There really isn’t much being written in the U.S. about this week’s widespread protests in Spain, but the Washington Post has take an interesting take on the irony of Socialists cutting the European country’s social welfare system.
With a U.S.-style real estate bubble having burst and the 2008 global economic crisis having unfurled like a tsunami from Wall Street to Plaza de Espana, [Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero’s main concern in his second term has become hacking away at government spending to preserve Spain’s credit rating. The icon of socialism just concluded a pact with labor unions and business leaders to freeze pensions, push back the retirement age from 65 to 67, trim union bargaining rights, cut civil servants’ pay by 5 percent — including his own — and suspend the childbirth bonus. The alternative, he warned, was bankruptcy.
“We are going to have to do this whatever it costs,” he declared, “and whatever it costs me.”
Cost him it did. Faced with a dramatic decline in opinion polls, Zapatero announced last month that he will not seek a third term, hoping his party can find another candidate less contaminated by the rightward shift he was forced to impose on a nominally Socialist government. But in protests ahead of local elections this weekend, demonstrators have expressed their continuing frustration with the Socialists and the austerity measures.
So a socialist government is calculating the impact of a global financial crisis and determining that the right course of action is to do what’s best for the bankers and the corporations. It’s odd, but it reminds me of the scene in the movie “Network.” You think I’m referring to “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” I’m not, though that is what’s going on in the streets. There’s actually a better scene that gets to the point of why government is powerless to do anything.
The world is a business. We are in a global economic crisis because the real estate bubble burst, not only in the U.S., but also in other countries like Britain, Ireland and Spain. The concern of government no longer is to take care of people, but to preserve the nation’s credit rating. Unemployment in the U.S. is at 10%, but there’s no fierce argument about creating jobs. We’re talking about controlling the deficit. The jobless rate for 20somethings in Spain is an outrageous 45%. But the government’s big concern is making sure Standard & Poors doesn’t downgrade government debt. Talk about the U.S. defaulting on its credit obligations if it fails to raise the debt ceiling raises the specter of Armageddon in the financial community.
And if you don’t think things are intertwined, consider that one of the world’s major financial experts, a Frenchman who was negotiating a plan to deal with the European economic crisis, was released from jail in New York on Friday, still charged with the attempted rape of a Gambian cleaning woman in a posh New York hotel. His arrest has created massive turmoil at the International Monetary Fund, an organization that can destroy or preserve a government just by agreeing to give it a loan.
In today’s world, the needs of the many have become subservient to the needs of the banks and corporations … which, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, have the same rights as people.
Are we just meddling with the primal forces of nature?
- Socialists cut Spain’s welfare state, riling Spaniards – Washington Post (news.google.com)