If you are like me, you watched with amazement as Greek protesters flooded the streets of Athens, shut down Grecian banks and hospitals, firebombed police, and hung banners from classic Greek monuments like the Parthenon. The protests at the Parthenon are especially significant as it once stood as the Temple of Athena, Protector of Greece. Today the Parthenon is crumbling and fragile, symbolizing the Grecian economy and possibly the future of Greece.
But why should we, in Iowa, care about ancient buildings 5,000 miles away or a Greek economy the size of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex? Simply stated, the problems in Greece are symptomatic of the problems that we have in the United States: unsustainable debt and out-of-control government spending.
In Greece, the protesters were not protesting for basic freedoms against a tyrannical regime. They were government workers, protesting against the government, because the government is freezing their pay. These are the same government employees that enjoy a work day that ends at 2:30pm and receive 14 months pay for 12 months worked.
Closer to home, in Los Angeles, government employees threatened to walk out and strike. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in a desperate attempt to control spending, asked for a two-day furlough of government union employees. Under pressure from the union, the liberal Villaraigosa capitulated. No furloughs were imposed and the problem has still not been solved. Greece is coming to Los Angeles.
But the City of Los Angeles is not alone in its fiscal problems. Right here in Iowa we have 112,000 unemployed, without any reasonable jobs program to address that problem. Liberals like Leonard Boswell pass bills that only increase employment in one particular sector – the government. These government jobs come with much higher benefits and pay than private sector jobs, and almost total job security. Much like the government jobs in Greece.
Currently, the United States has a debt obligation of 52.9% of GDP – slightly better than the debt obligations of countries like Kenya and El Salvador. Comparing the United States debt problem to Kenya and El Salvador is troublesome. This out-of-control spending must stop or our debt obligations will surpass even Greece.
I believe that American exceptionalism can solve our greatest problems and this problem is no different. It is time we send tough-minded people to Washington to make the hard decisions to cut out-of-control government spending and bring back fiscal discipline. We can no longer pile debt upon debt and hope for economic recovery to save us. It is time for a different direction in Washington. Greece is closer to us than we think.
Jim Gibbons in running for Congress in the Iowa 3rd Congressional District.
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