Paging Howie Mandel… You’re needed in Brussels!
The leaders of Europe spent the entire weekend playing the Euro version of “Deal or No Deal.” When the moneymen couldn’t decide on whether and how to bail out bankrupt Greece, the heads of state took over, although they fared no better by Sunday night.
Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is there, playing the prodigal son and offering to return to the fold by allowing the European Union to tighten the screws by imposing ever more stringent austerity measures to obtain the billions of euros necessary to prevent the Greek banking system from collapsing. This repentant attitude is a total about face from Tsipras’ position just a week ago, when at his urging, the Greek people voted “no” to increased austerity, even if it means leaving the Eurozone and returning to the drachma.
So, Alex, what’s in your case? Looks like you’ve pulled all the high dollar amounts off the board before you even got to Brussels. Is that a phone I hear ringing? Uh-oh, Howie is telling you that the banker, sitting up there in his booth, has slashed his offer yet again.
The two Jimmies (Fallon and Kimmel) and whoever it is that replaced David Letterman must be having a field day with this stuff. I don’t watch late night television (all right, you got me, I don’t watch TV at all), so someone please tell me if I’m right.
So Europe is twisting itself up into more knots than a pretzel in a German biergarten in order to keep Greece in the family and thereby to continue the charade that the European Union is indestructible. The clownish shenanigans in Brussels remind me of those intervention shows that they used to air on MTV back when I wasted my time on such things.
Can’t you just see it? The family gathers in Brussels, each member with a somber look on his or her face, awaiting the arrival of the bad boy, at which point they intend to pounce. The idea is to convince him to give up his wicked ways and go to rehab or else be expelled from the family, with no hope of further assistance of any kind. As I recall, after much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, the addict would realize that he or she has been ambushed and is now effectively trapped.
Oh, Mr. Tsipras — The limo is waiting at the curb to take you the airport. Next stop: Rehab.
The question, of course, is whether Greece is so far gone that it may no longer even be capable of being rehabilitated. A third bailout in five years? Where does it end? Greece says it needs well over 50 billion euro (that’s a lot of zeroes) just to keep its banks going, but European finance ministers estimate that it will need a good 80 billion euro to prevent its economy from disintegrating. Something tells me this rehabilitation will fail. Either Greece will escape the rehab center in the middle of the night, or it will dry out and then go looking for another fix the second it graduates from the program.
In many respects, Greece reminds me of a rebellious teenager. I remember once seeing a meme online that went something like this: “Teenagers! Tired of being hassled by your parents? Get out now while you still know everything, get a job and pay your own bills!” Hmm, come to think of it, I may have seen this on a greeting card at a truck stop on the I-5 in Santa Nella.
Greece proved its rebelliousness, much to the ire of European leaders, by putting further austerity to a vote of its populace. Europe was not amused when 61% of Greeks backed their fearless leader’s resolve to go it alone if necessary rather than subject itself to another parade of horribles. With the store shelves going empty, gas tanks going dry and only 60 euros per person per day available at ATMs (the banks have been shuttered for two weeks), many Greeks can’t blame Tsipras for backpedaling, begging for debt relief in return for more austerity.
But there are still plenty of Greeks who are burning up Facebook and Twitter urging Tsipras to stick to his guns, walk out of the Brussels talks and return home to Athens, come what may. How far will this teenager go? It’s possible that he may be willing to go couch surfing or even live on the street to avoid being told what to do. Maybe this teen will end up hungry and cold, but at least it will be on his own terms.
The problem is that the parents are fighting with each other and can’t seem to decide what to do about their wayward child. Meanwhile, the teen is milking the situation for all it is worth, doing his own thing even as he knows that his days under his parents’ roof are numbered.
My bet is that, despite Teen Greece’s open defiance of last week, its current contrite posture will win the day. Looks like the teen has decided not to go homeless after all.
All that remains to be seen is whether he can follow through with his promise to abide by Mother Europe’s rules.