Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Signs of Decline

“Vote For Your Grandchildren,” proclaimed the bumper sticker I’d walked by many times. Thinking about what that might mean, I considered our growing national debt of $18 trillion+, which is expected to equal our entire Gross Domestic Product soon, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Others claim we’re there already, but that isn’t a campaign issue I’ve heard anything about in the 2016 race for president. Why is that?
Some of my grandchildren

Rather, we’re hearing about Greece’s national debt. Greek debt to GDP was at 100% ten years ago, but now it’s 175% and Greece is telling the world two things: One, that it has no intention of paying it back, and two, that it wants to borrow more money. Talk about brazen! Greeks want to retire at fifty with full benefits and they want the rest of Europe to pay for it because they don’t like paying taxes. Quoted in the Wall Street Journal: “Greeks consider taxes as theft,” said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. “Normally taxes are considered the price you have to pay for a just state, but this is not accepted by the Greek mentality.” Taxes are also the price of civilization. It’s not accepted by nearly half the US population either, who pay no federal income taxes.
By the time he leaves office, President Obama will have raised our national debt more than every other president combined. He will have doubled it to about $20 trillion. Do we hear about this in the mainstream media? No, we don’t. What do we have to show for all that money? I don’t see anything, do you? No infrastructure improvements, no projects that were supposed to have been “shovel ready” when he rammed through his $864 billion “stimulus” in 2009.
Do Americans intend to pay off our growing debt? Doesn’t look that way. Like the Greeks, we keep on spending money we don’t have and passing the bill onto our grandchildren. Are we going the way of the Greeks? Seems like it, but there are differences. The entire Greek economy is only about 2% of the European Union economy. If it went belly up, it shouldn’t affect the rest of the EU or the world. But what if we went bankrupt? The whole world would likely go down with us.
Wife Roseann and her niece Christina on Athens Street

Traveling around Greece last year, what I remember most is graffiti. In Athens, it was everywhere! There were layers and layers of it on virtually every vertical surface reachable by a human hand holding a can of spray paint. There were countless acts of people using someone else’s property as an easel, as a billboard, to display whatever notion was in their mind at the time. Owners of the property must then expend time, energy, and money to clean it up. It was evident that they couldn’t keep up. It’s vandalism, plain and simple, not unlike that of the original Vandals who assaulted Rome and helped bring down Roman civilization with their wanton pillaging. 
Off Congress St. Portland, Maine
Attempting to clean up

Layers of spray paint don’t bring down a civilization. Rather, they’re a symptom of the underlying decay that brings it down. They’re a sign that those who work to maintain a semblance of order are losing out to those who spread anarchy. As I travel around North America and Europe, the presence or absence of graffiti is my way of taking the temperature of whatever city or country through which I’m traveling. Presence of graffiti is a measure of decline. Lack of effort to clean it up is a measure of cultural despair. Greeks thinking they can live the good life on someone else’s nickel, and thinking they can spray whatever they want on someone else’s property are similar. There’s a connection.
Congress St. Portland, Maine

I’m seeing graffiti in more and more places around Portland and it worries me. First it was  on boxcars. Watching a train covered with it pass by depressed me. Clearly the railroad company had given up. I used to see it here and there along Forest Avenue and Congress Street, but it wouldn’t remain long before someone cleaned it up or painted over it. Now, however, it’s staying on longer and even being added to. I’ve been seeing the same graffiti for nearly a year and that’s not good. Property owners are responsible to remove it and if they don’t, they’re subject to penalties and fines. But, the will to remove it or to enforce penalties is clearly waning. As the saying goes: The handwriting is on the wall.
As a sixty-four-year-old baby boomer, I was born into a country that had just saved the world from German and Japanese totalitarianism. For that we can thank our parents’ generation, which went on to build the most prosperous, most powerful country the world had ever seen. Unfortunately, my generation began tearing it down, and some of us fear the process can’t be reversed. We cannot be proud of what we’re passing on to our grandchildren.


Anonymous said...

