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Austerity, Divestment and Irma: Juan González on Why 300,000 in Puerto Rico Are Without...

FEMA Administrator Brock Long is traveling today to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to see firsthand the damage caused by Hurricane Irma....
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Video: Austerity, Divestment & Irma: Juan González on Why 300,000 in Puerto Rico are...

https://democracynow.org - FEMA Administrator Brock Long is traveling today to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to see firsthand the damage caused by...

How Budget Austerity Puts Public School Parents On Par With Criminals

In researching an upcoming article I’m writing about the St. Louis school system, and the district’s ongoing funding crisis, I came across an astonishing...

Tory austerity leaving police officers struggling to collect terrorist intelligence – ex-Met chief

Britain’s counterterrorist strategy may be at risk as the police force is stretched to near...

From the Neoliberal Revolution to the Supremacy of Financialized Austerity: A Brief History

As an intended outcome of neoliberal doctrine and a natural stage of capitalist development, global financialization constructs a borderless nexus of power in which...

Ending austerity could unleash economic shock on Britain, warns budget watchdog

Published time: 14 Jul, 2017 09:29 Ending the Tory program of austerity cuts and increasing...

'Not One Day More': Massive London Rally Says No to Austerity, Privatization

Tens of thousands marched through central London on Saturday to protest privatization and austerity that has led to cuts in spending for education and...

Furious Corbyn blames ‘disastrous effect of austerity’ for fire safety failures (VIDEO)

Published time: 28 Jun, 2017 13:06 The Grenfell Tower fire exposed the “disastrous effect of...
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Video: Austerity & Neglect Blamed as 79 Die in U.K. Apartment Fire Housing Immigrants...

https://democracynow.org - Protests are continuing in London over last week's devastating apartment fire that killed 79 people. On Wednesday, around 200 ... Via Youtube

Corbyn’s vote-winning anti-austerity agenda killed the Tory manifesto

Published time: 13 Jun, 2017 11:28 Prime Minister Theresa May has apologized to Tory MPs...

We Are Not Broke: Trashing the Austerity Lies

President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington,...

Jeremy Corbyn Rides Leftist Tide in UK Election in Rebuke of Austerity and Conservatives

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a major setback Thursday in an election that saw her Conservative Party lose its majority in Parliament less...

Bernie Sanders Is Super Excited About Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Austerity Campaign

Bernie Sanders traveled to Britain last week, attracting crowds that confirmed that the Vermont senator has emerged as not just the most popular active...
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Video: Anti-austerity strikes: Greeks struggle against new bailout package

The latest nationwide strike in Greece continues to cripple services - and coincides with MPs preparing to vote on a new austerity package. This...
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Video: Molotov Cocktails & Tear Gas: Anti-Austerity protesters clash with police in Athens

Protesters clashed with riot police in Athens amid anti-austerity protests, as protesters threw Molotov cocktails and other projectiles at the police who responded ... Via...
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Video: RAW: Greek anti-austerity protests erupt in violence

An anti-austerity rally in Athens turned violent as a general strike halted flights, ferry operations and public transportation, with thousands joining protest marches ... Via...
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Video: UK Elections Called Before Full Impact of Austerity Kicks In

May's decision to call a snap election is an opportunistic move, she also has an eye on the electoral arenas in France and Germany...

Somebody’s Going to Suffer: Greece’s New Austerity Measures

Sharmini Peries: The European Commission announced on May 2, that an agreement on Greek pension and income tax reforms would pave the way for...
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Video: Tear gas & fire: Anti-austerity protesters clash with police in Rio

Protesters clashed with police in downtown Rio de Janeiro on Friday evening after a day of violence between police and demonstrators during a general...

Austerity Never Ends: Economists Say Wages Are Too High

No, you can’t really make this stuff up: Orthodox economists continue to tell us that the reason for ongoing economic stagnation is that wages...

Trump's Austerity Budget Increases Military Recruiters' Power to Prey on Youth

Rory Fanning speaks in Japan on a Veterans for Peace trip in 2016. (Photo: Yoshiaki Kawakami) Stories like this are funded by readers like you,...
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Video: Flames of protest in 360: Firefighters take to Paris streets for anti-austerity rally

Thousands of French firefighters marched against new austerity measures. RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air Subscribe to RT! Via Youtube

What austerity? Taxpayer-funded £369mn Buckingham Palace renovation approved

Funding for the renovation of Buckingham Palace has been approved by MPs, and it will...

Senate Confirms Austerity Champion Congressman as Influential White House Staffer

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's pick to be next director of the Office of Management and Budget, testifies at his conformation hearing before the...
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Video: Austerity Grip: Violent protests break out in Brazil over water company privatization

Military police fired tear gas against protesters in Rio de Janeiro, Thursday, after a protest against the proposed privatisation of public water company Cia...

David Cameron’s mum wins award… for campaigning against her son’s austerity policies

Former Prime Minister David Cameron’s mother has won an award for campaigning to reverse government...

Britain in line for decade of austerity & highest tax burden in 30 years,...

As the UK faces another decade of austerity, Britain’s tax burden is to hit its...
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Video: Brazilian President Temer Signs Constitutional Amendment Imposing 20 Years of Austerity

Rousseff was ousted to shift economic policy towards neoliberalism, and now Temer is rewarding the banks and financial investors for backing the legislative ... Via...

Austerity strikes back: Living standards set to tumble as Britain’s ‘mini-boom’ ends

British living standards are set to crash as the “mini-boom” witnessed over recent years comes to an end, dragging income growth down to just...

It’s Austerity, Not Globalization, That Pulls European Workers to the Right – By Dean...

The Washington Post failed to mention that the Socialists’ declining fortunes are the result of anti-worker austerity programs. Both the Washington Post (1/22/17) and New...
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Video: Rio police clashes with protesters, at a time when authorities vote on new...

Police clashes with protesters outside Rio de Janeiro's legislative assembly (ALERJ), as a vote on new austerity measures took place inside. Protesters set ... Via...
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Video: A Look at the Other Morocco: From Protests Against Austerity to Occupation of...

http://democracynow.org - Late last month, thousands of people took to the streets of Marrakech, Morocco, to protest after a fish seller was crushed to...

Tory austerity ‘systematically’ violated rights of disabled Britons – UN

The United Nations has accused Britain’s Conservative government of violating the human rights of disabled...

#Podesta emails: Bill Clinton & Obama worked to influence EU’s Greece austerity deal

President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton sought to influence Greece to accept the EU’s harsh austerity...
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Video: Drone livestream: Anti-austerity demo in Athens

Ruptly's drone is capturing Greek trade-unions' protest in Athens, with rally participants demanding better salaries and working conditions RT LIVE ... Via Youtube

Disability rights activists shut down Westminster Bridge in anti-austerity protest

Hundreds of disability rights activists brought traffic to a standstill in central London in a...

Tory austerity caused 30% rise in homelessness, parliamentary committee finds

Government austerity measures have increased homelessness in the UK by as much as 30 percent,...

Sturgeon blames austerity for Brexit vote, repeats threats of 2nd Scottish independence referendum

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has once again threatened Westminster with a new independence referendum,...
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Video: Narrative of Brexit Leave Voters as Racist and Anti-Immigrant Ignores Real Anti-Austerity Sentiment

Economist Michael Hudson argues that a vote for Europe is not a vote for socialism, but for a very right-wing, hard right, corporatist Europe...

London sees mass post-Brexit anti-Tory, anti-austerity, anti-racism protest (PHOTOS)

Several thousand protesters demonstrated in London on Saturday against austerity, racism and the new Tory...

From Brexit in the UK to Austerity in Spain, Europe is on the Edge

(Photo: Pixaby) On the surface, the June 23 Brexit and the June 26 Spanish elections don’t look comparable. After a nasty campaign filled with racism and...

Obituary: British Austerity (2010-2016)

1000 Words | Shutterstock.com UK Chancellor George Osborne announced last week that the Government is now forced to abandon its target to run a budget surplus by...
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Video: French Labor Law, Brexit, and Greek Austerity: Class War Against European Workers

Economist Richard Wolff says the old European elite believed it could fix their broken capitalism on the backs of the masses and that has...

