"Our government owes a great debt to Greece," President Obama told Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras yesterday. Ironic, of course, since Greece owes a great debt to just about everybody else.
Obama was actually trying to praise the contributions of Greek Americans when he employed the ironic turn of a phrase in his meeting with Samaras in the White House Oval Office:
"Our government owes a great debt to Greece, our form of government. The Greek American community here are incredible business people and political leaders and community leaders, and great friends of mine. And that bond that extends beyond governments but goes to our peoples I think is what makes Greek-American relations so special."
But, Obama wasn't done making ironic comments. He stressed the importance of Greece (not the U.S.) creating a plan to address its massive debt. Then again, he also downplayed the value of "austerity" as a means of addressing the debt problem:
"We had an extensive discussion about the challenges that remain and I'm confident that Prime Minister Samaras is committed to continuing on these structural reforms. What we also agreed to is that in dealing with the challenges that Greece faces, we cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy. It's important that we have a plan for fiscal consolidation to manage the debt, but it's also important that growth and jobs are our focus."
Samaras wasn't above making ironic comments, either - blaming his region's problems on illegal immigration:
"I believe that the problems have to do with illegal immigration, internal turbulence in various countries, and even, unfortunately, the problem of terrorism."
And, in an interesting word choice, he called for the U.S. and Europe to "liberalize" their economic potential:
Europe and the U.S. together in this trade account, as you've said before, more than 50 percent of the world GDP. And therefore, it's important, especially for Europe, to liberalize that potential and create new jobs, because I think jobs for everyone is the number-one priority, especially to our youth, because everything we are doing has to do with our younger generation.
Editor's Add-On: The U.S. national debt currently stands at $16.7 trillion. $6.1 trillion higher than it was when Obama took office back in 2009.