With a mandatory onus upon a property owner to "clean up the mess", doesn't that "unexpectedly" make vandalism...burglary (or robbery, or extortion?)
Of course, with three or more folks involved, that would fall under Federal RICO statutes...RIGHT?
Oh,...those poor "non-violent" criminals.
With all the chitty chat from "credentialed" Economists and Philosophers, I haven't seen the term "Broken Window" rear it's ugly head, in EITHER "usage".
*sigh* NOW I'm going to have to "show ID" at NAPA, as WELL as pay a premium "anti graffiti tax "premium", (kinda' like the "domestic violence tax" on marriage licenses) just to get a can of Forest Green Pearl for the vehicle that "unexpectedly" survived the Cash For Clunkers nudging in...uh... "economics".
Hmm....maybe I can ship my cars to Cuba now, (or have Cuban "specialists given special "freedom"/labor visas) for EXPERT Auto Body work and avoid the whole "Broken Window Tax" issue.
History shows...."What could Go wrong?"

OT, congrats for ANOTHER public request that Tom be blacklisted from local papers-for...um...a "new" civility's sake (bwAAAA ha ha ha)...or...something.
Keep score of the flak, as the missions get closer to the target.
You won't be able to keep up with the private education tutoring requests before long.

Frostproof said...

Last October, I visited Turkey, just across the Aegean Sea from Greece. I saw no graffiti anywhere. Well, I saw one piece and it was in English: Free Gaza! Turkey is in the EU also, so what are the differences? Turkey kept its own currency, but Euros and US$ are accepted everywhere. Turkey has its versions of Social Security and Medicare, but they kick in around 65, not 52. And most important, everyone understands that everyone has to pay for the bennies. They have no income tax, no employment taxes, and no sales tax. They run everything with a hefty VAT tax on everything, one rate for everyone, none of this "fair share" nonsense.

Does Turkey have problems? It sure does - the biggest is a flood of Syrian refugees - but they don't stand around whining with their national hand out, palm up.

Tom McLaughlin said...

On our Aegean tour we stopped at Ephesus, which is in Turkey. While we saw ruins all over Greece, the workers "restoring" or "rebuilding" were reminiscent of Maine Dept of Transportation workers. They were standing around or sitting around and doing very little work. For construction workers, they were grossly out of shape, indicating their indolent lifestyle.

Ephesus was, by contrast, restored to a much larger extent -- still less than half restored, but not 10-20% restored like the many Greek sites we visited. Only thing i didn't like about the Turks was -- their bus drivers left Ephesus early so they could bring us by a store selling rugs. Then it was the hard sell. I didn't pay for that when I booked the cruise.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame Greeks one bit for not wanting to pay "taxes", by the way they aren't really "taxes" are they!? Just like here in America our federal "taxes" go to the international banking cabal known as "the federal reserve" to pay INTEREST on the money they loan to us!
This isn't money going to education, or infrastructure it is an INTEREST payment to a private banking cabal. We have been dying a slow death since 1913. It's pretty amazing to watch so called Americans who don't know this nations history.

And stop giving money/foreign aide to all nations ASAP. Especially if they have nukes ( which is illegal anyway) Focus on America. And maybe wake the f@&$ up?

El Chapo said...

No we cannot be proud of what our grandchildren will inherit. How could we be? But it's our own fault. Instead of critical thinking we just blindly accept what the tv and corporate stooges who write the news say. As the above comment saya the federal reserve scam is the biggest obstacle to freedom in this country bar none. Yet we don't hear squat about it from corporate news...hmmmm..we have murdered so many innocent people in the Middle East that no amount of prayer will forgive it. Look at our drone campaign and tell me it is the epitome if evil. Instead of questioning the official story of 9/11 the vast majority believe it! And the "official story" is the biggest conspiracy theory out there--- it's outrageous and defies not only physics but logic. And since 9/11 we have sent tens of thousands of troops into the Mid East to die for.....for what exactly? For whom exactly? It ain't America folks....look at the recent Iran nuke deal and the reaction in congress!! Despite the overwhelming intelligence from 16 intelligence agencies, including mossad, that Iran isn't even close to nuke capabilities--- not even in the ballpark--- all we get is fear mongering, extreme hypocrisy and lies!