We’re Greece…Not!

July 7th, 2011 at 12:02 am

It’s fashionable in some circles these days to say “we’re like Greece,” with the goal of freaking people out.  After all, that country was fiscally profligate and now they’re suffering the consequences: riots, strikes, held together by loans from abroad.  We too have been fiscally reckless, etc…

Krugman takes a firm swipe at this phony argument, citing some of the same interest rate data that I did yesterday.

But there’s another reason for the difference.  As James Surowiecki explains, the Greeks do a terrible job collecting taxes owed.  According to the piece, the Greek tax collectors missed a third of the tax take last year, “roughly the size of the country’s budget deficit.”

Yes, we’ve got some issues here too, but they’re trivial in size compared to Greece.

Surowiecki argues that culture plays a role, and if so, that’s another reason to close loopholes.  The more people learn about tax breaks for profitable companies and jet plane owners, the more they feel like chumps for following the rules.

The larger point, however, is that a main reason we’re not Greece is because of the way our institutions, like tax collection, still work.

Yet one connect help worrying that the very people making the “we’re Greece” argument are somehow gunning for those very institutions.  It reminds me of the conservative tactic of arguing the government is broken, then being sure to govern in such a way as to fulfill that prophecy.

If these folks force a default—a totally avoidable disaster—they’ll be the ones making us Greek.

 

Print Friendly

3 comments in reply to "We’re Greece…Not!"

  1. bill says:

    “It reminds me of the conservative tactic of arguing the government is broken, then being sure to govern in such a way as to fulfill that prophecy.” So true. Too bad the president believes government doesn’t work either.

    Until progressives rehabilitate government’s image and the good work that it does do, then all this talk of government economic intervention and social safety net stuff will fall on deaf or hostile ears.

    At this point, what public figure of stature will stand up and defend the Federal government and its work?


  2. urban legend says:

    “The more people learn about tax breaks for profitable companies and jet plane owners, the more they feel like chumps for following the rules.”

    And the economic question about this is, to what extent does this undermine confidence in the future on the part of consumers — and to what extent does low confidence in the future — because the deck is obviously stacked — constitute a continuing drag on the economy?

    Does the power elite actually care about the economic health of the country, or is the priority maintaining and even increasing the degree of economic advantage over everyone else? The younger generation of upper and upper-middle class Americans historically has helped put various grassroots social-progress movements over the top: abolition, suffrage, civil rights, feminism, anti-Vietnam War. The rich (unfortunately?) will always be with us, and with their ownership of all the branches of government and the media, the prospect of beating them from without seem dim. So here’s hoping the younger generation of the power elite turns harshly against their elders’ “greed-is-good” mantra, and realizes that we are already fairly deep into the process of seeing that philosophy destroy the very foundations of their advantages.


  3. Chris says:

    “The more people learn about tax breaks for profitable companies and jet plane owners, the more they feel like chumps for following the rules.”

    I know myself and a few others that have already succumb to this. I’m done with following the rules, because I’m forced to think about survival. If this recession and response had shown us anything is that the “personal responsibility” mantra only exists for the not-haves. The GOP and conservative thought can stick it where… well you know.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Current month ye@r day *