The Silence of the Left: Brexit, Euro-Austerity and the T-TIP

The media in the United States have treated the British vote against remaining in the European Union (EU) as if it is populist “Trumpism,”...
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Video: Greek Austerity Leading to Brain Drain with No Economic Recovery in Sight

Dimitri Lascaris says the latest unemployment figures in Greece show the indifference of the EU elite to the hardships of austerity and the democratic...

Tax hikes, more austerity: Osborne’s punishing recipe for post-Brexit budget

Chancellor George Osborne has warned he will be forced to slash public spending and ratchet...

Brexit, austerity & refugee crisis knock Britain out of global ‘soft power’ ranking lead

A combination of economic turmoil, the threat of leaving the EU and the handling of...

900,000 Brits earn more than $1mn… not bad for a country under austerity

Austerity Britain has the fourth highest number of millionaires in the world, according to a...
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Video: Former Greek Finance Minister: Massive IMF Bailouts are “Ponzi Austerity” Scheme

http://democracynow.org - As the White House is backing calls for Greece to continue to implement widespread austerity measures, we spend the hour with ... Via...

Studies Show Austerity Policies Exacerbate US Suicide Epidemic

(Photo: NoHoDamon) According to a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics, the suicide rate in the United States has risen dramatically over...
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Video: Rallies against Cameron & govt austerity measures hit London (recorded live)

People have taken to the London streets to join national demonstrations against UK Prime Minister David Cameron and his government's austerity measures. Via Youtube

#4Demands: Masses take to London streets protesting Cameron & austerity (VIDEOS)

A huge number of people from across the UK are marching in London, calling for...
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Video: Special Report: Voices from Puerto Rico’s Students Leading an Anti-Austerity Movement

http://democracynow.org - Puerto Rican college students have been waging a series of demonstrations to protest austerity measures they say endanger the ... Via Youtube

‘Weasel words’: Osborne admits disability cuts blunder but defends austerity

Chancellor George Osborne has admitted that attempting to further slash disability benefits was a mistake,...

All in this together, Mum! Austerity hits home as Cameron’s mother loses job

Prime Minister David Cameron’s own mother has lost her job as austerity measures imposed by...

Austerity is an ideological smokescreen for class warfare – UK economists

(RT) - Chancellor George Osborne’s post-2015 spending cuts are an ethically bankrupt assault on the...

Prosperity Not Austerity: New Progressive Budget ‘Prioritizes Well-Being of People and Planet’

Republicans' "harmful cuts are a false prophecy for American economic success" Andrea Germanos The Congressional Progressive Caucus unveiled on Thursday what it calls "a down payment...

Irish Shillelagh Austerity

Ireland’s election drove a big spike into the austerity policies of the “troika”—the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund....

Portuguese government prepares second austerity package

Paul Mitchell Less than three months after it came to power with the support of the Left Bloc (BE) and Communist Party (PCP), the Portuguese...

Judgment Day for Austerity in Irish Election

Part of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition’s problem is that it claimed it had no choice but to enforce the savage austerity regime of the...

Austerity causes biggest rise in England’s death rate since WWII – health expert

Government cuts to social services could be killing large numbers of vulnerable people in England, a health journal has said, as new figures show...
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Video: Crowds of Greek farmers protest austerity in Athens (Live record)

Greek farmers are protesting against austerity measures in Athens' Syntagma Square. READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/74cz RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air Subscribe ... Via Youtube
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Video: UK Labor Party Departing from Austerity to Strengthen Economy

Economists for Rational Economic Policy: John Weeks, Ozlem Onaran and Jeremy Smith say Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Chancellor John ... Via Youtube

Police agent-provocateurs exposed at Montreal anti-austerity demonstration

By Carl Bronski Further information has come to light concerning the Montreal Police Department’s use of agent-provocateurs disguised as “Black Bloc” protestors at a December 18...

People My Age Have Had Their Aspirations Crushed by Austerity – It’s Time to...

We know the devastating impact austerity has had on our most vulnerable, but what we don't talk about is how it has resulted in...

The Sneaky Way Austerity Got Sold to the Public Like Snake Oil

(Photo: Money Drain via Shutterstock) Orsola Costantini, Senior Economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, is the author of a new paper, "The Cyclically...

Austerity has caused 8-yr homelessness peak, says Corbyn

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called the UK’s “soaring homelessness” a “disgrace,” blaming the Conservative government’s austerity drive for the magnitude of the...

Spain Says “No” to Austerity

Spain’s left-wing Podemos party made impressive gains in the Spanish election. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons) For the third time in a year, the...

Solidarity! Jeremy Corbyn heads to Portugal, heralds anti-austerity victory

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will hammer home the victory of Portugal’s new leftist government and promote its fight against austerity by embarking on...
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Video: Spain Election: Anti-austerity party makes gains, ruling party loses majority

Spain's ruling People's Party won 123 seats in the national parliament, but lost an absolute majority to an expected left-wing block including the Socialist...
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Video: Naomi Klein Extended Interview on Role of Obama, Trudeau & Austerity at U.N....

In Part 2 of our interview with journalist and best-selling author Naomi Klein she examines how the 2008 economic crisis and bank bailouts continue...
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Video: General Strike In Greece Re-ignites Anti-Austerity Battle

Greek port worker and union leader Giorgos Gogos says most of the demonstrations across the country were peaceful and unified against austerity measures ... Via...
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Video: Portugal govt falls amid austerity backlash

Portugal's pro-austerity government has been forced to resign by a leftist anti-austerity block, despite being sworn in only two weeks ago. READ MORE: ... Via...

Axman cometh: Osborne defies critics with fresh round of austerity

Chancellor George Osborne announced fresh spending cuts for several government departments on Monday in the wake of his embarrassing defeat in the House of...

Austerity ads? Tories’ benefit cuts minister spends £8.5m on fuzzy purple monster

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has spent more than £8.5 million on an advertising campaign featuring a giant fluffy monster at a...

UN team to probe ‘grave violations’ of disabled peoples’ rights under austerity

UN representatives will visit the UK within weeks as part of an inquiry into “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people,...
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Video: Police use water cannon against anti-austerity protesters in Brussels

The demonstrators confronted riot police in central Brussels during a protest over the government's reforms and cost-cutting measures. Protesters began burning ... Via Youtube

Huge anti-austerity protest expected during Tory conference in Manchester

North West England is bracing for anti-austerity protests coinciding with the weekend’s Conservative party conference in Manchester. One pressure group has been quoted as saying...

Corbyn: Tory austerity failed approach

UK Labour Party leader has slammed the Tory government’s austerity policy, calling it “the failed approach of the past.” Jeremy Corbyn made the comments at...

Labour says no to austerity, vows aggressive tax crackdown

Britain's opposition Labour Party on Monday voiced strong anti-austerity sentiments and said it would enforce an aggressive policy of collecting taxes from the wealthy...

Syriza’s Tsipras and Independent Greeks finalise new austerity coalition

By Robert Stevens  Following Syriza’s victory in the Greek elections Sunday, party leader Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister Monday evening. The final tally showed...

Damage limitation? City bankers seek to charm anti-austerity Corbyn

City financiers are hatching plans to influence Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies, as the anti-austerity Labour leader settles into his new role. A string of policy...

Jeremy Corbyn, Welcome to Europe’s Fight Against Austerity

The Labour leader and my own party Podemos have one thing in common: a rejection of the neoliberalism that has impoverished our people by Pablo Iglesias How...

Osborne presses ahead with £20bn worth of further austerity

Details of the government’s plans to slash £20bn from public spending were discussed on Friday, as Chancellor George Osborne pressed ahead with his austerity...

No Time for Women’s Health in an Age of Austerity

The war waged by political reactionaries and pro-life advocates against Planned Parenthood in the United States is widely known. I wrote about it a...
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Video: Decades of Relentless Austerity in Canada Could Defeat the Conservatives

Nora Loreto, the author of From Demonized to Organized: Building the New Union Movement, and Dru Oja Jay of Unite Against Austerity Campaign discuss...

In bid to ram through austerity package, Tsipras calls snap elections in Greece

By Alex Lantier Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras used a nationally televised address yesterday evening to announce his resignation and the calling of snap elections. While...
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Video: Greek parliament approves austerity filled bailout deal from creditors

The Greek parliament has approved a draft law enacting a third bailout plan. The votes of opposition MPs were crucial for the legislation to...

