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  • « Bailout Mess: And you wonder why I'm not a Democrat... | Main | The view from the American heartland »

    September 28, 2008

    The view from Europe

    Posted by: Andoni


    I’ve been on a Greek island (Santorini) for almost 2 weeks now and have not been keeping up with the day to day news in America. All I have to go on is what I hear here in Europe. So I thought I’d convey to you what they’re saying in the Greek tavernas about us.

    First there was quite a bit of gloating over the fact that America, the country that has spent the past 50+ years telling every other country how to run their financial affairs, appears now to be in deep financial doo-doo itself.

    However, after a few days of glee, most people realized that all our financial futures are intricately tied together, so then the talk got much more serious.

    The locals' first question for me was, "Why is Bush still in power?" They thought that the elections of 2006 were a referendum on his government and he lost. How did he survive that? Now that there is a clear financial catastrophe tied to Bush’s government, and they are even more adamant is asking why his government hasn’t fallen. They are used a parliamentary system where the elections of 2006 would have changed governments --- and if that didn’t quite do it, the current financial crisis would have triggered a no confidence vote, with a new government taking over within days.

    I tried to explain that our head of government and his team stay in power for 4 years no matter what (well almost no matter what – think Nixon), but they don’t get it.

    Putting aside their fuzziness on how our government works, they are now worried that we may not make it out of our mess. They seem to have a different (and maybe more insightful) understanding our financial situation than we do. They explained to me that we have three, not one, trillion dollar time bombs about to explode our economy.

    The first is the cost of the Iraq War, which they assure me will cost a trillion dollars by the time we are out of there. They claim this is unpaid for, off budget, and we will have to pay it back. I can’t argue against them because I honestly don’t know how much of the Iraq War we have paid for and how much of it is borrowed, and not paid for yet. But I am impressed that the ordinary person here seems to know this (or think they know this) better than the average guy in the street in our country.

    The second trillion dollar time bomb is the amount of money that it is going to take to re-arm and rebuild our military. They seem to know we are stretched way to thin and that our personnel and equipment have been severely depleted. We will have to rebuild and that will cost big bucks. When I ask them how they know this they say they know because the US is actively strong-arming European nations to send money and troops to both Afghanistan and Iraq because the US doesn’t have the resources to send more.

    Finally, now there is the near trillion dollar bailout for the current financial mess.

    The Europeans know that 3 trillion dollars is one hell of a lot of debt to incur in such a short time. It would sink most nations and they are not so sure that even the US can dig itself out of such a deep hole without permanent harm.

    I don’t know exactly what the US press is reporting, but the Europeans see how deep in doo-doo we really are and are worrying for us now, and for themselves because they now realize that we are all tied together and they can go down with our ship too.

    Finally, they get around to asking me how is it that America elected this guy in the first place and why is it again that he still is in office?



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    1. Hawyer on Sep 28, 2008 2:44:32 PM:

      Andoni --

      And ... the US voters are apparently on the verge of re-electing Bush to a 3rd term - with maybe more disastrous results. I had hoped that America would not have to hit bottom a la the USSR, but that is a distinct possibility at this juncture.

      The geopolitical analysis of exactly how American voters could come to this collective self-destruction will, of course, be the subject of historians for time immemorial.

      The real question is where will the pieces fall and who will lay claim to them? Odds are the capitalist oligarchs will be well poised to pounce on the debris field - especially with the final $700,000,000,000 traunch against the treasury.

    1. Kary on Sep 29, 2008 11:48:59 AM:

      And I have a philosophy similar to Sweeney Todd: Never forgive and never forget. That includes every single person that voted for Bush either time. He didn't just become stupid and ignorant in the last 4 years. He was always thus. (yeah, you too, Andrew Sullivan). Actually, converts are more despicable.

    1. Geena on Sep 29, 2008 12:09:56 PM:

      >And I have a philosophy similar to Sweeney Todd: Never
      >forgive and never forget. That includes every single
      >person that voted for Bush either time.

      Ooooooh I'm scared.
      Bring it on Mr. Kary Todd. Put up or shut up...or grow up.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Sep 29, 2008 1:10:13 PM:

      Perhaps you could inform them of of a few things, Andoni.

      First, Afghanistan is a NATO operation, which means that, by treaty, European countries ARE supposed to send money and troops -- and they have been actively reneging or setting ludicrous conditions on doing exactly that.

      You might also ask the Greeks why they're claiming that the United States is stretched too thin when they were begging us four years ago to provide THEM troops for security purposes in their own country.

      Meanwhile, while you sit there bashing us, you might ask the Greeks about this particular point.

      Then again, the US might not have room to criticize there for much longer, given the support for the similar policies of Barack Obama and his Chicago politics.

    1. kat on Sep 30, 2008 11:24:11 AM:

      A non-American I know saw fit to laugh and criticize "(my) country" the other day about how f$cked I am. Since my bank had just gone bankrupt and been rescued, I couldn't argue with that. However, I calmly and quickly pointed out (as you did here) that what happens in the USA will ripple across the world, so they better be careful about the mocking tone.

    1. ferngesteuerter hubschrauber on Dec 5, 2009 5:34:39 AM:

      Thanks for this--an interesting, well-researched and insightful piece. Great work.
      Obama, in all his youthful enthusiasm and potential for brilliance, lacks the gravitas that comes with governmental experience and history (my coworker calls it a lack of dynasty). This seems less than ideal from the European point of view.

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