The financial situation and recent elections in Greece are once again bringing to the forefront the deficit issues in our own country. Admirably, the citizens of Greece elected the party vowing to stay in the European Union but work toward reducing the harsh terms of the bailout program.
The Greek government has already implemented some difficult measures — slashing public jobs and compensation, increasing taxes on luxury goods, lowering minimum wage, reducing governmental pensions and increasing retirement age (although still relatively low by comparison). And they aren’t done yet.
Of course, "The big problem of Greek society is the tendency to consider somebody else is responsible for everything that goes wrong," said Theodore Couloumbis, of the ELIAMEP think-tank.
Both the government and its opposition accuse each other as being part of the problem. Private company workers blame the bloated public sector, civil servants blame tax cheats and most Greeks say politicians are corrupt.
Does all this sound like a familiar tune?
So where are we by comparison? Surely we are better off than this small financially troubled country?
Most recent statistics show the United States tops the world in total national debt — almost twice the debt of the next closest country. Per capita, US debt is well over $50,000 per person. Greece’s per capita debt just tops the $47,000 mark. Although US debt is significantly less than Greece’s as a percentage of gross domestic product, that number still tops more than 100 percent.
As a tax burden, taxes per capita are about 22 percent higher in the U.S. than in Greece. Public sector jobs account for about 18 percent of jobs in Greece; 15 percent of jobs in the U.S. Although the number varies in numerous reports, in America the average federal worker can expect to make as much as 36 percent more than an equally qualified private sector employee. In Greece, the disparity between an average public and private employee is about 17 percent. It is also important to remember that Greece hires a lot of professionals — mainly health-care professionals including doctors, as it has a nationalized health-care system.
Now I am spouting out a lot of numbers, and I will be the first to admit, getting real comparative numbers is a royal pain and finding a reliable source for that information a huge struggle. I am not certain why everyone has to put their own spin on stuff instead of giving straight forward information and letting us make our own conclusions. So feel free to write in with your own findings and discredit my information which I consolidated from about 50 different websites.
I find it ironic that the U.S. and G20 are putting so much pressure on the European Union and Greece to fix their financial problems because no matter how you look at it, the similarity between Greece’s problems and our own are almost uncanny. There is that saying "too big to fail" and perhaps that mentality has kept our country out of bankruptcy. But we can’t keep doing what we have been doing and expect a different outcome. We need to take a long hard look at what we expect from our government and what we are willing to sacrifice in order to become financially stable. Because the bottom line is we either need to significantly trim our government and reduce our expectations or open up our checkbooks and get prepared to pay an even heftier fee.
Mary Hoisington is the publisher of the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.