Anti-austerity Corbyn on track to lead Labour Party — YouGov poll

Veteran Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn looks set to win more than half of the votes in Labour’s leadership contest, despite warnings from senior party...
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Video: Accepting Austerity: Greece, lenders agree on new bailout terms

Greece and its creditors have agreed on a third austerity deal, involving loans of up to €86 billion, the European Commission has confirmed. The...
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Video: Art & Protests at the Venice Biennale Highlight Labor Conditions, Climate Change and...

http://democracynow.org - We are broadcasting from Venice, Italy, the site of the Venice Biennale, the oldest and most prestigious international art exhibition, ... Via Youtube

Poll that suggests majority of UK voters back austerity rubbished by economists

Economists have dismissed the findings of a poll that suggests a majority of British voters continue to back austerity as ideologically framed tripe. They...
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Video: The Anti-Capitalist Greek Left Says No to Austerity and Bailouts (2/2)

Thanos Andritsos and Kostas Fourikos members of the Greek anti-capitalist Left party 'Antarsya', explain how the radical left in Greece is building an alternative...
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Video: The Anti-Capitalist Greek Left Says No to Austerity and Bailouts (1/2)

Thanos Andritsos, member of the Greek anti-capitalist Left party 'Antarsya', explains why leaving the Euro is the only just alternative for Greece. Via Youtube
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Video: The Anti-Capitalist Greek Left Says No to Austerity and Bailouts (1/2)

Thanos Andritsos, member of the Greek anti-capitalist Left party 'Antarsya', explains why leaving the Euro is the only just alternative for Greece. Via Youtube

EU’s Greek Austerity Plan Rejected By The IMF

Paul Craig Roberts (RINF) - I have maintained since the so-called Greek Debt “crisis” began...
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Video: If Syriza Ruptures, Will Greece’s Left Unite to Oppose Austerity?

Dr. Panagiotis Sotiris, Member of Antarsya, talks to Dimitri Lascaris about Syriza's failure to implement its anti-austerity program and the political options that are...
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Video: Revolutionary Expectations and the Fight Against Austerity – Catarina Principe on RAI (5/5)

On Reality Asserts Itself, Ms. Principe says that German workers, who have not yet felt the brunt of the crisis, are starting to realize...

Bipartisan agreement on austerity at Australian premiers’ summit

By Mike Head This week’s two-day “retreat” and summit involving Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the leaders of the country’s six states and two territories...
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Video: Thousands Protest As Greek Parliament Approves Second Round of Austerity Measures

Demonstrators tell TRNN's Dimitri Lascaris why they oppose reforms demanded by Greece's creditors and why they support leaving the Eurozone. Via Youtube
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Video: SYRIZA’s Thessaloniki Programme vs. Euro-Troika Austerity

Leading member of the Left Platform of SYRIZA, Dr. Stathis Kouvelakis defends the original mandate for national reconstruction given to SYRIZA by the people...
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Video: Revolutionary Expectations and the Fight Against Austerity – Catarina Principe on RAI (4/5)

On Reality Asserts Itself, Ms. Principe and Paul Jay talk about making decisions in a new kind of party. Via Youtube
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Video: Revolutionary Expectations and the Fight Against Austerity – Catarina Principe on RAI (3/5)

On Reality Asserts Itself, Ms. Principe and Paul Jay talks discuss building a movement and an electoral strategy, and what happened to the mass...
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Video: Revolutionary Expectations and the Fight Against Austerity – Catarina Principe on RAI (2/5)

On Reality Asserts Itself, Ms. Principe discusses the rise of the anti-austerity movement in Portugal that culminated in a 2013 protest of more than...
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Video: ‘Austerity feeds recession, both creating vicious circle’ — Greek dep. interior minister

German lawmakers approve talks with Athens over third bailout. George Katrougalos, Minister Alternate of interior and administrative reforms, shares his opinion ... Via Youtube
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Video: Greeks Protest Austerity, But Is Leaving the Eurozone Their Only Option?

University of Greenwich's Ozlem Onaran argues that the government should create its own currency and fall out of love with the eurozone. Via Youtube
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Video: Revolutionary Expectations and the Fight Against Austerity – Catarina Príncipe on RAI (1/5)

On Reality Asserts Itself, Ms. Príncipe talks about growing up in Portugal expecting the promise of the social state to be fulfilled, and becoming...
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Video: Protests Erupt Outside of Greek Parliament as It Approves Harsh Austerity Measures in...

http://democracynow.org - Protests erupted in Greece Wednesday as the Greek Parliament approved harsh new austerity measures in exchange for a third ... Via Youtube
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Video: Molotov cocktails & firebombs: Anti-austerity protest in Athens against bailout deal

An anti-austerity rally attended by thousands of protesters gathering outside of the Parliament in the Greek capital has spiraled into clashes with police, who...

Greeks Denounce Bailout Deal That Calls for New Round of Austerity

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing protests from members of his own Syriza party after accepting harsh austerity measures in exchange for a...
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Video: #ThisIsACoup: Greeks Denounce Bailout Deal That Calls for New Round of Austerity

http://democracynow.org - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing protests from members of his own Syriza party after accepting harsh austerity measures ... Via Youtube
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Video: The Austerity Candidate? Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Launches Presidential Bid on Anti-Union Record

http://democracynow.org - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has become the 15th Republican candidate to formally announce he's running for president. Via Youtube
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Video: Debate Rages in SYRIZA Over Austerity Plan

Early hours of Saturday morning the Greek Parliament passed the motion by a majority vote of 250 - 300, but Dimitri Lascaris says this...
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Video: “A Hostage Situation”: Greece Yields to Austerity Demands Just Days After Historic “No”...

http://democracynow.org - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has submitted a bailout proposal which includes harsh austerity measures just days after the ... Via Youtube

Greek government approves brutal austerity measures in proposal to EU

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Alex Lantier Greece’s Syriza-led government agreed to a massive new €13 billion...

UK Conservative budget heralds ever deeper austerity

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Julie Hyland Conservative Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his second budget in four...
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Video: “A Europe of Equals”: Report from Athens as Greek Voters Seek Alternatives to...

http://democracynow.org - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has arrived in Brussels for an emergency eurozone summit two days after Greek voters ... Via Youtube
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Video: A Socialist Surge in the U.S.? Bernie Sanders Draws Record Crowds, Praises Greek...

http://democracynow.org - The Greek election has also factored into the U.S. presidential race. On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie ... Via Youtube
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Video: “Democracy Cannot Be Blackmailed”: Greek Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Creditors’ Austerity Demand

http://democracynow.org - Greek voters have overwhelmingly turned down the terms of an international bailout in a historic rejection of austerity. With a margin of...
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Video: Greek Voters Deliver Stunning Rebuke to Austerity

Michael Spourdalakis, Dean of the School of Economics and Politics at the University of Athens, in an interview with Dimitri Lascaris, says it is...

Greece: No to Austerity, Yes to Democracy

The people of Greece are at a critical moment as the country teeters on the verge of financial default. This is a clear case...

Thousands rally in austerity demonstration in Athens

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Robert Stevens and Christoph Dreier In Athens’ main Syntagma Square, more than...
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Video: As Greece Heads for Default, Voters Prepare to Vote in Pivotal Referendum on...

http://democracynow.org - Tens of thousands of Greeks have protested against further austerity cuts ahead of a key referendum on a new European bailout. Via Youtube
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Video: ‘We didn’t join Europe for this!’ Thousands of Greeks rally against austerity

Thousands take to the streets in Greece, rallying against austerity & encouraging people to vote 'no' in upcoming referendum. READ MORE: ... Via Youtube
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Video: Greek Pensioners Demonstrate Against Inhumane Austerity Demands

45% of Greek pensioners already live in poverty due to previous austerity measures but now the troika is demanding more cuts to their pensions,...
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Video: More austerity? Default? Grexit? EU talks spawn panic…& new vodka

After a day of talks in Brussels, a deal to save Greece's teetering economy is still not in place .... RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air Subscribe...
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Video: Keiser Report: Bring Austerity to Bankers!

