In Greece You Grease the Palm

By Lloyd Graff

The financial world views Greece as the hole in the Euroland dike. Riots in Athens sent the U.S. stock market down 1500 points because people feared it was the beginning of another subprime-like tsunami.

I didn’t have a good feel for Greece’s problems so I called Nick Logarakis, an old friend who had built and sold General Automotive Manufacturing in Milwaukee after emigrating to the United States from Greece following college at University of Wisconsin Madison. Nick is active in banking now and still has a hand in manufacturing through his son-in-law’s firm, Northern Gear in Franklin, Wisconsin. He maintains a home in Athens and imports Greek olive oil for fun. Nick understands Greece as a native, but has the perspective of an American businessman.

“What you’re seeing in Greece is the result of 30 years of Socialism,” he told me Friday. “Government workers get two weeks off for Easter, two weeks off for Christmas and four weeks off for summer. They get paid for two months not working,” according to Nick.

The orientation of the country is to make work. “I go in to pay a tax bill, and the clerk records the transaction on the computer, then he takes out a big ledger book and writes it down. It makes more work for the bureaucrats,” he said.

Coupled with the make-work is corruption. Companies work with two sets of books, one real and one for the tax collectors. The cash economy thrives while the country’s treasury starves

Nick says when he goes to a well-regarded doctor in Greece the expectation is that he pay 30 euros at the desk, but slip an envelope with 100 euros in cash to the doc when he’s alone.

Logarakis says in Greece you see a lot of people driving around in expensive cars, eating in restaurants and going out to clubs.

Government services cost more than the country can afford, the way they are presently being run. The European banks that hold Greek bonds are scared. Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, are in the same boat.

Now we have a new Euroland taxpayer bailout for Greece and its creditor. Take a deep breath and pass the Kalamata olive oil, please.

Question: Is the United States headed in the direction of a Greece-like debacle?

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10 thoughts on “In Greece You Grease the Palm

  1. Jim Andrews

    Of course our country is heading towards the same problems being seen by Greece now. NAFTA started the emmigration of jobs from this country. Many of the remaining larger businesses had to adapt and move overseas in whole or in part to complete. What was left was the small shops and Union shops who couldn’t move and can’t compete. So what happened? The Union forced the downfall of the automotive sector which the government gladly swooped in to prop up. Add the financial industries own massive problems and what we end up with is an enviornment that is ripe for governmental picking and control. Now that also means large scale growth of certain government agencies, namely the IRS and new agencies to monitor and regulate every aspect of every industry they have taken a piece of. Our children and their children will be living in a different world with different rules.

     
  2. art mohr

    Greece is just another wake up call in the world of commerce and business. It is a call to recognize that “we the people” in these United States of America have a responsibility to decide on what moral principles we are living and are going to require of others in our society from top down. Elected officials are “public servants” and WE have the ability to speak out about what they are doing on what they say is our behalf. WE can decide on what values, principles, moral ground we are going to live ourselves. We should ask no less of others than we are prepared to live ourselves with and toward others. If we “walk the talk” we can expect those who sought and found office and the huge benefits of such positions to do the same. We need to listen to and then witness our politicians walks. Greece, the entire EC, the UK and a possible upcoming economic bubble that could burst in China and elsewhere could be avoided in the USA. We need self-examination of our national, state and local policies and take appropriate corrective action now. This is simply a matter of principles, living within ones means and doing so while we generate within our society the pride that has made our country so productive and caring for others not only in this country but globally. We have this responsibility but we the business community and public need to do the research about the problems and be outspoken about the solutions to them.

     
  3. Steven Horn

    Everything that has been done in the US in the past twenty years is all about growing the government. The Obama administration is only advancing the whole of socialism at light speed. Think of what will happen when the rest of the world realizes that the US is a giant ponzi sceam. Greek is tiny in the size of the economy, yet look at the problems it has caused. The social spending will distroy this economy and country.

    The people in Greece rioted because they see their government cash getting cut. What do you feel will happen when all those on the government dole get cut a little.

    We in manufacturing realize that you have to make something or sell something of value.

