Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lessons From Greece

Frankly I don’t care anything about Greece. It is neither here nor there for me. I simply never think about it. But I thought this article had some lessons for America and the way we think about our government.

In case you don’t know it, the Greek economy is imploding and it threatens to take the world economy with it. Somebody has to pay their bills. Everybody thinks Greece should pay (of course) but if its debts don’t get paid then others can’t pay their bills, which means others can’t pay theirs....

You know how it goes.

Greek Wealth Is Everywhere but Tax Forms

” In the wealthy, northern suburbs of this city, where summer temperatures often hit the high 90s, just 324 residents checked the box on their tax returns admitting that they owned pools.

So tax investigators studied satellite photos of the area — a sprawling collection of expensive villas tucked behind tall gates — and came back with a decidedly different number: 16,974 pools.“

Hmmm. Rich people cheating on taxes. I would never have guessed.

”“We need to grow up,” said Ioannis Plakopoulos, who like all owners of newspaper stands will have to give receipts and start using a cash register under the new tax laws passed last month. “We need to learn not to cheat or to let others cheat.”“

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

”The cheating is often quite bold. When tax authorities recently surveyed the returns of 150 doctors with offices in the trendy Athens neighborhood of Kolonaki, where Prada and Chanel stores can be found, more than half had claimed an income of less than $40,000. Thirty-four of them claimed less than $13,300, a figure that exempted them from paying any taxes at all. “

I’d be willing to bet the rich Greeks tell themselves that they shouldn’t have to pay taxes if poor people don’t have to pay. That it isn’t fair that they should have to pay taxes just so poor people get a free ride. It probably isn’t fair that they are rich either but hey, they work hard for their money. (Like the guy picking up their garbage doesn’t.)

”How Greece ended up with this state of affairs is a matter of debate here. Some attribute it to Greece’s long history under Turkish occupation, when Greeks got used to seeing the government as an enemy.“

Does that remind you of anybody -- seeing the government as an enemy?

It’s a two page article. There’s a lot more to read and reflect upon.

Don Brown
May 2, 2010

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