You want to hear something funny? The most powerful guy in Italy right now is a former stand-up artist named Beppe Grillo. He went from being a joke for a living to leading a political movement that won 25% of the vote in Italy’s Parliamentary Elections. The temptation here is to write the whole thing off as an attention-grabbing stunt.
Yawn! Grillo dubbed his 5-Star Movement a “non-party.” I'm amazed a smart guy like Ross Perot forgot to copyright that. Many of the people he won over were outsiders who were registering a protest vote against the status quo. Grillo got them out to the polls, and observers had the following reaction.
Commentators said all of Mr Grillo's adversaries had underestimated the appeal of a grassroots movement that called itself a "non-party", particularly its allure among young Italians who find themselves without jobs and the prospect of a decent future.…"The 'non-party' has become the largest party in the country," said Massimo Giannini, commentator for the Rome newspaper La Repubblica.
The cynic within tempts me to dismiss Grillo as a buffoon. In the politics of Bread and Circuses, he’s gone from clown to ringmaster. I know! He’ll try something original like Leftism. Wouldn’t that be a shocker?
But then again, check out his punch lines. If Grillo is a Socialist, he’s not a good, little obedient Euro-Soc. He refers to Luigi Bersani, the leader of Italy’s established political Left as “a dead man talking.” He casually predicts the annihilation of both right and left establishment parties.
So far, I still remain unimpressed. It’s the stuff you’d write for a predictable sit-com. All of this remains well within the domain of the fashionable Birkenstock Bolshevik. Rad–sounding rhetoric, spoken without a good, lupine set of teeth. Then he addresses the role of Italy in the Euro and the laugh-track skips….
“Right now we are being crushed, not by the euro, but by our debt. When the interest payments reach €100 billion a year, we’re dead. There’s no alternative,” he told Focus, a weekly news magazine. He said Italy was in such dire economic straits that “in six months, we will no longer be able to pay pensions and the wages of public employees.”
So what’s the plan Funny-Man? WW Richard Pryor or Sam Kineson do? Kineson would drink. Pryor, I wouldn’t care to speculate. Grillo talks down to Earth in a language that should get a lot of powerful attention from the Eurocrats ensconced in Brussels. This is a serious adult talking; not a collection of losers like The Golden Dawn Party in Greece.
In an interview with a German magazine published on Saturday, Mr Grillo said that “if conditions do not change” Italy “will want” to leave the euro and return to its former national currency.
This occurs against the leafy-green backdrop of a hung Italian Parliament presiding over a dead economy. Italian youth unemployment is at 39%. Assuming a status quo policy, Italy will spend 5% of its GDP on debt-service. The holders of this debt also happen to be Italy’s eurozone “partners.” They will undoubtedly remain Italy’s “friends” until the rent comes due. They won’t be laughing if Grillo attempts to pay them in Lira.
So all of this Italian stuff is worth a chuckle, perhaps, but how is it relevant here? Think about your own state and municipality. Who lends them money? How much is their annual debt-service? How long can they carry it? Detroit and Woonsocket, RI now both know the answer. For people all over America, things that the Italian Joker riffs on these days hit a little too close to home to be funny. Such are the tears of a clown named Beppe Grillo.