Tag Archives: austerity

(503) Caritas Europa report on poverty

Caritas EuropaWave of Action demonstrations got underway in continental Europe today.  The intention is to register unhappiness with austerity and herald a return of the energies behind the Occupy movement.  North American mainstream media seems intent on ignoring/under reporting the Wave of Action but that will likely change.  Austerity has burdened Europe for some time now and the Wave of Action is just the next part in a much longer and deeper social tradition of serious public reaction to government policy than is found in North America.

Released just days ago is a major report from Catholic agency Caritas Europa describing the socio-economic difficulty faced by millions that has called forth austerity and a host of angry reactions to it.  Devastating reading.  A growing underclass of people in several countries in the EU are even having trouble keeping themselves fed.  Photos of children picking food out of street garbage is not the preferred image associated with a continent known for its culture and beautiful public spaces.

Official notions of recovery are challenged in the report.  It sets out the origins and scale of the problem and the deeply unjust nature of austerity in which those who did not create the crisis are asked to bear a punishing set of correctives dictated by those who did.  This report describes the origins and key impacts of the crisis with a special emphasis on the hardest hit nations.

Wake up North America.

Caritas Europa. Crisis monitoring report, 2014. The European crisis and its human cost. A call for fair alternatives and solutions
116-page .pdf file

(320) It’s the austerity, stupid

scissorsThe blogosphere has been abloom this cruel April with at least one sane, inspiring meme.  The new old new idea is that austerity doesn’t work and, in fact, is an utterly stupid policy for places with low growth, high unemployment, angry demonstrators, declining middle classes, broke governments, aging populations, unpopular wars, shaky currencies and discredited financial systems, which is to say pretty much everywhere.

You need only go to the instruments of the system itself in the United States alone to hear the catchphrase “austerity is stupid” ringing out. No less than the Federal Reserve (cue gurgling sound) or Foreign Affairs online edition (sit up straight when you are reading it, people) have said so with volume and clarity.

While austerity, the bashing of social budgets, defence spending, infrastructure spending, the letting go of civil servants and the privatization of state assets, has been mainly a European story to date, the English-speaking countries are now in the cross hairs.  The political actors and agents looking to knock down the public sector in those countries were in high school during the first great age of neoconservatism under Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney.  Now it looks as if they hope to live up to their ideological parents and go them one better in the administration of noxious budgetary medicines and shock capitalism.  Hopefully the voters and taxpayers will wake up soon and resist austerity, not for ideological reasons, but because there is clear evidence it just doesn’t work, we can’t slash your way out of this mess.

Consider recent work from Canada’s Dennis Rafael at York University or an upcoming effort from Oxford & Stanford University researchers.  A decade of data headed into a new book from the latter is to be called The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills which promises to further unveil the fact that austerity wrecks public health.  Suicide, infectious diseases, depression and tooth decay – you get more of this under austerity.

The path of austerity leads to sickness and death: new research shows government spending cuts have dire health effects. Welcome to malaria outbreaks and a rise in HIV infections.  MSN Money

Almost like cyanide-laced icing on a strychnine-and-bleach birthday cake, austerity was recently identified with arithmetic error and nasty questions of numbers-for-the-sake-of-ideology.  A key positional document of recent modern austerity economics has been found to have missing data and simply be wrong numerically!  A grad student discovered the error.

‘They Said at First That They Hadn’t Made a Spreadsheet Error, When They Had’
Chronicle of Higher Education

Who me? Austerity authors say don’t blame them: the Harvard scholars behind a prominent but error-riddled 2010 paper promoting fiscal discipline aren’t gaining sympathy with their defense.  MSN Money

The suburban poor in North America, and elsewhere, have been living with austere realities already. In these pages we’ve seen how the lack of social services, employment opportunities and transportation aggravates suburban poverty.  How about a counter attack on austerity and suburban poverty with stimulating projects to build better, healthier places and address these specific challenges?

The austerity delusion: why a bad idea won over the west
Mark Blyth at Foreign Affairs

This press release from the Federal Reserve, May 1st 2013 (did someone tell us irony was dead?) says “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”  All that Republican rage being poured into budgetary civil war is essentially wrecking recovery.  If the UK and Canada pick up cutback fever they will have the same problem.

Wasting a whole generation of people in Europe is stupid
Russia Times on Spain & Portugal 4:30

image: rusty tailor’s scissors via Wikimedia Commons