Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The One Percent vs. labor and democracy, in the EU and the US

The euro crisis looks more and more like an old-fashioned war of Capital against Labor.

Athens News 11.6 bn euros of cuts to be announced by the end of the week 07/16/2012, "Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will hold a series of meetings with cabinet members, starting Monday, in a bid to put together a proposal for 11.6 bn euros in savings for the troika’s consideration."

Austerity, austerity, austerity. The EU has become an instrument for the European One Percent to impose poverty and the destruction of union rights on workers while rewarding themselves with further deregulation and absolution from all responsibility to their national communities.

Angela "Frau Fritz" Merkel continues with her insistence on that same program. (Merkel verteidigt Schrumpfkur für Krisenstaaten Spiegel Online 16.07.2012)

Spain's conservative government is facing active protests from labor and the 15-M Movement, Spain's version of the Occupy movement, though it would be more historically accurate to call the Occupy movement the American version of the 15-M movement, since the latter came earlier in time.

TV Pública Argentina provide images of the Spanish protests in this Spanish-language report, Empleados públicos contra los recortes en España 07/16/2012:

Euronews provides this brief report, Athens and Madrid's difficult debt quest YouTube date 07/17/2012:

Also from TV Pública Argentina, a Spanish-language report on cuts in Italy, Italia ajusta y se prepara un rescate 07/16/2012, observing among other things that Italy's current public debt represents 120% of its GDP:

As we've seen throughout this crisis, Frau Fritz' austerity measures mean that the targeted economies shrink while their euro-denominated debt shrinks much more slowly, if at all, thus making the percentage of debt-to-GDP higher, thus requiring (under the Merkel recipe) more austerity, which cause the economy to shrink more, and so on in an economic death spiral.

And remember, it was only a few days ago that Italy and Spain were being called winners at the EU summit for supposedly winning stimulus concessions from Frau Fritz. What a bad joke!

Ireland? Austerity, austerity, austerity: Harry McGee, Cuts in health spending to follow new pledge to troika Irish Times 07/13/2012. Depression now, cuts now, maybe someday somehow some kind of actual relief from Frau Fritz and the other EU partners: Simon Carswell, Government will seek 'ambitious' reduction of burden on State Irish Times 07/13/2012.

Portugal is getting another tranche of bailout funds from the IMF, funds that is to help them pay their debt to the banks and other financial institutions holding it, while requiring public service cuts that worsen the depression there. (Heather Stewart, Portugal gets IMF approval for next bailout payment Guardian 07/17/2012) And things are going just the way Frau Fritz wants: "GDP is expected to contract by just under 2% in 2012. Unemployment has shot up to more than 15%, and the IMF expects it to continue rising through next year, while average pay is expected to fall, as the government cuts public sector wages." And the IMF wants more austerity, austerity, austerity:

... the IMF also urges Portugal to press ahead with reforming its civil service, including laying off staff, tightening financial management of state-owned firms, and improving tax reporting.

"The authorities are pressing ahead, and results so far have been very positive, particularly given the complexity and breadth of the reform. However, there are still many reforms outstanding, and there is an increasing risk of reform fatigue and reduced appetite for the more politically difficult reforms," the IMF says.
BBC News provides an interactive graph to compare debt-to-GDP levels of various European countries. The countries considered most troubled:

Greece: 165%
Ireland: 108%
Italy: 120%
Portugal: 108%
Spain: 69%

And ones considered non-troubled on their sovereign debt:

Austria: 72%
Germany: 81%
France: 86%
Netherlands: 65%
UK: 86%

It's especially notable here that Spain debt load is lower than those of Austria, Frau Fritz' Germany, France and the UK. The eurozone Maastricht Treaty sets an arbitrary 60% debt-to-GDP limit, of which Frau Fritz' country is in excess. But she is not insisting (yet) on the kinds of drastic cuts to incomes and services she is imposing on the lesser peoples EU partner countries of the first group.

And even though President Obama is far too solicitous of the narrow concerns of the super-rich, his Republican opponent doesn't think he solicitous enough. As Paul Krugman puts it in (Who's Very Important? New York Times 07/12/2012):

O.K., it’s easy to mock these people, but the joke's really on us. For the "we are V.I.P." crowd has fully captured the modern Republican Party, to such an extent that leading Republicans consider Mr. Romney’s apparent use of multimillion-dollar offshore accounts to dodge federal taxes not just acceptable but praiseworthy: "It’s really American to avoid paying taxes, legally," declared Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. And there is, of course, a good chance that Republicans will control both Congress and the White House next year.

If that happens, we'll see a sharp turn toward economic policies based on the proposition that we need to be especially solicitous toward the superrich — I’m sorry, I mean the "job creators."
And Krugman concludes with a though likely to be far too democratic for most Republicans or corporate Democrats to stomach: "So, are the very rich V.I.P.? No, they aren't — at least no more so than other working Americans. And the 'common person' will be hurt, not helped, if we end up with government of the 0.01 percent, by the 0.01 percent, for the 0.01 percent."

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