May 24, 2010
Will the European Union Survive?
There has been a flurry of negative news about the health of the European Union. It seems like everything that could possibly go wrong has done so. The outlook is so bad, some economists are talking about the eventual demise of the European Union.
Angela Merkel, German chancellor, told Parliament in Berlin that the Eurozone crisis was the greatest test for the European Union since its creation. “It is a question of survival,” she said. “The euro is in danger. If the euro fails, then Europe fails. If we succeed, Europe will be stronger,” said Merkel.
Mario Draghi, the head of the Bank of Italy who chairs the Financial Stability Board coordinating international regulatory reform, appealed for countries not to abandon a joint approach. “At this critical moment it is vital that we continue to work together on reforming the international financial system and maintain our faith in international cooperation,” he told the Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ebe05a22-6322-11df-99a5-00144feab49a.html).
The greatest problem facing the EU is one of trust in how the sixteen members of the common currency accumulate sovereign debt. Since there is no control mechanism for what each member spends to fund its government, the organization is based on an honor system--which has been a disaster.
EU members are required to keep their budget deficits to around 3 percent. Greece has a deficit of 13 percent of GDP, and there is no indication that it will ever be able to manage its budget. Greece has a proven track record of defaulting on its foreign debt obligations.
Greece is a welfare state with some of the most outrageous benefits. A Greek firefighter can retire at the ripe old age of 45. While people riot in other parts of the world for political freedom, the Greeks picket and strike over the right to receive government handouts. Germans, with a proven record of a strong work ethic, are grinding their teeth over having to help subsidize their southern neighbor.
Global markets have nosedived over fears that the European debt crisis could lead to a replay of the freezing-up of financial markets we witnessed in 2008. Banks in Europe are afraid to lend money to each other because they don't know what would happen to each other if Greece is forced to default.
Europe's banks are probably in far worse shape than American banks before the housing bubble burst. Over here, when someone defaulted on a mortgage, at the least the bank could reclaim a house. German banks, with loans to other nations, have nothing to foreclose on.
In March, I said, "The most likely outcome of the Greece debt crisis will be a Band-aid in the form of some kind of loan guarantee from an outside financial organization." This scenario has happened. The EU and the International Monetary Fund joined together to create a trillion-dollar slush fund for Greece and other nations. I also said it won't be enough, and "another crisis is certain to quickly follow." We might get a respite of a few months by kicking the can down the street, but you can't fix the debt problem by giving nations like Greece more credit.
We are at a very interesting point in history. The Bible said there would be a reformation of the Roman Empire, and that it would lead to the advent of the Antichrist. It doesn't seem possible for the EU to collapse into ashes. No matter how bad it gets, the union is going to survive.
The Bible tells us there will be a final world power that will have an extremely weak power base. In the vision given to Nebuchadnezzar and interpreted by Daniel, it is described as iron mixed with clay--meaning this government will have a connection to the Roman Empire, and it will be highly flawed. Out of this mess will come the most cunning and ruthless dictator the world has ever seen.
A partial breakup of the EU might actually benefit the progression of Bible prophecy. Scripture tells us that there will be ten kings who will give their power to the Antichrist. We currently have twenty-seven members of the EU, so something needs to happen to draw the number of leaders down to the magic number. The crisis we see now could be what triggers the final realignment.
"And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast" (Rev: 17:10).
"For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (Rev 17:17).
Greece, Thailand, America, and the Rapture
Greece and Thailand face mobs of addicted citizenries that have been put on rations. Having for years been the wards of government-engendered employment and socialistic largess, the people of those nations are enraged by the realities of painful withdrawal.
Greece has been required by the European Union to put into effect severe austerity measures in order to qualify for a massive bailout. Without the almost trillion-dollar infusion, Greece would become insolvent, a thing the EU and Western democracies cannot allow to happen.
It was a weekend rich in symbolism. Sunday, May 9, was Europe Day, the 60th anniversary of the moment when France, Germany and the other war-shattered European states declared they would pool their resources in a supranational community. The message—from crisis comes opportunity—was not lost on today's generation of European leaders. With Greece seemingly on the brink of insolvency and markets pounding other vulnerable euro members like Portugal and Spain, the continued viability of the single currency—the European Union's most emblematic project—is under threat. So in the early hours of Monday morning, after weeks of indecision, Europe's leaders met the challenge by setting up a colossal €750 billion ($950 billion) crisis fund. (Leo Cendrowicz, "The E.U.'s $950 Billion Rescue: Just the Beginning," Time, 5/10/10, http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1988216,00.html?xid=rss-topstories. --My thanks to Dana Neel.)
