I noted this in RedHot yesterday – a great Mark Steyn column, as usual, on Greece and what it means:
From the Times of London: “The President of Greece warned last night that his country stood on the brink of the abyss after three people were killed when an anti-government mob set fire to the Athens bank where they worked.”
Almost right. They were not an “anti-government” mob, but a government mob, a mob comprised largely of civil servants. That they are highly uncivil and disinclined to serve should come as no surprise: they’re paid more and they retire earlier, and that’s how they want to keep it. So they’re objecting to austerity measures that would end, for example, the tradition of 14 monthly paycheques per annum. You read that right: the Greek public sector cannot be bound by anything so humdrum as temporal reality. So, when it was mooted that the “workers” might henceforth receive a mere 12 monthly paycheques per annum, they rioted. Their hapless victims – a man and two women – were a trio of clerks trapped in a bank when the mob set it alight and then obstructed emergency crews attempting to rescue them.
Read the whole thing. Unfortunately, we have things like this happen here, too, and yet it’s the Right that gets accused of “sedition” for daring to criticize the domestic policies of the President. But the underlying fiscal problem of a private sector straining under the weight of an ever-expanding government is taking its toll here as well, as USA Today reports that private-sector paychecks have hit a historic low percentage of household income:
A record-low 41.9% of the nation’s personal income came from private wages and salaries in the first quarter…Individuals got 17.9% of their income from government programs in the first quarter…Programs for the elderly, the poor and the unemployed all grew in cost and importance. An additional 9.8% of personal income was paid as wages to government employees.
In other words, that’s 66 cents of spending on government wages or transfer payments for every dollar of private-sector wages. As we see from the Greek example, that’s not just economically but socially unsustainable, because it creates two classes of people locked in a zero-sum pie-dividing exercise – a much larger and more lethal social problem than the traditional struggle between private-sector labor and management, in which there is at least some sense that both sides are engaged in a common productive enterprise.