Belmont Club

Meep meep

Greece has one prominent American admirer: Bernie Sanders.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the man from Vermont is pulling in the liberal faithful in droves.  “College kids and aging Woodstock hipsters are massing. The media are chattering. Excitement is (sort of) building. Welcome to the boomlet for Bernie Sanders, in which Democrats frustrated with the coronation of Hillary Clinton try to conjure a repeat of the Barack Obama campaign magic of 2008. Could a 73-year-old self-avowed socialist from Vermont really win the Democratic presidential nomination?”

The apparent problem with Hillary Clinton is that she’s not far enough to the Left.  Mr. Sanders however, is radical enough for that crowd.

Mr. Sanders thinks government is too small, entitlements should be more generous, and free trade is a betrayal of the American worker. He admires Greece’s Syriza Party and praised its rejection of Europe’s bailout terms. These views are now the beating heart of the Democratic grass roots, which delights in Mr. Sanders’s raging candor over Mrs. Clinton’s cautious political code.

Sanders also hates Obamacare because it has delivered the American consumer into the hands of Big Insurance and Big Pharma. Premiums are rising, networks are shrinking, co-pays are climbing.  His solution? Replace it with Single Payer and leave it all in the hands of Big Government. John Goodman in Forbes asks why this makes sense.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared on Fox News yesterday and Chris Wallace asked him why his own state had abandoned all plans to implement single payer health insurance – something that is apparently allowed under Obamacare.

Since Sanders is a self-described “socialist,” you would expect him to be up to the task. He wasn’t. Sanders had no explanation of why Vermont’s brief flirtation with socialized medicine was such a flop. Instead he repeated the standard leftist line: other countries spend half as much as we do and they guarantee everyone health care.

If that’s true, why isn’t it a simple matter to copy what everyone else around the world is doing? Part of the answer is that the claim isn’t true. Other countries don’t spend half as much as we do and guarantee everyone health care.

Actually it doesn’t make sense, but as Greece and the European Union proved, that hardly matters. Politics is a vision thing not a boring governance issue. Former UK Conservative party leader William Hague remembers the day in 1998 he warned Europe’s leaders they were about to find themselves ‘trapped in a burning building with no exits’.

I well remember the furrowed brow of President Chirac, sitting amidst the splendid gilt furnishings of the Elysee Palace, as I explained to him in May 1998 why I thought the euro would not work as Europe’s leaders intended. The charm of his welcome had evaporated as I set out not only why joining the euro would be very bad for Britain, but also far from a good idea for some of the countries desperate to sign up to it.

After I gave my speech that night at my alma mater, the European Business School at Fontainebleau, Chirac and many others were appalled. I said that joining the euro would exacerbate recession in some countries, and that some would find themselves “trapped in a burning building with no exits” – a phrase that brought me a fair amount of controversy and abuse.

I was regarded around the EU as a rather eccentric figure, almost pitiable in being unable to see where the great sweep of history and prosperity was heading. One former senior colleague in Britain said I had become “more extreme even than Mrs Thatcher”, as if this was an unimaginable horror. Idealistic heads in Brussels were shaken in sorrow that the dreaded Eurosceptics were not only growing in the Conservative Party but had now taken it over, with me having become, astonishingly, its leader.

The EU, like all Bernie Sander’s vision of health care, is “the future” and there’s no bucking the “sweep of history”. Hence it doesn’t matter if nothing works; what matters is whether the prophecy is fulfilled.  Hague is mistaken if he thinks history will vindicate him.  History doesn’t matter.  It’s the Future that counts.

Rana Foroohar of Time for example, argues that the reason Greece matters is “because it represents what could be the end of the biggest, most benevolent experiment in globalization, ever.” What is at stake is the future of “liberal democracy”.

The risk now is that a chaotic Greek exit from the Eurozone starts to undermine faith in other peripheral countries, like Italy or Spain. … No wonder President Obama and Jack Lew are getting vocal about it all … there’s little question that Europe’s growth will slow, which will affect US companies and workers …

America’s recovery isn’t strong enough to pull the world along. Europe’s debt crisis is not only an economic crisis but also a political crisis–one that poses challenges not just the EU itself, but liberal democracy as the model of the future.

When such monumental questions are at stake, what’s an unrecoverable few hundred billion dollars more? What’s fascinating is how empty the future box turns out to be when it’s opened. Remember when joining the Euro was the future? Slate says Greece is cutting off its citizens from Paypal and buying stuff on iTunes.

People in Greece are also finding that their cloud storage subscriptions are being disabled because the regular monthly payments to Apple for iCloud, or Google for Dropbox, for example, are being cut off. While iCloud gives you 5GB for free, that’s often not enough to back up multiple devices, photos, and apps.

Others aren’t able to use PayPal to send money or make payments to anyone outside the country. Mic reports that people are also unable to send money via PayPal to someone else in Greece, because by sending money through PayPal, funds move across servers outside the country. Some of our sources in Greece have said that they think Paypal has stopped anyone in the country sending funds at all.

Remember when president Obama was going to implement his brilliant foreign policy and crush the upstart ISIS jayvee team? It can’t even recruit three platoons of rebels to fight ISIS. “Stunning lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday revealed that the Pentagon is only training 60 Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”

Stating the painfully obvious, counterinsurgency specialist David Kilcullen wrote in Real Clear Defense that “it’s time to recognize a failing strategy”. “The current approach—in which the United States and its allies, including Australia, seem to be trying to fight the Islamic State without actually fighting—is not only doomed to failure but also likely to have dire knock-on effects. More than a year into the campaign, recognising this failure is the critical first step in crafting a workable strategy going forward.”

Nothing works out as advertised, but this never discredits the Acme brand. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a new strategy if I were Kilcullen. In matters of fanaticism failure is not disproof.   It only means one must try harder. So what if Vermont can’t afford Single Payer? America can. The Greeks may notice that the European paradise looks like  a Paypal-less Hades. Well, what of it? And anyone who thinks Obama is being outpointed by ISIS should be reproved for want of faith.

Allister Heath in the Telegraph says the Greek collapse proves that even Wile E. Coyote will eventually fall off the cliff. “Cartoon physics can only work for so long; even Wile E Coyote wasn’t immune to the laws of gravity forever.” But try telling that to Wile E.

However great the resulting disaster, it is always about the vision thing. Human history appear to consist of variations of one simple unvarying drama: birdus supersonicus versus canis idioticus.  Meep meep.

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