MY BIG FAT GREEK EPIPHANY

Christopher MarkowskiArticle, Politics & LifeLeave a Comment

Please allow me to introduce myself…I’m a man of wealth and taste…I’ve been around for a long, long year…Stole many a man’s soul and faith…And I was round when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain…Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate.

Pleased to meet you…Hope you guess my name.

But what’s puzzling you…Is the nature of my game

The Rolling Stones

I was walking through the Greek National Museum in Athens last month with my wife’s cousin Stavros when I came to an epiphany.

I was debating the nuances of ancient Greece and Roman Empire with my wife’s cousin who was beaming with the common “Greek’s invented everything” attitude. Note: People who know people of Greek heritage or have seen “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” are aware of this phenomenon. I think the Greeks might have claimed the internet as a Greek invention if Al Gore hadn’t beat them to it.

I jest…I appreciate the pride that the Greeks have in their extraordinarily rich history and I have been fortunate to see it firsthand. However, being the stone-buster I like to be, I interrupted Stavros while in the midst of a Greek culture rules rant with…

“That’s great Stavros, but what have you done for us lately?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, my mind was immediately jolted out of vacation mode and back to reality. At that point I realized that I too could be in Stavros position at some point in my life. Would I and my fellow Americans become like the ancient Greek’s, Roman’s or the Egyptians, societies whose glory days have passed them by? We would be telling our grandchildren about what it was like to be truly free as Ronald Reagan foretold in a 1961 speech about universal health care? Would the United States cease to be that shining city on a hill, a once great nation whose ideals and freedoms allowed for the greatest wealth creation in world history? A nation who gave birth to some of mans greatest inventions. The nation who put the first man on the moon, cured diseases, built superstructures and defeated some of history’s greatest monsters. Would we become nothing more than another chapter in a history book?

It most certainly is a distinct possibility and here are a couple reasons why…

Fiscal Policy: I could seriously discuss this for hours but rather than burst a blood vessel in my head I will cite some recent headlines: U.S. Must Raise Debt Ceiling to $13 Trillion, U.N. Calls for New Global Currency, Could the U.S. Have an Argentina Style Collapse? Dollar Hits 2009 Low versus Euro.

The Rise of Big Government and the Nanny State: Several years ago I wrote a story comparing the growth of our nation’s bureaucracy to the fictional horror character The Blob. I would much rather deal with a blood sucking mass of gelatin than the albatross we have in place in Washington today.

All one needed to do to destroy the Blob was to freeze it. Government has become so big so intrusive in everything we do that every tax-sucking wasteful tentacle has become omnipotent. From telling us what food to eat or what cars to drive, the government is everywhere and tells us that it wants more.

The government has injected itself into every aspect of the free market over the past year with horrible results. The auto bailout is a disaster. The Making Homes Affordable project failed with flying colors. The government couldn’t even operate a used car lot with the cash for clunkers program that was nothing more than attempt at headlines. They now want health care! They want control over 1/6th of our nation’s economy. Are we nuts? This is the equivalent of Vito Corleone putting Fredo in charge of the family.

Social Security is a ponzi-scheme. Medicare is bankrupt. Stimulus checks are going to prison inmates. We have a community organizer who never held a real job in his life, started his political career in the living room of a terrorist, who thinks we can solve our nation’s energy problems by inflating our tires and the thinks government is the answer to all of our problems. A Vice-President who is an ignoramus (But remember…Nobody messes with Joe). A legislative branch that is so vapid that C-SPAN could be classified as situational comedy or horror (depending on perspective).
I could go on at length but I think you get the idea.

Destruction of Small Business: The number one employer in the United States is not Government Motors or General Mother Earth Electric; it is the small business owner. Small-business, the life-blood of our economy, is in a catatonic state. Why would a small-business owner, or how could a small-business owner hire new employees or expand when they have higher taxes, higher energy costs, higher FICA taxes, greater regulatory burden and higher health care costs laid out in front of them like a minefield?

Small-business doesn’t have a seat at the table. They cannot sit down with the power-elite like GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt can and get taxpayer dollars bestowed upon them for unproven green technologies. (Why do you think NBC is pushing the Green movement so hard? In fact they have paid lobbyists pushing their agenda.)

Jobs will not return until the small-business owner does. The bulk of our clientele are small-business owners from all across the country and when their confidence is shaken due to the minefield that they see in front of them, when they are not hiring or expanding, we are not recovering. I don’t care what idiot pundit is telling you about green-shoots it is nonsense. The only growth we are seeing is with big business that is connected to big government. The patient is stabilized, but still in a coma. Until the “animal spirits” return, until we get a free-market recovery we will remain catatonic.

