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Keller @ Large: Greece Should Be A Lesson For U.S.

BOSTON (CBS) - Sunday's New York Times Magazine had a long dispatch from Greece that provides a good wake-up call about what we need to do to end this economic malaise we've been stuck in.

Listen to Jon's commentary:


No question, they're in tough shape.

One quarter of all Greek businesses have gone bust in the last three years.

Fifty percent of the small businesses remaining can't meet payroll.

Almost half of young adults are unemployed.

What happened in Greece?

For starters, according to the Greek businessmen and others interviewed by the Times, much of Greek culture got caught up in the crazed consumer dysfunction so familiar to us.

Personal and government debt exploded; the get-rich-quick impulse crowded out common sense and humility.

"State subsidies make you fat and lazy," says one successful entrepreneur.

"Our gains were not transformed into yachts or villas but were put back into the business."

And Greece has been damaged by the global boomer generation fantasy that an economy could be run like a casino, where the house gets rich off its cut no matter who else is going broke.

Says a local winemaker: "The crisis gives us the opportunity to clean the market of everyone who was trying to make something out of nothing."

Consider the message here: if we're going to restore economic balance and growth, we need a change of attitude, less greed and entitlement, more patience, and more self-reliance.

And we need a new economic model that doesn't rest on financial instrument Ponzi schemes.

What goes for the Greeks, goes for us too, but are we up to it?

Amid the avalanche of political debate and rhetoric we're in for over the next 8 ½ months, maybe we'll hear some legitimate discussion of how our behavior has to change for us to pull out of this and stay out.

It's not something the geniuses on Capitol Hill or Beacon Hill can legislate.

It has to come from the grassroots, or it will fail.

So if you're watching the bad news out of Greece and thinking, gee, they need to get their act together, keep in mind, the same goes for us.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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