Mar 5, 2012
Europeans at the Breaking Point
Last week, the European Central Bank loaned 800 financial institutions $712.2 billion for a period of three years. It was just last December when 523 banks borrowed $645 billion from the ECB. Since the start of the global financial crisis, central banks have printed over $10 trillion.
Massive issuance of money ensures that Europe will never be able to escape its debt problems. The loans have created a huge moral hazard. They encourage the same behavior that got Europe into the financial mess it finds itself in, and provide no incentive for governments to get their budgets under control. Now that Greece has just been given a second bailout, other member nations may expect to receive the same generous treatment. An indication of this mindset could be the reason Spain raised its budget shortfall target from 4.4 percent to 5.8 percent of GDP.
Right now, the perception is that we can keep kicking the can down the road for all eternity. Every time a government or financial institution gets into trouble, we'll print a few trillion more dollars. It should be obvious to everyone that you can't go on forever with self-funded Ponzi schemes.
The breaking point may not come from the financial market. There is growing indication that civil unrest will be the first fault to rupture. The lack of jobs in Europe has caused outrage to boil over into public protests. Millions of young Europeans view themselves as part of a "lost generation" with little hope of finding a good job.
The numbers on how bad it has become in Europe are staggering. Here are a few figures that I picked out from various news reports:
- The unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16 and 24 is 28 percent in Italy.
- In total, there are now more than 5 million unemployed workers in Spain.
- The economy of Portugal will shrink by 5.7 percent this year.
- The Greek “recession” is now entering a fifth year.
- The Greek economy shrank by 6 percent during 2011 and will decline by 7 percent in 2012.
- In Greece, 25 percent of all retail stores have been permanently shut down.
- The number of suicides in Greece rose by 40 percent in just one year.
- The German economy actually contracted during the fourth quarter of 2011.
- In the UK, banks hold debt equal to 900 percent of the nation's GDP.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently found himself face to face with the growing frustration. The AP reported, "Several hundred angry protesters have booed President Nicolas Sarkozy, forcing him to take refuge in a cafe protected by riot police as he campaigned in France's southwest Basque country." Sarkozy is currently trailing Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who has promised a series of radical reforms if he's elected.
Last Wednesday, tens of thousands of students protested education spending cuts in big cities across Spain, and the demonstrations turned violent in Barcelona as angry young adults clashed with police. The front page of the New York Times showed a banker fending off a protester with a lengthy pole. The image was viewed as comical by the media, until someone noticed that the protester was holding a knife.
The social unrest in Europe is almost guaranteed to become much worse. Most nations there have a very generous welfare support that provides jobless citizens with a safety net against poverty. As nations like Greece are forced to impose austerity measures just to stay afloat, funding for entitlement programs will need to be cut. If people are willing to riot and strike over 5 percent cuts to their benefits, what will they do in reaction to cuts that approach 100 percent?
The growing desperation causes me to reflect on the words of Dr. Paul-Henri Spaak, the former secretary-general of NATO. "We do not want another committee, we have too many already. What we want is a man of sufficient stature to hold the allegiance of all people, and to lift us out of the economic morass into which we are sinking. Send us such a man and be he god or devil, we will receive him." Spaak spoke at a time when Europe suffered only from a lack of strong leadership. One can hardly imagine what he would say today.
The people of Europe will soon find their savior. He will seem to have all the answers to the world's problems. Because his power comes from the pit of hell, the good he accomplishes will quickly be overshadowed by calamity.
"And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" (Revelation 13:4).
"And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand" (Daniel 8:25, KJV).
Gog Spirit Surfaces
“Prophetic progression,” as Todd Strandberg terms it, continues at a pace that is astonishing. Prophecy might not be being “fulfilled” as most seminary-trained students of eschatology would have it. None who understand Bible prophecy from the premillennial, pretribulational view, however, deny that things foretold by Jesus and the prophets are being set up on the end-times stage for what looks to be not-too-distant fulfillment.
Even the most reserved among the pretrib seminary scholars sometimes admit that Israel being back in the promised land and at the center of worldwide controversy might just possibly be prophecy in the process of being fulfilled. Only slightly less profound than Israel’s being at stage center are developments afoot with regard to the area of ancient Persia, now called Iran. Hard on the prophetic coattail of those developments are the tremendous changes that have taken place in Russia and the coming to power of a “really spooky dude,” as I’ve heard him called in one form or the other over recent months and years. I refer, of course, to Vladimir Putin–the just-elected–or would that be reelected—president of Russia.
Putin, as prime minister, recently made the following statement about Israel’s feared military action against Iran’s nuclear development facilities. "Without a doubt, Russia is concerned about the growing threat of a military strike on this country. If this happens the fallout would be truly catastrophic."
The statement actually seems tempered by diplomatic buffering, considering some of the more bellicose rhetoric coming from the Russian strongman in his ongoing career engineering over the years as he has grabbed for absolute control. Putin’s voracious hunger for power on the world stage is seen in his overshadowing then- President Dmitry Medvedev's presence as Russian leader. Just days before winning the Sunday, March 4, election, Putin set future Russian policy in hardened rhetoric, making it clear who was and is boss.
He used a bit of cold war-type bluster–but with nuance that veiled the threat--in flexing his pre-election muscles, as illustrated in this excerpt of his words from a week ago:
In Monday's article, Putin again criticized the U.S.-led plans for a NATO missile defense system in Europe, saying it's aimed against Russian nuclear forces.
"The Americans are obsessed with the idea of ensuring absolute invulnerability for themselves, which is utopian and unfeasible from both technological and geopolitical points of view," he said. "An absolute invulnerability for one means an absolute vulnerability for all the others. It's impossible to accept such a prospect." (Vladimir Isachenkov, "Putin Warns West over Syria, Iran, Moscow," Associated Press, 2/28/12. Thanks to Jonathan Stettin for news items.)
Putin has come down hard on American diplomatic involvement in backing the Arab Spring agenda, using invective against U.S. State Department moves to try to raise his standing with the Russian electorate. He and his campaign apparatus have been particularly angry sounding about any threats of the Western alliance’s threat to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
Russia has strategically placed missile-carrying ships in waters near Syrian territory, backing with military threat Putin’s tough talk about securing the Assad regime.
When surveying the overall actions and interactions undertaken by this unusual man who has just assumed the Russian presidency for the second time, one who studies Bible prophecy from a futurist perspective must raise an eyebrow of realization–or at least of suspicion. Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39, of course, come to the forefront of supposition and postulation. Vladimir Putin’s future role in Mideast and world politics must by the very weight and volume of its probabilities be a matter of extreme fascination, not mere curiosity.
The great prophetic book of Revelation presents a hellish angel–a spirit—that will, during the Tribulation, ascend from the bottomless pit. His name is Abaddon, as given in Hebrew, and Apollyon in the Greek language. Daniel the prophet mentioned a powerful angel called “the Prince of Persia” who caused all sorts of troubles to be inflicted upon Daniel’s people, the Israelites who were in Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel foretold an evil spirit of the ancient region that is present-day Russia that will at a time near Christ’s return inhabit a leader who will lead a coalition of armies against God’s chosen nation. That evil one is called “Gog.”
With so many signals on the prophetic horizon indicating the Church Age is in the process of being brought to a wind-up, it isn’t unreasonable to surmise that the evil being held back by the hand of God might be very near the time of release. Certainly the one called Gog must not be too far below the surface in these troubling, although exciting, days.