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, in a double header, discuss the evidence emerging that QE is causing...

250,000 demonstrate against austerity in London

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. A quarter of a million people took part in an anti-austerity...

‘The People Will Not Be Blackmailed’: Thousands March in Athens Against Austerity

Reprinted with permission.  (Common Dreams) - Throngs flocked to Athens on Sunday to call on the ruling Syriza party to stand up to international creditors...
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Video: ‘No Cuts’: Massive anti-austerity rally in London

Thousands of people are marching through central London against the Conservative government and its austerity policies. RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air Subscribe ... Via Youtube

London marches against austerity

(RT) - Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of London on Saturday in the UK’s biggest anti-austerity rally for years to oppose...
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Video: ‘We don’t want to continue road of austerity, it’s a spiral of death’...

No deal on Greece's debt: the upshot of last-ditch talks between European finance ministers that have just wrapped up in Luxembourg. RT talks to...

Obama, Merkel present united front for more austerity in Greece

  By Robert Stevens (WSWS) - On Sunday, in a bilateral meeting ahead of Group of Seven (G7) talks, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel...

Protesters Press Secluded G7 Leaders on Harmful Policies, From Crippling Austerity to Dirty Coal

As leaders of the seven wealthy democracies known as the Group of Seven hold talks in a secluded castle in Germany, thousands of protesters...

The Economic Consequences of Austerity

On 5 June 1919, John Maynard Keynes wrote to the prime minister of Britain, David Lloyd George, “I ought to let you know that...

Austerity is destroying British lives

SW - Tory austerity is wrecking working class lives across Britain–and their latest assault will only make things worse. Kath, a mother of one in...

“Marx Is Muss” congress: Germany’s pseudo-left discusses war policy and austerity

(WSWS) -   “Marx Is Muss” congress: Germany’s pseudo-left discusses war policy and...

Greek health workers, journalists, pensioners strike against austerity

By Robert Stevens (WSWS) - Thousands of doctors, nurses and ambulance staff from Greece’s state-run hospitals and health centres began a 24-hour strike Wednesday. The Federation of...

Greece edges towards collapse as troika demands new austerity plan

By Robert Stevens German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Thursday, during a meeting of European Union leaders in the...

Welcome to the Era of Stop-Go Austerity

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a second term this month after the Conservative Party secured a majority in Parliament.  Sometimes good things happen to...

Britons protest against Tories’ austerity cuts

Hundreds of Britons have staged anti-austerity protests against the new Conservative government’s planned cuts to public spending. Some 1,000 people marched in the central city...

‘We Will Not Surrender Our Voices’: British Teens Lead Thousands-Strong Protest Against Austerity

'We want an end to austerity. An end to the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer.' Sarah Lazare (Common Dreams) - A spirited protest...

‘Anti-austerity protests tip of iceberg’

Reports coming out of the UK suggest that more anti-austerity protests are expected to be held in the country following the surprise victory of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, I think yesterday’s demonstration is the first but it won’t be the last and it won’t be the biggest demonstration against the Tories," John Rees, the Spokesperson for The People’s Assembly Against Austerity told Press TV on Sunday.

He said thousands of people have already announced that they would take part in the rallies scheduled to be held next month.

“The People’s Assembly is planning on 20th of June a demonstration which has over 30,000 people saying they are coming to it on Facebook and that’s a month before it takes place,” John Rees added.   

On Saturday, British police clash with anti-austerity protesters in central London as thousands turn out to express anger at Tories rise to majority rule with only 37 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, media published on social networks indicated a heavy-handed response to the rally.

Many protesters called for proportional representation, insisting that their voices are not being attended to under the current voting arrangement. 

London-based political commentator Rodney Shakespeare described the protest rally as a sign of public anger about British government’s policies as well as the result of the recent parliamentary elections.

“Out on the streets you have got anger about the British foreign policy not being discussed, you have got anger about poverty and the cuts which are coming and that wasn’t really being discussed... you have got anger about the no recognition of the overall economic system, you have got particular anger over the results of the election which meant that all the small parties… except the SNP… were not having a fair deal,” Professor Shakespeare told Press TV.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party won an overall majority required to form a new government.

The Tories grabbed 331 seats in the House of Commons, 24 more than in 2010. Labour won 232, the Lib Dems 8, the SNP 56, UKIP 1, and other parties secured 22 seats.

SP/HA

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From Austerity to Abundance: Why I Am Running for California Treasurer

Governor Jerry Brown and his staff are exchanging high-fives over balancing California’s budget, but the people on whose backs it was balanced are not rejoicing. The state’s high-wire act has been called “the ultimate in austerity budgets.”

Welfare payments, health care for the poor, and benefits for the elderly and disabled have been slashed. State workers have been downsized. School districts in need of cash have been reduced to borrowing through “capital appreciation bonds” bearing 300% interest. In one notorious case, the Santa Ana school district actually borrowed at 1,000% interest. And the governor acknowledges that California still faces a “wall of debt” amounting to $28 billion. Some analysts put it much higher than that.

At the end of the 20th century, California was ranked the sixth largest economy in the world. By 2012, it had slipped to number twelve. It is coming back up, in part because European countries are falling further into recession; but California’s poverty rate remains the highest in the country. More than eight million Californians struggle to meet their daily needs, and one in four children lives in poverty. Income inequality is higher in the nation’s most populous state than in almost any other.

California cannot solve its budget problems by slashing services that have already been cut to the bone or raising sales taxes that hurt the poor far more than the rich. We are fighting over a pie that remains too small. The pie itself needs to be expanded – and it can be.

How? By reclaiming that portion that is now siphoned off in interest and bank fees.  When tallied up at every stage of production, interest has been calculated to claim one-third of everything we buy.

How can that money be recaptured?  By owning the bank.

The approach was pioneered in North Dakota, the only state to escape the 2008 banking crisis. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest foreclosure rate, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and no state debt at all. It is also the only state to own its own bank.

In the fall of 2011, a bill for a feasibility study for a state-owned bank passed both houses of the California legislature. The Public Banking Institute, which I founded and chair, was instrumental in helping to get the bill as far as it got.  But it died when Jerry Brown vetoed it.  His rationale was that we already have a banking committee, and that the matter could be explored in-house. Needless to say, however, we have heard no more about it since.

I am therefore running for California State Treasurer on a state bank platform, along with Laura Wells, who is running for Controller. We are throwing our bonnets in the ring for the opportunity to show the Governor or his successor that a state-owned bank can be our ticket to returning California to the abundance it once enjoyed.

I was a recipient of that abundance myself. I got my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, when tuition was free; and my law degree at UCLA Law School in the 1970s, when tuition was $700 a year.  Today it is $13,000 and $45,000 annually, respectively, for in-state students.  In the 1960s, the governor of California was Jerry Brown’s father Pat Brown, a New Deal visionary who believed that investment in education, infrastructure and local business was an investment in the future.  Our goal is to revive that optimistic vision in 2014.

We are running on the endorsement of the Green Party – along with Luis Rodriguez for governor and David Curtis for secretary of state – because Green Party candidates take no corporate money. Candidates who take corporate money – and that means nearly all conventional candidates – are beholden to large corporate interests and cannot properly represent the interests of the disenfranchised 99%.

The North Dakota Model: Banking that Supports Rather Than Exploits the Local Economy

California’s revenues are currently parked in those very largest of corporations, Wall Street banks. These out-of-state banks use our giant asset pool for their own speculative purposes, and the funds are at risk of confiscation in the event of a “bail-in.”

In North Dakota, by contrast, all of the state’s revenues are deposited by law in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND). The BND is set up as a DBA of the state (“North Dakota doing business as the Bank of North Dakota”), which means all of the state’s capital is technically the bank’s capital. The bank uses its copious capital and deposit pool to generate credit for local purposes.

The BND is a major money-maker for the state, returning a sizable dividend annually to the treasury. Every year since the 2008 banking crisis, it has reported a return on investment of between 17 percent and 26 percent. The BND also provides what is essentially interest-free credit for state projects, since the state owns the bank and gets the interest back. The BND partners with local banks rather than competing with them, strengthening their capital and deposit bases and allowing them to keep loans on their books rather than having to sell them off to investors. This practice allowed North Dakota to avoid the subprime crisis that destroyed the housing market in other states.

