Too bad Greece never had a Tea Party.
If it had, it wouldn't be in the mess it's in now. It wouldn't have become the beggar of Europe, eking out a living on the kindness of strangers.
If Greece had had a Tea Party, or a facsimile thereof, it would've kept the nation from living so far beyond its means that last year its national debt hit 120 percent of its GDP, a percentage that continues rocketing up, and a current budget deficit that is 13.6 percent of GDP, more than four times what Eurozone nations are allowed. To get anyone to lend them money for 10 years, they have to promise to pay interest at nearly 30 percent. Its nominal unemployment rate is 16.5 percent.
But Greece never had a Tea Party. It just had an endless supply of special interest, electoral ouzo. There was no one who raised hell about workers retiring at 58, with 92 percent of their final annual salary. There were none of those oh-so-gauche rustics from the hinterland (whatever the Greek version of Minnesota is) to embarrass Athenian elites by daring to ask out loud, Hey, who is going to pay for this gravy train?
So now Greece is Exhibit A in the trial of any nation that attempts a social democratic experiment without whatever it is that has kept northern European social democracies solvent and liquid.
Don't be distracted by the claim that Greece's real problem is weak tax collection. It's not. Are taxes the problem with Italy and Spain, too? Were tax collections the issue with Ireland or Portugal? Nope. The Greek disease is as communicable to nations with gung-ho tax collectors as to nations with catatonic tax collectors.
For all the agita U.S. citizens endure because of recent Washington fights over the federal debt ceiling - which the Tea Party, thankfully, has made unusually painful -- is it not at least keeping us from driving off the same cliff Greece has already driven off? If Greece had been forced by something like a Tea Party to form a legislative super committee to deal with its deficit, would it be Europe's beggar today?
Ask yourself: For all the tension now being felt in the U.S. over whether our super committee will pull it off before Thanksgiving and actually agree on a way to cut our ballooning national debt, would Republicans, let alone Democrats, ever have bitten the fiscal bullet, or made a show of biting said bullet without the Tea Party? When it comes to fiscal adulthood, the only difference between Republicans and Democrats is how they take their Greek ouzo, in a sippy cup or with a bib.
No doubt Greece could have been saved by forces other than something like the Tea Party ... things like less idiotically generous welfare come to mind. Or maybe having its own currency would have delayed the inevitable. But those have long been off the table.
As it is, Brussels and Athens now plan for Greece to default on half its national debt. This is being called a haircut, something voluntary. But despite that euphemism, it's a default. If you doubt that, just ask people who bought credit default swaps on Greek bonds. They're in the same sinking boat as General Motors and Chrysler bondholders were in when Washington rescued those two mini-welfare states.
Something like a Tea Party would've saved Greece because the problem isn't tax collection or even slow growth, both of which exacerbate the problem, not cause the problem. Here's how the reliably progressive BBC World Service put it recently: Greece has been living beyond its means in recent years, and its rising level of debt has placed a huge strain on the country's economy. The Greek government borrowed heavily and went on something of a spending spree during the past decade. Public spending soared and public sector wages practically doubled during that time.
And speaking of Club Med nations that never had a Tea Party, how about Italy?
It's Exhibit B, the next domino, another welfare state, long drunk on entitlements. The last time its economy grew more than two percent was 11 years ago. And now Italy's finances are so shaky its two- and 10-year bonds carry a yield over seven percent. That's a big deal. When Portugal, Ireland and Greece hit that marker it was universally recognized that they couldn't survive without a bailout. And now Italy has clicked through that milestone. Problem is, the Eurozone bailout fund is too small to rescue Italy, or its creditors.
After all, what's worse, watching Bunga Bunga politics drive Italy into the ground or putting up with the occasional Tea Party?
Too bad Italy never had a Tea Party.