Austerity

So... more on the Greek / European debt fiasco. I tried to avoid it - I now know how Kai Ryssdal feels when he says he won't talk about it until the real-real-real deadline sometime in March. But it's the gift that keeps on taking a crap under your Christmas tree (I probably need a better metaphor there). Now reports are that a harsh austerity bill has passed, and there are riots everywhere. And there should be. These kind of crisis-driven cuts are exactly the kind of crap the IMF likes to pull. A "22 percent reduction in the minimum wage" is not the way to win friends and influence people, and it's not the way to get the Greek consumer spending again. One Greek noted on Google Plus that "[t]hese austerity measures that are being forced to Greece right now will only suffocate it's people", adding "[n]ew austerity measures are being applied every 3 months, because the measures before them didn't deliver the desired results...And how could they, when all the measures are about taxes, taxes, taxes...". And there's a real question about who exactly we should blame for all this anyway - as one article notes, it wasn't Greek banks playing all fast and loose with kooky investment schemes. "Punishing Greece is like a perverse confirmation of the EUís inherent powerlessness, and a confirmation of the fact that the EU is mainly a bureaucratic institution that fails to act politically when it has to in order to stave off catastrophe."

The above article also shows another side to this whole mess: European countries are getting angry at each other. The stereotypes that used to be just jokes on the street are starting to be taken a little too seriously. It's not hard to imagine things going off the rails in many of these places - Sarkozy and Merkel both have tough fights coming up soon, and the right wing in Europe is always hanging around, waiting to be taken seriously again.

On the same day, Portugal also had major protests, for the same reasons: "Spending cuts and tax hikes needed to meet the fiscal terms of the bailout have caused the worst recession in Portugal since the few turbulent years that followed the 1974 return to democracy. Unemployment is at a record of around 13 percent."

The funny thing is that I have to believe that everyone believes austerity works, else why would Britain do it to themselves (and how's that working out, then?) The old 'insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome' would seem to apply in spades to this, and yet, here we are again.

David commented:

Additional thoughts from the Economist. The image, of Angela Merkel bringing stone tablets down from on high, is apt:

What about citizens? They are being given little say in the loss of national prerogatives. Surely democratic politics is nothing if not about how wealth is created and distributed. Yet the treaty was drafted to avoid referendums, above all in Ireland (although that may be tested by the courts). Even if it is put to a vote, it will come into force when 12 of the euro zone’s 17 approve it. Countries that do not ratify will not receive new bail-outs from 2013.

Although the article notes that, for example, debate has not been blocked altogether, I think that's more of a sop to the masses than an actual debate over merits.

on Mon Feb 13 12:53:34 2012

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