On his orders, Aphrodite made it so the king's wife, Pasiphae, fell in love with the magnificent white bull. The queen summoned the best carpenter to construct a hollow wooden frame in the shape of a cow in order to copulate with the mighty bull. The offspring was the Minotaur. Minotaur had the head of a bull and body of a man. Enraged, King Minos had Daedalus and his son Icarus design a gigantic labyrinth to hold the monster. Each year seven men and seven women were taken, typically from captured lands like Athens, and provided as sacrifices to Minotaur. Eventually Minotaur was killed by Theseus, one of the sacrificed Athenians, but it's hard to think about this story without thinking about the situation in Greece today.
The people of Greece accepted a lifestyle that, like the gift to King Minos, came with strings attached. When it became commonplace to get paid for fourteen months every twelve months, it should have set off alarm bells. When beaches were overflowing with Greek retirees, some as young as 50, while northern neighbors in Germany and elsewhere were still toiling, that should have set off alarm bells. When taxes got so high it was commonplace to avoid them, it should have set off alarm bells. (Taxes in Greece: 25% corporate, 45% max individual rate and 23% VAT). The Greeks got a gift of Socialism at the beginning. Less work, more pay and benefits. It's as beautiful as that white bull was to King Minos, but in the end it becomes a beast.
So, over the weekend, Greece burned as its citizens came to the conclusion the only way to destroy the deceptive labyrinth of sloth, profligate spending, and complacency is to rip it down. There is no doubt this is a painful time for Greece, yet it's unavoidable. This is a golden moment for Greece to break free of the Euro and embrace its warrior past, yet I don't think those running the streets with Molotov cocktails are fighting for the right to rebuild their nation. Instead, so many still think it can be done and that a status quo is still possible. Greece is completely broke and I fear broken too. It's a monstrous situation, one to be avoided by America, but right now we seem content to feed the beast with the futures of all young men and women.
It will be another $1.3 Trillion deficit this year as the president unveils his budget that is dead on arrival but alive with perfidious challenges to businesses and successful people and businesses, all in the name of leveling the playing field. Instead of a budget with a real chance of passage, the platform will serve as a campaign stump. It's too bad the rioting in the streets of Greece aren't reported for what they really are and that is the pain and difficulty of weaning people off government dependency. Greek leaders understand that accepting billions of Euros in return for pledges of economic austerity is the easiest route available.
It's not the best route, but the only option when a nation forgets how to work, has erected impossible barriers to achieve success, and has come to believe in modern-day myths such as the notion money just falls from Mount Olympus. This year Americans are going to be asked to accept this same kind of mythology while being told we have never been a nation of rugged individuals but instead an unrecognized collective. Businesses are the bad guys. Rich people are the villains. The walls being constructed to hold these demons at bay will eventually entomb the greatness of the nation. The fact of the matter is some of the greatest American assets are its multinational corporations and mom & pop businesses.
The former sends the message of greatness of this nation around the world while the latter is the engine of domestic growth. America has to make a choice this year, and it will reverberate long after November. Higher taxes and building roads come out of the ineffective ruler handbook on page one. There is bullheaded leadership clearly intent on punishment over prosperity. This mind-set has made this the worst post-recession recovery in history. At least Greece got a few decades of partying after forsaking the notion of rugged individualism; we will not be that lucky. Government spending must stop, and government opposition to success has to end immediately.
That's no bull (couldn't resist).