     
  4. Jack Frost

    Lloyd: What you missed is that the retirement age is 55. Are we headed done the same road. Yes but for a different form of socialism. The culture of, “Everyone deserves a college education.” has created a void in the wealth producing segment of our economy. The young people go to subsidized education, and first 50 percent require remedial reading and math. Then they study the Humanities and whether or not they graduate, they have no useable skills and having lost the chance for an apprenticeship in one of the trades is also lost. As a result, fewer and fewer wealth producers are supporting more and more permanently impaired citizens. Right now many are tied to their parents apron strings. Come Obama. Extend the relationship to 26, at least that will cover the ritilin. The real hope here is the expansion of federal government jobs for the useless. Census workers were a large part of the job growth this month. There may be an answer. Form the CCC to clean up our country and we might earn from that investment.

     
  5. Lynn G. Schneider

    Llylod,

    You should have titled the article; “Greece In Our Time”, in honor of those who sold out in 1939. It’s happening again.

     
  6. LloydLloyd

    Nick Logarakis called to say that he felt I took some of his comments out of context, particularly regarding the doctor. I regret that I misconstrued his remarks which may cast a negative view of a man I regard so highly.

     
  7. Vic Wieland

    I used to believe in Globalisation , BUT thinking about it now you have to ask yourself if the average working guy is really better off than 25 years ago . 25 years ago an assembly worker could afford to support a non working wife , put the kids through University and have the car , house etc .
    That brings us to today’s wonder of Globalisation where supposedly everything’s cheaper, as it comes from China, but every family can only just survive if BOTH parents work from 8Am to 8PM . IE Double the effort to stand still.
    It seems to me the only ones who gained were the CEO’s and big money shareholders who could make the parts cheaper , sell them a bit cheaper than locally made parts, and pay themselves a fortune for being so clever.
    Why America would export it’s entire maunfacturing base beggars belief .
    It works if you are helping some tiny economy who at their peak would equal about 2% of American GDP but to export it ALL to a country of 1.3billion people , a Dictatorship (with all the unfair advantage of being able to confiscate land instead of paying for it , pollute like madmen without an EPA on their backs, lack of Health and Safety , unions etc etc , ) and at the same time allowing them to keep their currency so undervalued that it aids them to wipe out American manufacturing is economic suicide .
    Good luck with that .

     
  8. Harold A. Voshage

    Lloyd, I really agree w/ Vic W. Having returned from a 3 wks trip & 16 day cruise in S E Asia,
    the pollution in China is almost unbearable. We visited several knockoff watch factories, we
    saw nearly 100 Swiss cam automatics run unattended turning watch components. We could
    buy copies for 10-35 dollars. My tour dir. got a new I Phone w/ all acc for $35. The Chinese
    have no shame. Harold Voshage

     
  9. Kent Bothe

    In my “dream world” I’d wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Jack Frost, whose letter appears above, had been elected President of the United States. He has expressed the feelings of many of us in a short and concise letter.

    I’ll bet he did it without a teleprompter, too.

    Jack, if you’re going to run for office I’d be honored to be a contributor.

     
  10. Gordon Styles

    Hi Lloyd

    Both Capitalism and Socialism are both discredited. Greece’s problems are not related to Socialism – they are related to corruption amongst the ruling elite. In some respects you are right that the USA has many of the same problems. The ruling elite in the USA, Greece and the UK have enormous influence over Government policy. Many of the elite in those countries pay almost no taxes due to loopholes in the law that were put there by the ruling elite to ensure tax evasion. The financial crash of 2008 was as a direct result of Government corruption in the USA and the UK. Whether financial or moral, that corruption led to the removal of the teeth of the FSA in the UK and SEC in the USA. The lions were allowed by Government to roam the Zoo eating the Children.

    Even now the Lions are not back in their cages.

    Corruption is the cancer at the core of American, British and Greek politics – not socialism.

    Forget Socialism and Capitalism – the only thing we need in Government around the World is good management with a social conscience. I believe that the Engineers should be put in charge. Engineers tend to run things professionally; within budget; and on time. We are not interested in wars; we hate debt; we have no respect for the bankers; and we just want to BUILD a better future.

    Gordon

     

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