Thursday, May 17, 2012

Angry and Fighting Back

The people of Europe are sending a message loud and clear: they’ve had enough of austerity programs that have created widespread misery around the continent.

In elections last week in France, Greece and even Germany, people came out in large numbers and voted overwhelmingly against the political leaders who have been backing the austerity policies.

Nicholas Sarkozy, the conservative president of France, was dumped in favor of Socialist Francois Hollande, marking the first time a socialist had won in France in 30 years. In Greece, the PASOK and New Democratic parties, which had led Greece and backed the austerity programs, were spurned in favor of several fringe leftist parties that opposed austerity. In Germany, voters in the nation’s largest state came out in force to reject Chancellor Angela Merkel’s austerity policies.

Europeans are increasingly fed up with philosophy held by the continent’s pro-business political leaders like Sarkozy and Merkel, as well as top bankers, that in order to save the floundering economies in the European Union, ordinary people must accept sharp cutbacks in pay, pensions and government services.

The austerity policies have led to high rates of joblessness, homelessness and despair in Greece and Spain. Suicides are on the rise.

Amid all this, working people look around, and they don’t see any undue hardship imposed on well-heeled corporations or the rich. Banks and creditors which lent money to national governments, are being asked only to take modest “haircuts” on the money owed them.

Wealthy elites, with their millions, don’t have to worry about layoffs or cuts in government services. It doesn’t matter to them. And they don’t have to worry about kicking in more money to help shore up their national treasuries. Political leaders in their tow aren’t about to ask them to sacrifice.

So regular folk are revolting against this state of affairs, turning out their leaders and demonstrating on a nearly daily basis.

In Greece, which seems to be ground zero for the crisis in Europe, there’s near chaos. Since the May 6 elections, no one has been able to form a coalition government among the various parties that split the vote. The party that got the most votes, SYRIZA, has said they will not go along with any plan to continue austerity. New elections have been set for June.

Meanwhile, leaders of the European Central Bank are threatening that if the Greece doesn’t continue with the austerity plan, further loans to keep the country afloat will be halted.

There is a strong possibility that Greece will go into default, and be forced out of the Euro Zone.

That could in turn lead to other nations, like Spain and Portugal, going into bankruptcy.

World financial leaders predict dire consequences if this chain of events occurs.

But I’m not sure. Don’t we have to reexamine the value of a system that, in difficult times, imposes such mass suffering on people in order to somehow rebuild itself?

The rebellion against the banks and their political allies --- which is really a revolt against capitalism --- is also gathering steam in the United States. The Occupy Wall Street movement is alive and well and continues to grow, as recent May Day protests show.

More news comes out daily about the misconduct and disastrous management decisions made by major financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America.

Recently, it was revealed that JP Morgan had lost anywhere from $2 billion to $4 billion on speculative bets gone bad in its London office. There are rumblings that Bank of America is in serous trouble.

Are big banks going to come pleading to Uncle Sam for more bailouts in the near future? Are we going to hear the mantra “too big to fail” again?

After more bailouts, will Americans be asked, once again, to “tighten our belts?” because “the money just isn’t there” for social services?

More and more people here, as in Europe, are saying the game is up.


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