Consider the awesome potential for California, with its massive capital and deposit bases. California has over $200 billion stashed in a variety of funds identified in its 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), including $58 billion managed by the Treasurer in a Pooled Money Investment Account currently earning a meager 0.264% annually. It also has over $400 billion in its pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS).

California’s population of 37 million is more than 50 times that of North Dakota. In 2010, the BND had about $4,500 in deposits and $4,200 in loans per capita.  Multiplying 37 million by $4,200, a State Bank of California could, in theory, generate $155.4 billion in credit for the state; and this credit would effectively be interest-free free, since the state would own the bank.

What could California do with $155 billion in interest-free credit? One possibility would be to refinance its ominous “wall of debt” at 0%. A debt that is interest-free can be rolled over indefinitely without cost to the taxpayers.

Another possibility would be to fund public projects interest-free. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of public projects by 35% or more.

Take, for example, the San Francisco Bay Bridge earthquake retrofitting boondoggle, which was originally slated to cost about $6 billion. Interest and bank fees wound up adding another $6 billion to the overall cost to taxpayers. Funding through its own bank could have saved the state $6 billion or 50% on this project.

Then there is the state’s bullet train fiasco, which has been beset with delays, cost overruns, and funding issues. As with the Bay Bridge, costs are projected to double as a result of compounding interest on long-term bonds, imposing huge hidden costs on the next generation of taxpayers. By funding the bullet train through a state-owned bank, its costs, too, could be reduced by 50%.

The Challenge of a “Jungle Primary”

As voters become increasingly disillusioned with big-corporate-money candidates, the third party option is gaining traction. According to a recent Gallup poll, in 2013 42% of Americans identified themselves as political independents, significantly outpacing Democrats at 31% and Republicans at 25%.

The growing threat posed by independent and third-party candidates may explain why it is getting harder and harder to run as one. In California we now have Proposition 14, the Top Two primary, sometimes called the “Louisiana primary” or “jungle primary.” It might better be named the Incumbents’ Benevolent Protection Act.

Proposition 14 requires statewide and congressional California candidates, regardless of party preference, to participate in a nonpartisan blanket primary, with only the top two candidates advancing to the general election.  Incumbents and heavily-funded candidates have historically reaped the benefits of this arrangement. Third party candidates are liable to get knocked out in the first round in June, eliminating them from the November elections.

But the new system does have the advantage that anyone can vote for any candidate in the June primary; so if we can mobilize voters, we have a shot.

There is, however, another new hurdle imposed by Proposition 14. In place of the 150 signatures-in-lieu-of-filing-fee needed earlier, we now need 10,000 signatures – either that or $2,800. But we’re hoping to turn that requirement, too, to advantage, by using it to build the people power and energy necessary to take the June 3, 2014 primary.  If you would like to sign a petition or donate, click here.

There is another way to balance a state budget, one that leads to prosperity rather than austerity. California can stimulate its economy and the job market, restore low-cost higher education, build 21st-century infrastructure, preserve the environment, and relieve the state’s debt burden, by establishing a bank that is owned by the people and returns its profits to the people.

__________________

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the bestselling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 200+ credit blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She is currently running for California State Treasurer on the Green Party ticket.

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Italy: Strike, Nationwide Protests Against Latest Austerity Budget

Fire-fighters holding flags of the USB trade union association are reflected in the helmet of a fellow fire-fighter during a protest against the government in downtown Rome October 18, 2013. Civil servants, hospital staff and transport workers went on strike on Friday, in the first of two days of planned protests against Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government, causing disruptions in Rome and across the country. Letta's 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient easing of the tax burden on workers. (Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)A twenty-four hour strike accompanied large-scale protests in Italy on Friday, as transportation workers and angry citizens marched against the continued austerity policies found in the government's latest budget proposals.

Centered in Rome, where more than 20,000 estimated protesters gathered, the anti-austerity movement and union organizers say that increased cuts are stifling economic recovery and doing long-term damage to Italian workers and their families.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

Thousands of people protested against economic austerity in Rome Friday as partial transport strikes across the country cancelled dozens of flights and snarled buses and trains.

Italy is struggling to shake off a two-year recession that has pushed unemployment to record highs and parliament is discussing a draft budget for next year that includes more cuts.

"We're giving money to the bankers! We're like a car going down a cliff," Paolo Ferrero, leader of the Communist Refoundation party, said at a demonstration by the USB union association in Rome.

Firefighters, steel workers, civil servants and students were among a few thousand people who took part in the protest march through central Rome.

Demonstrators gather in Rome's Piazza San Giovanni. (Photo: Getty images)And Euronews adds:

As part of the protest, a transport strike was called in the city. It hit trains, buses and Rome’s airport, forcing easyJet to cancel 56 flights.

One protester told euronews: “I’m here to protest because it’s always the same people paying for the crisis, always the workers. It has been happening for many, many years. Centre right, centre left. All the measures, liberal or social democratic, have all been unsuccessful.”

The hostile domestic reaction to Italy’s budget may pose a new threat to the stability of Enrico Letta’s government, just weeks after the prime minister defeated Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to topple him.

A further general anti-austerity protest is expected on Saturday in Rome.

Demonstrators applaud during the left-wing Italian metalworkers' union FIOM rally in downtown Rome Piazza San Giovanni on May 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)EN also posted this video:

And RT.com offered this report:

_________________________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Italy: Strike, Nationwide Protests Against Latest Austerity Budget

Fire-fighters holding flags of the USB trade union association are reflected in the helmet of a fellow fire-fighter during a protest against the government in downtown Rome October 18, 2013. Civil servants, hospital staff and transport workers went on strike on Friday, in the first of two days of planned protests against Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government, causing disruptions in Rome and across the country. Letta's 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient easing of the tax burden on workers. (Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)A twenty-four hour strike accompanied large-scale protests in Italy on Friday, as transportation workers and angry citizens marched against the continued austerity policies found in the government's latest budget proposals.

Centered in Rome, where more than 20,000 estimated protesters gathered, the anti-austerity movement and union organizers say that increased cuts are stifling economic recovery and doing long-term damage to Italian workers and their families.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

Thousands of people protested against economic austerity in Rome Friday as partial transport strikes across the country cancelled dozens of flights and snarled buses and trains.

Italy is struggling to shake off a two-year recession that has pushed unemployment to record highs and parliament is discussing a draft budget for next year that includes more cuts.

"We're giving money to the bankers! We're like a car going down a cliff," Paolo Ferrero, leader of the Communist Refoundation party, said at a demonstration by the USB union association in Rome.

Firefighters, steel workers, civil servants and students were among a few thousand people who took part in the protest march through central Rome.

Demonstrators gather in Rome's Piazza San Giovanni. (Photo: Getty images)And Euronews adds:

As part of the protest, a transport strike was called in the city. It hit trains, buses and Rome’s airport, forcing easyJet to cancel 56 flights.

One protester told euronews: “I’m here to protest because it’s always the same people paying for the crisis, always the workers. It has been happening for many, many years. Centre right, centre left. All the measures, liberal or social democratic, have all been unsuccessful.”

The hostile domestic reaction to Italy’s budget may pose a new threat to the stability of Enrico Letta’s government, just weeks after the prime minister defeated Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to topple him.

A further general anti-austerity protest is expected on Saturday in Rome.

Demonstrators applaud during the left-wing Italian metalworkers' union FIOM rally in downtown Rome Piazza San Giovanni on May 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)EN also posted this video:

And RT.com offered this report:

_________________________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Italy: Strike, Nationwide Protests Against Latest Austerity Budget

Fire-fighters holding flags of the USB trade union association are reflected in the helmet of a fellow fire-fighter during a protest against the government in downtown Rome October 18, 2013. Civil servants, hospital staff and transport workers went on strike on Friday, in the first of two days of planned protests against Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's government, causing disruptions in Rome and across the country. Letta's 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient easing of the tax burden on workers. (Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)A twenty-four hour strike accompanied large-scale protests in Italy on Friday, as transportation workers and angry citizens marched against the continued austerity policies found in the government's latest budget proposals.