The International Monetary Fund/eurozone bailout stipulated that the Greek government drastically cut its huge deficit of 13.6 percent of the nation's GDP. Jay Bryson, global economist at Wells Fargo Securities said that Europe's monetary crisis won't ease "until money starts to flow" to Greece from the EU/IMF. He said the crisis will probably linger for a time even with such measures.
The Greek national government has had to do away with a large number of jobs that were linked directly to public services and bureaucratic positions. Ever-increasing government controls destroyed incentives for creating private sector employment. Demands by Greek citizenry (mostly government employees' unions) that they could retire with full benefits as early as age 45 in some cases, age 53 on average, and massive expenditures on public social services drove deficit spending to calamitous levels.
Austerity implementation and its effects on Greek society have been profound. Rioting in the streets has brought things to the crisis level, and has drawn a harsh response from police and the military. The EU/IMF infusion of a trillion dollars is only a stop-gap effort to try to prevent total implosion of Greek society, thus, possibly, the EU itself. When the people have been given their fix to assuage the pain of their weaning off the government spigot--what then?
Thailand is perhaps even more bloody than Greece in the government-vs.-the unions clashes. Thailand's workers have become accustomed to a bureaucratic handout system/society.
Thailand's fledgling democracy is now all but dead; bloodied and battered on the streets of Bangkok. How did this happen?
The above question, posed by ABC News, frames the situation precisely. America's heretofore relatively stable ally in Southeast Asia is in the process of meltdown because of economic crisis. The government is in disarray due to conflict primarily brought on by handing out more money to the populace than can be sustained, for purposes of gaining political advantage.
Riots fill the streets of Bangkok. A continuing battle rages between the government forces of a brutal, unresponsive government that seems for the moment to be winning the day over the "red shirts"--organized workers against what they perceive as government discontinuing the policies of universal health care, infrastructure investment, local economic stimulus, and agricultural debt relief which they had come to expect as guaranteed rights.
The fact is, Thailand is mischaracterized in ABC's calling it a "fledgling democracy. Like Greece, the masses are addicted to getting socialistic largess for their votes. The government, used to being in favor because of, in effect, buying votes with a Thai version of pork-barrel spending, is reacting as many socialistic governments react when opposed. Many believe Greece and Thailand are well down the road of the same path America is taking.
Jesus foretold as recorded in Luke 17: 26-29 that it would be like it was in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot at the time God's judgment and wrath begins to fall. One of the characteristics that the apostle Paul gave in his "perilous times" prophecies as recorded in 2 Timothy chapter 3 is that people will be "incontinent." This means they will lack self-control. A further meaning is that they will be incorrigibly addictive--susceptible to violently craving fixes for their addictions.
A major addiction I perceive as becoming pandemic at this late hour of human history is the craving for pay without work by growing numbers of people in America and within the western economies. Socialism might be considered the virus that infects the masses who demand that the few pay for the many to enjoy the comforts of life.
Noah's time saw the mocking and the threats by the listless, vile masses toward Noah as he prepared the ark while preaching the message that they should repent. Lot, in Sodom, endured the vexation caused by the incontinent (sex-addicted) people who made demands that they be served night and day. Jesus said it will be like that at the time He will catastrophically intervene into the affairs of mankind at the end of the age. People will be addictive without control--"incontinent," as the KJV has it.
That "perilous times" characteristic of end-times man seems to be infecting this generation in many areas, and especially in matters of economy. The distress it is causing the nations, who are in perplexity as to what to do to fix the problems involved, will one day cause a tyrant of unprecedented power and authority to call for a one-world monetary system. I'm more and more convinced that it will be a system of Special Drawing Rights (SDR)--Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)--that will be the computer solution he will concoct.
Monetary chaos is building across the world. I believe it will take a crisis of major proportion to get peoples around the globe to agree to give up their nationalistic, autonomous allegiances, in the desperate hope that their comforts might be secured/ preserved/ restored.
With the signals of the end of the age in every direction the student of Bible prophecy looks--including the addictive characteristic of humanity we've just examined--there seems good reason to wonder: Might the Rapture be about to serve as the instrument the Lord uses to bring about the crisis that will give Antichrist the excuse to produce his system of control foretold in Revelation 13:16-18?