Divide and Conqueror: The tool of the nefarious politician is their desire to divide us into groups and categories of Americans and classify and define each group based upon some grievance or victimhood. I am so sick and tired of hearing from Latin- American, African-American, Irish-American, Italian American, Gay-American, Wiccan-American, blah blah blah! Are you here, or are you not here? If it is so horrific here in the United States, that you feel you need to in President Barrack Obama’s words, “Fundamentally change the country,” get out and don’t let the door hit you in the buttocks on the way. There are plenty of countries that would love to have you; and use you for propaganda, try Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, or even North Korea (I hear their concentration camps are lovely this time of year.)

The other weapon in our politicos divide and conqueror arsenal is good old class-warfare. Politicians wield envy like Jack the Ripper, slicing America up in a bloody chaos. The end result of envy is hate. The politicians have us hating each other, when our focus and outrage should be focused on them.

***

One of the main the reasons ancient Greece fell was due to a 30 year war against themselves. Politicians divided the country into camps and they fought for 30 years with atrocities that would turn Quentin Tarantinos stomach. Rome was once a republic like ours that ended up becoming an empire. Even under an emperor, business and capitalism survived for awhile before being destroyed by government power and oppressive taxation. The royal road to riches in Rome at this point was to avoid being taxed. So how did one do this? Answer: Political connections. One’s personal contacts, who you knew, who you supported, were all that mattered. The rule of law was bought and sold leading to the inevitable decline of society. Inflation was also an issue. The government debased the currency by shaving coins and other actions. The various different emperors used the treasury as the personal piggy bank for various shovel-ready projects that never panned out. Over-regulation and draconian fines and penalties for small infractions made life miserable. The people lost faith in their culture. They became barely a shadow of what they once were and society looked nothing like it did at its founding.

DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND REMOTELY FAMILIAR? Rome and Greece did not fall from foreign invaders; they fell from the enemy within.

Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations in Foreign Affairs magazine stated, “The United States is declining as a nation and a world power with mostly sighs and shrugs to mark this seismic event. Astonishingly, some people do not appear to realize that the situation is all that serious.” Time to wake up! I don’t care what your political affiliation is; I am an equal opportunity basher. We need to shed that elephant vs. donkey mentality. This is not a sporting event. This is not Yankees vs. Red Sox, Gators vs. Volunteers, or Buckeyes vs. Wolverines.
I pray that the country shuts off the American Idol, tunes out the John and Kate plus Eight or at least puts them in proper perspective and start paying closer attention. When one of the biggest stories in weekly news cycle is…Who is the next idol judge, it’s time to take a step back and reassess ones priorities. We need to put more qualified people in leadership. We need more business owners in Washington, D. C. We need people that have actually signed the front of a check once in their life, made a payroll, marketed a business and ran a store. I would take the “average” small-business owner that has created and built their wealth, over the usual college to law school to Washington crowd. Small-business owners are not “average”; their wisdom, their experiences dwarf anything the beltway cockroaches have.

If all these politicians and Czars were so smart, why are we in so much debt, why did Fannie and Freddie implode, why is Medicare and Social Security going bankrupt (etc), why can’t they leave Washington or academia and get a real job? These are our best and brightest…I wouldn’t trust them to run a lemonade stand. Chris Dodd is in charge of banking. He has never worked in a bank. Charlie Rangel, is in charge of Ways and Means (taxation), who consciously cheats on his taxes. Well…at least Hillary can dodge sniper fire.

The truth is one could read 100 books on how to make a jump shot or hit a baseball; but until you actually go out there and do it, it’s all theory. We need some more people that have actually been there, done that, than the chattering classes that have spent their lives in D.C. or some university. Our founding fathers wanted people to go to Washington, serve their country and go home. Politics as a career choice in my opinion is pathetic and sad. Even when they get voted out most of them stick around as lobbyists or talking heads for the television networks.

I am often asked what differentiates our business from other firms; my answer is either, “How much time do you have.” or “Where should I start.” I am not a mathematical genius, my brother Matthew may be, but he most certainly is not using his talents to design quants, mortgage backed securities, or credit default swaps in an attempt to defy economic gravity. One thing that we understand, and in my opinion is quite obvious, that most firms do not; is that the world’s greatest folly is this simple phrase…This time it’s different.

In the 1990’s you were told, this time it’s different, earnings don’t matter. You were told, this time it’s different, real estate values could never go down. Don’t worry about the insolvent Social Security and Medicare systems, this time it’s different, we can do health care too. Pass the stimulus package, this time it’s different than the Great Depression useless government spending will work.

Now it is more serious. We are now living in a nation, a great civilization that is repeating the same societal-killing mistakes that other great civilizations have made; yet we are supposed to believe that once again…this time it’s different.

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Will Durant

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