Centered in Rome, where more than 20,000 estimated protesters gathered, the anti-austerity movement and union organizers say that increased cuts are stifling economic recovery and doing long-term damage to Italian workers and their families.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

Thousands of people protested against economic austerity in Rome Friday as partial transport strikes across the country cancelled dozens of flights and snarled buses and trains.

Italy is struggling to shake off a two-year recession that has pushed unemployment to record highs and parliament is discussing a draft budget for next year that includes more cuts.

"We're giving money to the bankers! We're like a car going down a cliff," Paolo Ferrero, leader of the Communist Refoundation party, said at a demonstration by the USB union association in Rome.

Firefighters, steel workers, civil servants and students were among a few thousand people who took part in the protest march through central Rome.

Demonstrators gather in Rome's Piazza San Giovanni. (Photo: Getty images)And Euronews adds:

As part of the protest, a transport strike was called in the city. It hit trains, buses and Rome’s airport, forcing easyJet to cancel 56 flights.

One protester told euronews: “I’m here to protest because it’s always the same people paying for the crisis, always the workers. It has been happening for many, many years. Centre right, centre left. All the measures, liberal or social democratic, have all been unsuccessful.”

The hostile domestic reaction to Italy’s budget may pose a new threat to the stability of Enrico Letta’s government, just weeks after the prime minister defeated Silvio Berlusconi’s attempt to topple him.

A further general anti-austerity protest is expected on Saturday in Rome.

Demonstrators applaud during the left-wing Italian metalworkers' union FIOM rally in downtown Rome Piazza San Giovanni on May 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)EN also posted this video:

And RT.com offered this report:

_________________________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Reclaiming the Roadblock, UK Uncut Takes Direct Action Against Austerity

Royal-Court-of-JusticeRoyal Court of Justice. (Photo: via Flickr)Since 2010, UK Uncut has facilitated direct actions involving tens of thousands across Britain in acts of civil disobedience. These actions have targeted the public spending cuts executed by the coalition government that came to power that year, alongside actions against corporations that are making massive profits while not paying taxes.

The anti-cuts group recently mobilized a nationwide action called "Roadblocks for Justice" that focused specifically on cuts to legal aid, which is the state support for legal services that ensure citizens are provided equality before the law.

England's most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, has expressed dismay about the British government's plans to remove legal aid to defendants in serious family cases. As an example, the civil rights law firm, Tooks Chambers, is soon to close down, and a senior lawyer at the firm asserts this happened because of government's cuts so far to legal aid. With more still to come.

Last Saturday, October 5, the street outside the Royal Courts of Justice was brought to a standstill. Activists against disability cuts, many in wheelchairs, locked themselves together. Supporters of UK Uncut and others opposing austerity occupied the other carriageway with a samba band providing the beat. They looked on as police interrupted those performing street theater.

"This road block represents the U.K. government, who is blocking people's rights and access to justice," explained Anna Walker, a UK Uncut supporter. "We decided this would highlight the impact of the legal aid cuts that will particularly affect disabled people, migrants and the homeless. The vulnerable in society are being denied a path to justice, so we wanted a straight-up piece of civil disobedience to reject their policies."

Gordon Linch, participating with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), added:

"Without legal aid, you cannot challenge the cuts. The government are doing this to shut up the voice of these people. If it was not for legal aid, the Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan families would not have been able to correct the injustices they faced as two key examples."

The injustice of these cases is famous in Britain, though perhaps less so abroad. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993, and only years later the British justice system found that the Metropolitan Police had mishandled the case due to institutional racism.

Mark Duggan was shot by police officers in a taxi in North London in August of 2011, which sparked riots across the country. An inquest into his death is still ongoing. Tooks Chambers, which now has to shutter its doors, took on both of these influential cases.

Taking Direct Action Against Austerity

The tactic of roadblocks in political protest has a long history, as UK Uncut highlighted in the run-up to last weekend's event. Blocking roads was used to fight against British imperialism in India, by the women of Greenham Common against Britain's Nuclear Arms bases, and by the Civil Rights Movement in America, among many other examples.

But in contrast to the past, "The blockades before were about demanding new rights – from winning the vote to displaying women's right to protest," said one organizer from the group, who wished to remain anonymous. "Yet this time we challenge our government's authority to rip away our rights."

"Roadblocks for Justice grew out of a meeting that brought together people who wanted to discuss the cuts to legal aid," he continued. "An idea was proposed at that meeting about legal aid, which included representatives of Women Against Rape, DPAC and UK Uncut. This proposal was then taken to the wider group. It was passed using our consensus process."

The action outside the Royal Courts added to a mounting list of direct actions organized by the group in recent years, starting in the autumn of 2010 when Uncut activists closed down eight Vodafone mobile phone shops to protests the company's tax dodging practices.

The BBC reported that in 2010 tax evasion cost the global economy $21 Trillion. The campaigning group, Tax Justice Network, calculated that over half this amount flowed through London into tax havens. Activists recounted how UK Uncut's actions brought this research to public attention.

"In 2010 it was so exciting to show corporations were not paying their fair share. There were not many actions or other groups focusing on it then," said Walker. "Now that has all changed."

In 2011, the first ever Occupy mass convergence happened within a UK Uncut action, when 3,000 people blocked Westminster Bridge to protest against cuts to Britain's National Health Service. "It was a week before the Occupy camp was set up [and] a General Assembly happened on the side of the action, organized by those who wanted to outreach about the Occupy movement," she added. "It did not seem a big deal on the day."

UK Uncut's largest action to date saw 40 branches of Starbucks occupied to protest the company's evasion of taxes. Reuters reported that the corporation's UK profits that year totaled £1.2 billion -- but that it reported to UK authorities it had made no profit. Other mass actions coordinated by the group have included "die-ins," which shut down the Department of Work and Pensions offices in protest to austerity cuts.

In addition, the group launched a "Who wants to evict a millionaire?" campaign, bringing activists just outside the mansions of those in the government who stood behind the "bedroom tax," which targets people receiving housing support. Since its introduction, The Independent newspaper reports that the bedroom tax has caused 50,000 people to face imminent eviction from their homes.

UK Uncut was also responsible for putting on a street party outside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's house, the purpose being to embarrass him for reneging on his election pledge not to raise student fees, which he reversed only months later. Inspired by this action, the group UK Uncut Legal Action followed up in a rare move by activists: they took the British Treasury to court for allowing Goldman Sachs to get away with tax evasion.

Involved in the anti-tax evasion movement since the start, Anna Walker described how UK Uncut plans to move forward.

"Tax is something UK Uncut is associated with, but now we're trying to broaden out to a full anti-cuts message -- although when we do tax actions, these are the most popular, so we will keep doing them too."

In complement to other British anti-austerity movements in recent years, UK Uncut has proved perhaps the most successful at mobilizing activists from other cities as well as London. During Roadblocks for Justice, actions were coordinated across seven UK cities.

The nationwide impact is something the group want to push further. "We need to continue building the movement against cuts across the country. So far this has happened spontaneously and autonomously, which is great," Walker said. But, "it needs strengthening through more nationwide skillshares, improved administration and better lines of communication.

"In these ways more groups can be empowered to be totally included in a broader movement."

ince 2010, UK Uncut has facilitated direct actions involving tens of thousands across Britain in acts of civil disobedience. These actions have targeted the public spending cuts executed by the coalition government that came to power that year, alongside actions against corporations that are making massive profits while not paying taxes.

The anti-cuts group recently mobilized a nationwide action called “Roadblocks for Justice” that focused specifically on cuts to legal aid, which is the state support for legal services that ensure citizens are provided equality before the law.

England’s most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, has expressed dismay about the British government's plans to remove legal aid to defendants in serious family cases. As an example, the civil rights law firm, Tooks Chambers, is soon to close down, and a senior lawyer at the firm asserts this happened because of government’s cuts so far to legal aid. With more still to come.

Last Saturday, October 5, the street outside the Royal Courts of Justice was brought to a standstill. Activists against disability cuts, many in wheelchairs, locked themselves together. Supporters of UK Uncut and others opposing austerity occupied the other carriageway with a samba band providing the beat. They looked on as police interrupted those performing street theater.

