The French drove the campaign for the Euro thinking that with a unified Europe the incessant wars that have characterized Europe for a thousand years would stop and France would once again be the dominant force in Europe and Germany would be contained. Alas the Euro-Zone had fatal flaws from the outset and instead of France becoming the dominant force in Europe it has turned out to be the Germans. Now the Euro-Zone must dance to the German tune because it is Germany who has the money necessary to keep the Euro from collapsing and it is this power that is being displayed in the Greek Debt crisis now rocking the Euro-Zone. But Greece is just the tip of the socialist iceberg that is threatening Western Europe. Eastern Europe isn’t affected because they learned their lesson about Socialism and Communism from the USSR, a lesson Western Europe did not heed, so a review of Greek Socialism seems to be in order.
For the 2004 Olympics it was necessary to install a modern transportation system in order to avoid the mass traffic jams that characterize Athens. The cost of this system was roughly $2.4M of which the Greeks paid very little with the bulk of the money coming from the Euro-Zone. One would think that the revenues from this system would eventually pay off the debt, but that is an outmoded capitalist concept. In Socialist Greece they have the “honor” system where they installed “honesty machines” where the passengers are urged to pay for their passage. Apparently the Greeks are not very honest because virtually no one pays so not only is the new underground not paying off the debt it isn’t even covering the maintenance costs – so the underground is totally supported by the government and the government is supported by tax revenues. In a capitalist country the government would simply raise taxes to cover the cost but Greece is a socialist paradise where taxes are more of a nuisance than a reality.
If the Greek Underground is a disgrace the Greek rail system is even worse and typical of how socialism operates. The average salary for railroad employees is an incredible $90,000 which includes cleaners and track workers. This is a salary treble the average private sector salary. The wages – just the wages – for the Greek railroad system is $750M but the annual ticket sales is only $120M. In a capitalist society this would call for immediate action but not in socialist Greece where the government is focused on employment and not profit.
Greek Tax Policies
While the Greeks aren’t paying for their underground tickets they aren’t paying their taxes either or at least no where near the amount of taxes they should be paying. In fact only 5000 people out 12 million admit to earning over $100,000 a year where studies have shown that more than 60,000 people have investments over $1.5 M and this doesn’t include money in overseas banks. How is this possible? Very easy since the individual taxpayer is allowed to state their own earnings for tax purposes and these are rarely challenged. Consequently many Greeks state their taxable income to be below taxable threshold of $15,000 even they own vacation homes, boats, and other luxury items. To call the Greek system corrupt is just accepted and is so accepted that there is a semi- official rate for bribes for passing false tax returns and each Greek family is estimated to spend an estimated $2500 per year in bribes. If this isn’t bad enough the Greek shipping magnates – some of the wealthiest people in the country are tax exempt because of the benefits they bring to the country even though the Greek shipyards are virtually idle employing about 500 people.
Naturally in a socialist country pensions are very dear to the people who expect the government to take care of them even if they don’t pay taxes or work very hard to earn the pensions. In Greece the retirement age is 50 with a pension of 95% of their last year’s earnings and this includes pastry chefs, radio announcers, hairdressers, and masseurs whose work is classified as “arduous and perilous” to justify the 95%.
Once Greece was allowed into the Euro-Zone money began to flow into the country and into public life making life better for all Greeks. This allowed salaries to increase without requiring more production and this impacted virtually all aspects of Greek life including the school system. In a socialist country performance is not measured because the objective is employment and not efficiency. Consequently the Greek school system hired more people to manage the system so now that system is overstaffed and employs four time more teachers per pupil than Finland who has the highest rated educational system in Europe. Not surprisingly the teachers, who are in fear of being discharged are hopelessly ineffective so now parents must hire private tutors for their children.
Does any of this sound familiar? Is America on a similar path to financial disaster? Consider the power of the unions who demand ever higher wages without increasing productivity and quality. Consider the educational system now dominated by unionized teachers who are turning out graduates who cannot read, who have no clue of history or geography. Consider the growing underclass supported by first one welfare program than another. Consider the large pensions and salaries being paid to public employees that far outstrip those of private industry. Consider the growing demand by the underclass for higher taxes on the rich to pay for their welfare system. Consider the growing interference by the government with private industry. All of these things are indications that our government is slipping inexorably into the financial quagmire that we find in Greece.