continues to wallow in an economic tar pit.

 

Just when our nation’s economy cheers up a bit, things threaten to get worse quickly.

 

As we head for the seclusion of the isolationist, padded panic room, it might be a good idea to take a look over our shoulder and keep an eye on Greece – and Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

 

For example, just last Sunday, The Washington Times carried a Reuters’ article that bellowed “Greece only hours away from default.”

 

For those who wonder why we should really give a rat’s behind about Greece, Bill Wilson explains it in “Why a Greek default poses systemic risk.”

 

Mr. Wilson elaborated: “How is it that a hard Greek default – a tiny country that comprises less than two percent of Europe’s Gross Domestic Product – poses such a systemic risk to the European and, indeed, the global financial system?”

 

You remember Greece, don’t you? Tiny country. Old buildings. Great tourist destination. Greek mythology. Arguably the birthplace of democracy – of sorts.

 

It is also the epicenter of a potential global financial mess that could potentially distract from the latest operatic performances in Annapolis, or even in Frederick. That tiny country with the neat historic ruins might even impact your ability to go out and buy Madonna’s latest single, “Give Me All Your Luvin.”

 

Well, all the ‘luvin’ in the world is beginning to wear thin on the Greeks, who seem to have gotten angry because other responsible parties in this epic Greek play want them to actually start paying their bills.

 

Unlike Argentina’s economic crisis from 1999 to 2002, when the South American country defaulted on its debt, in the case of Greece the focus of Europe seems to be on bailing it out – again and again, and again – in part by way of a hand in your pocket, and everyone else’s wallet for that matter.

 

Whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing to allow Greece to be held to a consequence for its financial misbehavior is a fair question.

 

However, there is certainly a good case that may be argued that whatever your position on the level of irresponsibility on the part of the Greeks, a chaotic default in the context of the extraordinary fragile nature of the world’s economy would not be a good thing.

 

And, in spite of the fact that you cannot see Greece from the back of the grocery store checkout line, an Athenian sovereign debt crisis default might lighten the grocery bags you carry to the car. To make matters worse, if that were to be possible, many media accounts report the approximately 8 percent inflation we endured for food in 2011, which is poised for an encore performance in 2012.

 

Sadly, in an era when everything is far more complicated than it needs to be, the interlocking complexity of international finance in 2012 is enough to make even the strongest economist hide under the bed until the fat lady sings and it’s all over.

 

David Paul, writing for the Huffington Post on February 5, “Back to the Drachma, Time to let Greece be Greece,” quoted a European finance official:

 

“The pace and composition of the deleveraging process needs to be consistent with the macro-economic scenario of the adjustment program and should not jeopardize the provision of adequate levels of credit to the economy.”

 

Here’s the thing, and Mr. Paul said it best: “The tendency to speak in finance jargon – one is reminded of the incomprehensible utterances of Alan Greenspan – may suggest to some that they have the problem under control. However, the lack of frank discussion of the underlying issues suggests instead that they have a tiger by the tail and are making it up as they go along.”

 

For those who have been otherwise more concerned with which one of the five or six remote controls now necessary to change the channel on the TV, Helena Smith and Phillip Inman explained in a Guardian article:

 

“Greece appeared intent on taking make-or-break talks over a €130bn (£108bn) rescue programme for the debt-choked country down to the wire tonight as officials announced that the discussions would be delayed…

 

“With Greece staring at the spectre of bankruptcy – barely six weeks before it has to make bond repayments worth €14.5bn – EU officials expressed disbelief that politicians could not finally put their name to an accord.

 

“Unable to conceal her own exasperation, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said: ‘I honestly can't understand how additional days will help. Time is of the essence. A lot is at stake for the entire eurozone,’ she said after holding debt crisis talks in Paris with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.”

 

Well, one thing is for sure, the more government gets involved in attempting to defy the laws of nature – and market forces – the more it’s going to be Greek to me – and you.

 

As Mr. Paul notes that “all is not proceeding according to plan. Because there is no plan. They are just making it up as they go along.”

 

The only thing for sure is that when the fat lady sings, we won’t be ‘luvin’ it…

 

. . . . . I’m just saying. . . . .

 

kevindayhoff@gmail.com



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