“This road block represents the U.K. government, who is blocking people's rights and access to justice,” explained Anna Walker, a UK Uncut supporter. “We decided this would highlight the impact of the legal aid cuts that will particularly affect disabled people, migrants and the homeless. The vulnerable in society are being denied a path to justice, so we wanted a straight-up piece of civil disobedience to reject their policies.”

Gordon Linch, participating with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), added:

“Without legal aid, you cannot challenge the cuts. The government are doing this to shut up the voice of these people. If it was not for legal aid, the Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan families would not have been able to correct the injustices they faced as two key examples.”

The injustice of these cases is famous in Britain, though perhaps less so abroad. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993, and only years later the British justice system found that the Metropolitan Police had mishandled the case due to institutional racism.

Mark Duggan was shot by police officers in a taxi in North London in August of 2011, which sparked riots across the country. An inquest into his death is still ongoing. Tooks Chambers, which now has to shutter its doors, took on both of these influential cases.

Taking Direct Action Against Austerity

The tactic of roadblocks in political protest has a long history, as UK Uncut highlighted in the run-up to last weekend's event. Blocking roads was used to fight against British imperialism in India, by the women of Greenham Common against Britain's Nuclear Arms bases, and by the Civil Rights Movement in America, among many other examples.

But in contrast to the past, “The blockades before were about demanding new rights – from winning the vote to displaying women’s right to protest," said one organizer from the group, who wished to remain anonymous. "Yet this time we challenge our government’s authority to rip away our rights.”

“Roadblocks for Justice grew out of a meeting that brought together people who wanted to discuss the cuts to legal aid,” he continued. “An idea was proposed at that meeting about legal aid, which included representatives of Women Against Rape, DPAC and UK Uncut. This proposal was then taken to the wider group. It was passed using our consensus process.”

The action outside the Royal Courts added to a mounting list of direct actions organized by the group in recent years, starting in the autumn of 2010 when Uncut activists closed down eight Vodafone mobile phone shops to protests the company's tax dodging practices.

The BBC reported that in 2010 tax evasion cost the global economy $21 Trillion. The campaigning group, Tax Justice Network, calculated that over half this amount flowed through London into tax havens. Activists recounted how UK Uncut's actions brought this research to public attention.

“In 2010 it was so exciting to show corporations were not paying their fair share. There were not many actions or other groups focusing on it then," said Walker. "Now that has all changed.”

In 2011, the first ever Occupy mass convergence happened within a UK Uncut action, when 3,000 people blocked Westminster Bridge to protest against cuts to Britain's National Health Service. “It was a week before the Occupy camp was set up [and] a General Assembly happened on the side of the action, organized by those who wanted to outreach about the Occupy movement," she added. "It did not seem a big deal on the day.”

UK Uncut’s largest action to date saw 40 branches of Starbucks occupied to protest the company's evasion of taxes. Reuters reported that the corporation's UK profits that year totaled £1.2 billion -- but that it reported to UK authorities it had made no profit. Other mass actions coordinated by the group have included "die-ins," which shut down the Department of Work and Pensions offices in protest to austerity cuts.

In addition, the group launched a “Who wants to evict a millionaire?” campaign, bringing activists just outside the mansions of those in the government who stood behind the "bedroom tax," which targets people receiving housing support. Since its introduction, The Independent newspaper reports that the bedroom tax has caused 50,000 people to face imminent eviction from their homes.

UK Uncut was also responsible for putting on a street party outside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s house, the purpose being to embarrass him for reneging on his election pledge not to raise student fees, which he reversed only months later. Inspired by this action, the group UK Uncut Legal Action followed up in a rare move by activists: they took the British Treasury to court for allowing Goldman Sachs to get away with tax evasion.

Involved in the anti-tax evasion movement since the start, Anna Walker described how UK Uncut plans to move forward.

“Tax is something UK Uncut is associated with, but now we’re trying to broaden out to a full anti-cuts message -- although when we do tax actions, these are the most popular, so we will keep doing them too.”

In complement to other British anti-austerity movements in recent years, UK Uncut has proved perhaps the most successful at mobilizing activists from other cities as well as London. During Roadblocks for Justice, actions were coordinated across seven UK cities.

The nationwide impact is something the group want to push further. “We need to continue building the movement against cuts across the country. So far this has happened spontaneously and autonomously, which is great,” Walker said. But, ”it needs strengthening through more nationwide skillshares, improved administration and better lines of communication.

"In these ways more groups can be empowered to be totally included in a broader movement.”

- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/reclaiming-roadblock-uk-uncut-takes-direct-action-against-austerity#sthash.7UkAou4e.dpuf

ince 2010, UK Uncut has facilitated direct actions involving tens of thousands across Britain in acts of civil disobedience. These actions have targeted the public spending cuts executed by the coalition government that came to power that year, alongside actions against corporations that are making massive profits while not paying taxes.

The anti-cuts group recently mobilized a nationwide action called “Roadblocks for Justice” that focused specifically on cuts to legal aid, which is the state support for legal services that ensure citizens are provided equality before the law.

England’s most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, has expressed dismay about the British government's plans to remove legal aid to defendants in serious family cases. As an example, the civil rights law firm, Tooks Chambers, is soon to close down, and a senior lawyer at the firm asserts this happened because of government’s cuts so far to legal aid. With more still to come.

Last Saturday, October 5, the street outside the Royal Courts of Justice was brought to a standstill. Activists against disability cuts, many in wheelchairs, locked themselves together. Supporters of UK Uncut and others opposing austerity occupied the other carriageway with a samba band providing the beat. They looked on as police interrupted those performing street theater.

“This road block represents the U.K. government, who is blocking people's rights and access to justice,” explained Anna Walker, a UK Uncut supporter. “We decided this would highlight the impact of the legal aid cuts that will particularly affect disabled people, migrants and the homeless. The vulnerable in society are being denied a path to justice, so we wanted a straight-up piece of civil disobedience to reject their policies.”

Gordon Linch, participating with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), added:

“Without legal aid, you cannot challenge the cuts. The government are doing this to shut up the voice of these people. If it was not for legal aid, the Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan families would not have been able to correct the injustices they faced as two key examples.”

The injustice of these cases is famous in Britain, though perhaps less so abroad. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in 1993, and only years later the British justice system found that the Metropolitan Police had mishandled the case due to institutional racism.

Mark Duggan was shot by police officers in a taxi in North London in August of 2011, which sparked riots across the country. An inquest into his death is still ongoing. Tooks Chambers, which now has to shutter its doors, took on both of these influential cases.

Taking Direct Action Against Austerity

The tactic of roadblocks in political protest has a long history, as UK Uncut highlighted in the run-up to last weekend's event. Blocking roads was used to fight against British imperialism in India, by the women of Greenham Common against Britain's Nuclear Arms bases, and by the Civil Rights Movement in America, among many other examples.

But in contrast to the past, “The blockades before were about demanding new rights – from winning the vote to displaying women’s right to protest," said one organizer from the group, who wished to remain anonymous. "Yet this time we challenge our government’s authority to rip away our rights.”

“Roadblocks for Justice grew out of a meeting that brought together people who wanted to discuss the cuts to legal aid,” he continued. “An idea was proposed at that meeting about legal aid, which included representatives of Women Against Rape, DPAC and UK Uncut. This proposal was then taken to the wider group. It was passed using our consensus process.”

The action outside the Royal Courts added to a mounting list of direct actions organized by the group in recent years, starting in the autumn of 2010 when Uncut activists closed down eight Vodafone mobile phone shops to protests the company's tax dodging practices.

The BBC reported that in 2010 tax evasion cost the global economy $21 Trillion. The campaigning group, Tax Justice Network, calculated that over half this amount flowed through London into tax havens. Activists recounted how UK Uncut's actions brought this research to public attention.

“In 2010 it was so exciting to show corporations were not paying their fair share. There were not many actions or other groups focusing on it then," said Walker. "Now that has all changed.”

In 2011, the first ever Occupy mass convergence happened within a UK Uncut action, when 3,000 people blocked Westminster Bridge to protest against cuts to Britain's National Health Service. “It was a week before the Occupy camp was set up [and] a General Assembly happened on the side of the action, organized by those who wanted to outreach about the Occupy movement," she added. "It did not seem a big deal on the day.”

