Saturday, May 1, 2010

READING THE DOLMA LEAVES

Dolmades is that lovely Greek dish of stuffed grape leaves. But all is not well in Greece these days, as more is politically and economically stuffed than dolma. The Greek legislative process led to grand programs, unaccounted investment, outright fraud, a government Ponzi scheme and . . . you guessed it . . . the man on the street left to clean up the mess.

Without the slightest irony, the Washington Post headlines;

Stocks slump as Greece debt downgraded to junk
The downgrade fanned investors' doubts that the proposed economic reforms in Greece will go far enough to prevent the country from spiraling into even deeper trouble. 
Goldman Sachs contributed to and egged the Greek Government into their current mess. What a surprise. Further along in the article, its perseverant WaPo reporters opine;
A central question is whether the government will be able to enact the reforms.
Something to ponder in the grape-leaves as we struggle with our own economic reform bill the Republicans have ungraciously (and finally) loosed upon the Senate. There was a time, dare I say it . . . ?

It took 205 years for the federal deficit to reach nearly $1 trillion. That deficit amounted to $974 billion when Ronald Reagan assumed office in 1981. Eight years later, he faded off into the sunset, leaving us $2.6 trillion, having just about tripled what a Civil War, two World Wars and numerous ongoing economic catastrophes had thus far wrought upon us.

This, during eight years of peace. Yet he's a Republican hero, even though he placed the football on the tee for the kickoff into financial oblivion.

Reagan deregulated everything he could lay his hands on and set the stage for the savings and loan debacle of the eighties, to be followed by the worldwide financial meltdown of the early years after 2000. But by god he never raised taxes.

We raised, instead, a government and a nation built upon debt. In the vernacular, "How's that workin' out fer yuh, Sarah Palin?"

It's not a Republican or Democrat thing, in all fairness, although it's interesting to realize the last president to balance the budget and pay down a portion of national debt, was Bill Clinton. Yeah, the guy of the stained blue dress, who had a reverence for ethical governance, if not ethical personal behavior. What a joke on us all.

In this evangelical nation of ours, we haven't had a stained blue dress since then, yet the indelible stain of national debt now stands at near $13 trillion. We don't really know the true number, any more than Greeks know, as their disaster grows by each week's numbing revelations. Our $13 trillion doesn't even count unfunded Medicare, secret military budgets, 'black' CIA funding, Social Security red ink and future bailouts to bankrupt states like California. Who the hell knows what the actual number is that we ignore?
But it's interesting that many of we ordinary folk quietly cheered on the sidelines as Iceland flatly refused (by public referendum) to transfer their banker's debt to the shoulders of Icelandic citizens. Damned right, we agreed.
Its 320,000 citizens were to be saddled with some $20,000 for each and every one of them, because of banker fraud. Iceland collectively gave the finger to that greed and avarice, throwing in a volcanic eruption for good measure. Bless 'em. No harm, no foul.
Here in America of course, it's an entirely different situation. We bailed our banks with hardly a murmur and apparently are comfortable with our personal share of national debt standing at $41,700 and counting upward, always upward. The National Debt  increases by an average of $4.07 billion a day. Thirteen bucks for each of us. Who cares? Chump change.

Even so, thirteen bucks a day, over a year amounts to $4,745, which really isn't change and gives a new meaning to chump.

Is your family the scrubbed-faced, smiling average of four? Sit down to dinner tonight and talk about the $166,800.00 you and the kids owe and that this heart-stopping figure will grow by $19,000.00 this yearYet you and the wife just had a chat recently about family credit cards getting close to maxed out.

Your family has already unknowingly been maxed out.

Forget the tea-leaves. Read the dolma-leaves instead and ponder the Greek prescience of an American collapse.