by Hal Lindsey
On Tuesday night, Greece became the first developed nation to default on a loan from the International Monetary Fund. The causes, ramifications, and proposed solutions to the Greek debt crisis are a lesson in how quickly the Antichrist could come to power.
The nation of Greece is no stranger to debt and default. It has existed in its present state for 194 years. In 90 of those years, it has either been in default or in debt restructuring. Until 2006, the Greek government guaranteed lifelong job security to all public sector workers. In politics, votes were won by promises of prosperity. Trying to pay for that prosperity eventually brought the country to its knees.
In 2008, the worldwide recession hit Greece hard. In the following years, they made several deals with eurozone nations that allowed Greece to receive the loans it needed to keep the government afloat. But to receive those loans, the Greeks had to institute increasingly severe austerity programs. It was a deadly cycle. The Greek economy was addicted to government spending. When big spending ended, everything went south.
Newspapers say that Greece has been in a “recession” since 2009, but the word should be “depression.” In March, the Greek unemployment rate stood at 26% after an earlier high of almost 30%.
That level of crisis opens the door to a radical leader. To gain power, he has to do two things. He must tell people what they want to hear, and he must make it believable.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is an ultra-liberal. He’s not married to his “partner,” a woman he met at a “Communist Youth of Greece” meeting. One of their children is named in honor of Che Guevara, the communist revolutionary who was sometimes known as “Castro’s brain.” An atheist, he’s the first Greek Prime Minister to take a secular, rather than Greek Orthodox, oath of office.
Years of austerity seemed to be bearing no fruit. So the country turned to Tsipras who promised to end the austerity programs that Greeks believe were strangling their economy. Last year, he won an overwhelming electoral victory. He took office in January as the youngest Greek Prime Minister since 1865.
Things have only gotten worse. But so far, Tsipras has done a masterful job of blaming his country’s problems on past leaders and on present creditors. After he closed the banks and ordered draconian money controls on his citizens, he tweeted that European authorities were using their financial position to “stifle the will of the Greek people.”
In a public referendum on Sunday, Greek citizens will decide for themselves the kind of future they want. They can vote to accept European money along with more of the austerity that has made their lives so difficult. Or they vote to reject the austerity imposed by other countries. That would probably mean losing the euro, and eventually leaving the EU. Of course, even then, they will face austerity. But this austerity will be imposed, not by the EU, but by the lack of money.
Even though 65% of Greeks say they want to stay in the eurozone, their Prime Minister is urging them to vote “No.” In fact, he says if they vote “Yes,” he will resign. What will happen to Greece and the EU if they reject Europe’s offer? It’s anyone guess.
In a BBC man-on-the-street interview a few days ago in Athens, a local resident said, “The EU can't afford to let us fail so we should continue to say no and they will blink and give us a better deal.”
He may be right. The EU may decide to give in. The problem is that Greece isn’t the only EU nation in a debt crisis. Give Greece a special deal, and several EU countries — including Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain — could insist on the same deal. The EU can’t afford many more nations like Greece.
This is more than a global economic event. As a minister and former pastor, it breaks my heart to see such suffering. Think about what it would be like to have your life’s savings in a bank in a country that might confiscate it. Imagine working forty years expecting a certain pension, only to have most of it taken away just as you’re set to retire. Imagine stocking up on toilet paper this week because next week the store shelves could be bare.
Some would argue that they got what was coming to them. After all, they elected leaders who promised them lots of loot. They lived high and enjoyed the good times while they lasted. But not all of them. Many were frugal. They lived within their means. They saved. They chose not to buy luxuries so that they could put money aside for another day. Now the frugal and the spendthrifts find themselves in the same boat. In this alternate version of Aesop’s fable, the ant and the grasshopper end up starving together.
Could such financial upheaval happen in the United States? Of course it could! Jason Russell wrote in Tuesday’s Washington Examiner, “United States’ projected debt over the next 25 years looks a lot like Greece’s over the past 25.”
He was talking about our present trajectory with the economy humming along at a decent if unspectacular pace. He’s not saying we will be in a Greece-like condition if the economy hits some unexpected bumps. He’s saying that if the U.S. simply stays on its present course, with all things continuing to go okay, it will find itself in the same crisis the Greeks now face in a surprisingly short time.
But economies do hit unexpected bumps. Bad things do happen. In light of that, 25 years is highly optimistic. Several factors make the current economic house of cards vulnerable to a sudden and catastrophic collapse.
Economic upheaval creates desperation, and economic desperation will one day open the door to Antichrist.