October 10, 2011
Let’s pretend for a moment that Greece is a human being. I’ll call him George.
George is a hairdresser and makes $40,000 per year. George has limited assets. He has zero savings, no precious metals, and is way underwater on his mortgage. His credit card debt is over $100,000, and his bare minimum living expenses are $45,000 annually, over 10% more than he makes. George’s credit is pitiful, and he cannot obtain any more new loans.
George’s neighbor Hans has a big family. All the kids work hard and contribute to the family savings. Hans sees George’s plight and decides the neighborhood has to stick together; he starts loaning George some money out of his family’s savings, and eventually begins to take on more and more of George’s personal debts.
Many of the other neighbors– Luciano, Seamus, and Juan– are in the same boat as George: drowning in debt with massive personal expenses and no hope to pay them back.
Everyone is looking to Hans for help. He’s the responsible one in the neighborhood. Now, Hans doesn’t want them all to go bust because he knows it would be bad for the neighborhood property values… but Hans’s children are balking at the prospect of working hard on their newspaper routes just so that George can keep his plasma screen TV.
Very soon, George is going to run out of options and will have to have a difficult conversation with his credit card companies. In the real world, there is no other choice.
In the pretend world of politics, however, European leaders have been able to convince everyone that it’s all under control. Never mind that the whole situation has completely fractured capital markets; traditional valuation metrics have taken a back seat to rumors of secret meetings and loud talk of bailout plans.
Think about it: Dexia passed summer bank stress tests with flying colors. A couple of months later it’s going bust. How can markets function without confidence in balance sheet accuracy? Or whether a government will even be around tomorrow? This is kind of a problem when sovereign debt is the cornerstone of the financial system…
And yet, stock markets worldwide surged today on the news of a European ‘pledge’ to help banks.
Do yourself a favor and stop watching their lips move. These ‘plans’ are nothing more than lies and misdirection. Just like our friend George, a Greek default has to happen. Politicians can pretend whatever they want, but in the real world where we live, financial deadbeats have no other options.