Diary

Greece and the New World

                                       Greece –  Going Broke Without an Underclass

When I began my tour with the Air Force at the base which was at that time contiguous with the airport in Athens, my colleagues warned that a trip to a Greek government office was a prolonged encounter.  In a visit, I noticed a supervisor had a long finger nail on one pinkie.  This was a sign that the public servant did not work with that hand.  Perhaps John Kenneth Galbraith visited a Greek government office or the American Embassy before he described government workers as “the indolent children of the middle class”.       

It was well publicized in the English language newspapers that doing business in Greece was difficult and frustrating.  When I arrived at the end of 1961, the Hilton hotel was a steel skeleton which had remained untouched for, as I was told, nine years.  This private economy job creator was hamstrung by Greek bureaucracy- the kind that could be managed by accepting the direction of Greek politicians in contracting, and hiring.  Shortly before I left, work resumed and it was completed in a few months.

                                     The Crisis in Greece and other Nations

The crisis is heavily reported and commented upon.  Vignettes such as the finger nail and the experience of the Hilton company 46 years ago are revealing of national characteristics.  Ethnic groups differ and the differences account for some of the lack of success in dealing with issues.  There are reports in the American press of corruption in the political class in Greece.  It appears not a lot has changed in forty seven years.   

Politicians in America and many European nations have attempted to curray favor with voters with entitlements and government jobs.  I am reminded of the “Happy Warrior” Hubert Humphrey who advocated that government be the “employer of last resort”.  Senator and Vice President Humphrey, like present day politicians, failed to elucidate the payer of last resort.  In the case of America today, it is the lender of last resort.  Just as the EU is dictating domestic spending in Greece, it is reasonable to expect foreign lenders to the USA to dictate domestic spending in the next decade.  That may be our only salvation.   

                                         Homicide Rates in Greece and the New World

Homicide rates were/are very low in Greece.  The rate does not vary much from year to year or decade to decade.  This is true with other ethnic groups.  Greece does not have a large depraved class.  They do not have the burden of out sized criminal justice, police, and trauma services.  Homicide rates are much more robust in most American cities and our neighbors to the south.  William Voegeli has written on the differences in incarceration costs in Texas and California.  Crime is a big ticket item in America.  Homicides are an excellent metric for assessing the level of depravity.  The trauma services in cities have decreased the number of fatal outcomes from assaults.  The convoluted American criminal justice system is so expensive that the it makes the death penalty unaffordable.  Taiwan and Singapore handle the matter much better.  Drug dealers are not studied, they are executed.  Social liberals and conservatives compete for the attention of voters with ideas for affecting the behavior of mostly young males.  Neuroscience is a more realistic approach, though there are no guarentee that the knowledge acquired can be translated into lower rates of violence.              

                                              It’s the Babies Stupid

Birth dearth has created a massive looming entitlement problem in Japan and many nations in Asia and Europe.  Babies are the work and creative forces of the future.  The CIA Fact Book gives the number of children per woman by nation:  Greece, 1.37, Japan 1.21 Spain 1.31, South Korea 1.21, Italy 1.31, and the United States, 2.05.  (In the early 60’s, abortion was a routine form of birth control in Greece.  I do not have the birth rate for that period.)  The United States has a birth rate adequate to replace the population – at least in numbers.  The birth rate for Mexicans in America is 3.5 and for El Salvadoreans 2.9.  Birth rates are higher than back home.  Legal immigrants are very real contributors to the growth of the American economy.  They are selected for talents and for ability to invest in businesses.  Second generation Asian Americans have higher incomes than white Americans.  Homicide rates amongst East Asians are lower than for most European groups at home and in America.    

                                               Doris Meissner and Erin Burdette 

Doris Meissner a former INS commissioner in the Clinton administration.  She recently wrote of the “Five Myths of Illegal Immigration”.  Ms. Meissner admits there is a distinction in jobs done by legal and illegal immigrants.  She is now the director of the Migration Policy Institute.  “Migration” is an interesting choice to discribe immigration.  Birds migrate without documents.  She does not discuss ethnicity, but she maintains that the illegal immigrants -my term, not hers- take jobs which native Americans do not want.  We have heard that from George W. Bush among others.  She does not quote any other data such as the use of emergency rooms, use of Medicaid for obstetric care, police and criminal justice services required to deal with crimes including homicide which might give a total picture of the impact of illegal immigration.  She does not give the educational attainment levels or income levels of descendants of illegals.  Ms. Meissner does admit that illegal immigrants come overwhelmingly from south of the border.  She notes that Mexicans are the largest legal immigration group.  She does not reveal that the basis for the great majority of those are on the basis of family reunification.  Family reunification as allowed at present is a drain on the health care system.  There is a high incidence of diabetes amongst Hispanics.  Dialysis units in Southern California are used by Spanish speaking middle aged persons who are here as part of a unifed family.  Their care should not be the responsibility of the federal government.  (Renal failure patients automatically qualify for Medicare.)  There are more renal transplants performed in Mexico than Italy.  If legal immigrants from any nation wish to unite with parents, they should be required to provide medical insurance among other provisions for their support.    

Erin Burdette is an anchor on the financial channel CNBC.  CNBC is part of the NBC family, but the philosophy and intelligence of the on camera people is very different.  In a group discussion of illegal immigration, Ms. Burdette was the only one to rattle off the educational attainments of the offspring of legal immigrants such as the Chinese in contrast to the levels attained by the offspring of illegals.  Commentators including those who call themselves conservatives rarely mention ethnicity or the other “f” word – fertility.        

                                                             Legal Immigrants

In medical school, traning, military service – not counting an overseas tour – and practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, I can readily recall persons with whom I worked who were born in 31 other nations and immigrated legally.  In my career, the patients were not subjected to the diversity police.  The diversity occured because a lot of qualified immigrants like to live in Southern California. 

I like legal immigrants.  They are tough.  There was a proposal in Orange County to provide bi-lingual education for Korean American immigrant kids.  This was firmly declined by the parents.