In an example of why HD television was created, FOX News’ Greta Van Susteren interviewed Mitch McConnell the other day, an 8 minute visual orgy in which the two spoke casually while standing rather than sitting and Greta repeatedly emphasized the words “debt ceiling” with a gangsta-style hand gesture. If only they broadcast this in 3D.
In the interview, and driven home in FNC’s headline, Mitch McConnell again pushes this story that America is about to become the next Greece:
VAN SUSTEREN: You say we are beginning to look like Greece. If the status quo stays where in your mind in terms of where we’re headed, when would you anticipate would be Greece?
MCCONNELL: I don’t know how quickly we’d get there, but we’ll get there a lot quicker than any of us would like. And when you have a debt the size of your economy, when we already do, we begin to look a lot like Greece and western Europe.
You know, the best way to sum up what they’ve done in western Europe, Margaret Thatcher once said the trouble with socialism is that pretty soon you run out of other people’s money. That is exactly what has happened in Europe, and we are on the same path. This administration is leading us down the same path. Unless they are stopped by the people of this country in November, 2012, they will continue to take us down the western European path.
It’s probably for the best that Mitch doesn’t want to predict when, exactly, America will go Greek because then it would be easier for observers to paint him as some sort of false-prognosticator, like that guy who keeps predicting the rapture.
As it happens, Mitch doesn’t know when this certain inevitability will occur, but that won’t stop him from repeating it again and again even after it’s been disproved.
Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, McConnell said the issue is the size of the federal government’s nearly $15 trillion debt, not teachers, police and firefighters.
“They are local and state employees,” McConnell said. “Look, we have a debt the size of our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. The question is whether the federal government can afford to be bailing out states. I think the answer is no.”
And here’s Mitch in July 2011, from The Hill:
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Wednesday that the financial state of the U.S. is similar to bankrupt Greece.
Making the case for major spending reductions a day before congressional leaders will meet with President Obama, McConnell said, “We look a lot like Greece already.”
And in March 2011, on FOX News Sunday:
WALLACE: Senator, what does that mean? That there has to be a deal on entitlements and taxes or you are going to vote against extending the debt limit?
MCCONNELL: What it means is this, we have a $14 trillion debt, $14 trillion. That’s the size of our economy, which begins to make us look a lot like Greece.
This pattern from a man who last June famously said, “Well, I think we’ve gotten to the point where we ought to put aside our talking points.”
Repeatedly predicting an impending doom which repeatedly does not happen is troubling enough. But when that prediction is itself predicated on an established falsehood, Mitch’s repetition becomes a series of lies.
Last summer, FactCheck.org politely explained that McConnell “exaggerates” and while the American economy, and its balance between debt and GDP, is indeed in bad shape, “it’s not close to the size of Greece’s debt, which was 142.8 percent of that nation’s GDP as of the end of last year, according to the most recent figures from Eurostat, the official statistical office of the European Union.”
FactCheck.org went on:
Furthermore, McConnell is making an apples-to-oranges comparison. The $14 trillion figure refers to “total debt oustanding,” much of which is money that the government owes to the Social Security trust funds and other governmental entities, not money actually borrowed from the public. The U.S. “debt held by the public” is currently less than $9.8 trillion. That’s the proper figure to compare to what Greece owes, and in relation to GDP it’s currently less than half the Greek level.
Others have been less guarded with their examination of Mitch’s claim.
Last July, after McConnell launched the talking point, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham picked it up… leading Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly to write:
Look, the very idea is just crazy. The U.S. has extremely low interest rates and foreign investor are happy to loan us money; Greece has extremely high interest rates and no one is eager to loan the country money. The U.S. has our own currency; Greece has the Euro. We have a great credit rating (for now); Greece has an awful credit rating. We have a manageable debt; Greece has a debt crisis. We’re a large country with an enormous economy; Greece is a small country with a small economy. We have one of the world’s most stable systems of government (at least until six months ago); Greece’s government structure is a little shaky.
For an elected American senator — and media darling — to tell a national television audience that the United States is “becoming Greece” is a clear signal: Lindsey Graham is not to be taken seriously on these issues.
If Graham sincerely believes his own rhetoric, he has no idea what he’s talking about. If Graham is just playing some kind of cynical game, he’s a hack.
Paul Krugman graphed part of the stark difference between the two countries, and also pointed out that while the rate on US bonds sat at around 3%, Greek bonds were at 16.82%.
Behind Mitch’s erroneous comparison lies Mitch’s agenda. He does not truly believe America is in any way like Greece, he is simply trying to capitalize on the Greek misery in order to scare Americans into believing that the real problem in this country is out of control government spending — Medicare must be demolished and with it Social Security. This has been the Republican Party’s goal since the two social programs were created.
And in that, Greece offers the starkest example of an idea of Europe as a collection of countries that spent their way into economic collapse — Mitch’s argument is that social well-being bankrupts countries and all government programs meant to help people live better lives are fiscally irresponsible.
Here, too, Mitch McConnell is incorrect and here, too, he knows it all too well.
As ThinkProgress pointed out in December:
These charts show that, according to deficits and debt, countries like Spain and Ireland were acting much more responsibly than Germany and France — therefore it can’t have been deficits and debt that caused their problems. As The American Prospect’s Harold Myerson put it, “some of Europe’s current basket cases were actually running budget surpluses in the years before the Lehman meltdown. Ireland and Spain weren’t overspending at all — but the banks and investors speculating on their housing markets most certainly were.” What Europe needed was better regulation of its financial sector and a central bank willing to take the steps necessary to lessen the pain of the Great Recession, neither of which it had.
There is no doubt America faces serious economic challenges, and it’s not ridiculous at all to consider that our economy may well collapse further. But using these realities to dismantle programs that didn’t cause the problem is cynical-verging-on-evil.
Scaring people into believing that this is what happened, that America is like Greece, when clearly it is not, and that the only way to prevent collapse is to remove the President from office and dismantle Medicare… that’s just Mitch McConnell. It’s not true and it’s dangerous.
And while we’re on the subject of GDP… the nation’s economy grew for the tenth straight quarter:
There is still much to worry about, but that picture is going in the right direction and the last thing Mitch McConnell wants anyone to do is notice it, let alone the date at which it started to change.
It’s almost like Mitch McConnell wants America to fail.
Why do you hate America, Mitch? Why do you hate your country?