UK Uncut’s largest action to date saw 40 branches of Starbucks occupied to protest the company's evasion of taxes. Reuters reported that the corporation's UK profits that year totaled £1.2 billion -- but that it reported to UK authorities it had made no profit. Other mass actions coordinated by the group have included "die-ins," which shut down the Department of Work and Pensions offices in protest to austerity cuts.

In addition, the group launched a “Who wants to evict a millionaire?” campaign, bringing activists just outside the mansions of those in the government who stood behind the "bedroom tax," which targets people receiving housing support. Since its introduction, The Independent newspaper reports that the bedroom tax has caused 50,000 people to face imminent eviction from their homes.

UK Uncut was also responsible for putting on a street party outside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s house, the purpose being to embarrass him for reneging on his election pledge not to raise student fees, which he reversed only months later. Inspired by this action, the group UK Uncut Legal Action followed up in a rare move by activists: they took the British Treasury to court for allowing Goldman Sachs to get away with tax evasion.

Involved in the anti-tax evasion movement since the start, Anna Walker described how UK Uncut plans to move forward.

“Tax is something UK Uncut is associated with, but now we’re trying to broaden out to a full anti-cuts message -- although when we do tax actions, these are the most popular, so we will keep doing them too.”

In complement to other British anti-austerity movements in recent years, UK Uncut has proved perhaps the most successful at mobilizing activists from other cities as well as London. During Roadblocks for Justice, actions were coordinated across seven UK cities.

The nationwide impact is something the group want to push further. “We need to continue building the movement against cuts across the country. So far this has happened spontaneously and autonomously, which is great,” Walker said. But, ”it needs strengthening through more nationwide skillshares, improved administration and better lines of communication.

"In these ways more groups can be empowered to be totally included in a broader movement.”

- See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/reclaiming-roadblock-uk-uncut-takes-direct-action-against-austerity#sthash.7UkAou4e.dpuf

Austerity drive lives on after shutdown

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Government Shutdown Ended, Austerity Drive Lives On

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Irish government unveils new austerity budget

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Italians stage anti-austerity demo

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Austerity Brings Poverty, Despair, ‘Quiet Desperation’ to Europe: Report

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Austerity policies in Europe: crisis response or class warfare?

As a result of austerity policies in response to the global financial market and Eurozone sovereign debt crises, policies of wage cuts and dismantling or hollowing out of collective bargaining have been implemented across the European Union (EU). And yet, as a new wage map by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) illustrates, the general situation of European people has not improved.


The three key findings of the wage map are summarized by the ETUI as follows:

  • ‘The majority of countries (15 out of 27) record falling real wages. The most dramatic decline of real wages since the onset of the crisis took place in those countries that were subject to financial bailout programmes.

  •  A decline in real hourly minimum wages affecting the most vulnerable part of the workforce. Once again, the highest decline can be found in those countries which were dependent on financial aid programmes.

  •  A drop in the wage share in the majority of EU countries indicating a redistribution of income from labour to capital.’

Poster by PropagandaTimes
It should not be surprising that these policies have done little to overcome economic crisis. If everybody cuts wages and hopes that products are bought by people in other countries, an overall aggregate decline in demand across the EU is the result. Not everybody can pursue a strategy of export-led growth. Some also have to import products. In short, what the excellent wage map by the ETUI reveals well is that austerity policies have not worked in terms of getting Europe out of recession.


Nevertheless, perhaps the real purpose of austerity has never been to overcome recession? Perhaps the real purpose has been to change the balance of social class forces in society? As the ETUI notes itself, austerity policies have gone hand in hand with moves towards dismantling collective bargaining. Equally, austerity has gone hand in hand with attacks on the public sector and attempts across the EU to open up public sectors to private investment. This is directly enforced by the EU as part of bailout packages for countries such as Greece, but other countries too such as the UK are currently pursuing a policy of partial privatization with the excuse that this was necessary in order to pay off public debts.

Cartoon by barbourians

Ultimately, austerity is a strategy of class warfare by capital against working people and trade unions as their representatives. Arguments about having to deal with public debt are used to justify a drastic transformation of European political economies.

Resistance then has to focus first on increasing again the wage share. But this cannot be enough in itself. In the end, the control of the means of production by capital needs to be challenged to change fundamentally the balance of power in favour of labour. 



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

28 August 2013

There Is An Alternative: reflections on elements of an anti-austerity economic policy.

Poster by freestylee
Similarly to the 1980s, when Thatcher proclaimed that There Is No Alternative (TINA) to her restructuring policies, again we are told in the UK that considering national debt levels, austerity is the only way forward. Up to one million public sector jobs are to be axed, public sector pensions and wages are under attack and welfare services are cut across the board.

Importantly, however, politics is always about choices and deciding on priorities. There are always several possible ways forward. In this post, I will reflect on some elements of an alternative, anti-austerity economic policy.


What would an anti-austerity policy look like?

  • clearly, as a result of government bailout of banks, national debt has significantly increased. Nevertheless, as the PCS has already made clear a couple of years ago, the current national debt level is lower than between 1918 and 1961, when the British welfare state was established (PCS). In short, the gravity of the situation is exaggerated;

  • tax justice – close tax loopholes by employing more inspectors: ‘figures produced for PCS by the Tax Justice Network show that £25 billion is lost annually in tax avoidance and a further £70 billion in tax evasion by large companies and wealthy individuals’ (PCS). Employing more staff at HM Revenue & Customs would allow the government to collect additional billions of Pounds every year;

  • moreover, the PCS further calculates that if the so-called Robin Hood tax, ‘a 0.05% tax on global financial transactions – was applied to UK financial institutions it would raise an estimated £20–30bn per year (PCS). At the European level, it is the UK government which currently blocks moves towards a financial transaction tax;
  • tax justice would also imply that unlike the current government, an anti-austerity policy would not lower the income tax rate for high earners;

  • government investment into infrastructure projects such as the generation of green energy and especially social housing to create employment. This would also help to address the energy crisis as well as solve the housing crisis, with many people finding it impossible to secure affordable housing at the moment (BBC, 8 July 2013). While this would initially lead to larger national debts, the creation of jobs would result in higher demand levels, less government spending on jobseeker's allowances and an overall more positive economic outlook;

  • small companies struggle to raise necessary finance (BBC, 17 September 2012). An anti-austerity policy would imply that the government gives more direction to state-owned banks towards finance for businesses and a more focused industrial policy;

  • emphasising cuts to wages is counter-productive as it takes demand out of the economy. An anti-austerity policy would protect wage levels in line with inflation and productivity increase;
Photo by Eddie Truman

  • spending is always also about deciding on what are the key priorities. Do we actually need to replace Trident? ‘The government estimates renewal costs will be between £15bn and £20bn but anti-nuclear campaigners say the figure will be much higher’ (BBC, 16 July 2013). Is the British involvement in Afghanistan a societal priority? In addition to the loss of human lives, ‘the war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £37bn and the figure will rise to a sum equivalent to more than £2,000 for every taxpaying household, according to a devastating critique of the UK's role in the conflict’ (The Guardian, 30 May 2013). An anti-austerity policy would channel finance from war adventures to investment into schools, social housing, the health sector, etc.;
Of course, these are just a range of potential elements of an anti-austerity economic policy. They are not a comprehensive programme. What is clear, however, is that there are alternative policies available. If this is the case, then why does the UK government pursue these austerity policies in the first place?


What is the real purpose of government austerity policy?
 

The government claims that austerity policies are necessary to reduce national debt. However, how much money do these policies actually save?

  • it is highly likely that the new loan scheme in Higher Education will ultimately be more expensive for the state than the past system of financing university education via block grants (see The Great University Gamble). Perhaps the real focus is on opening the door to private providers?
  • in secondary education, finance is moved from comprehensives to academies and free schools. Is this really about saving money, or is the goal ‘to incentivise’ private sector involvement (see  Hands Off Our Schools)?

  • the implementation of the bedroom tax is in all probability more expensive than what is actually saved in the process (see Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaign). Is the real purpose an attack on social housing?

  • NHS restructuring: is privatising the most profitable parts really about saving money and making service delivery more efficient, or is the objective to provide private investors with profitable investment opportunities (see also Broxtowe Save Our NHS)?
Photo by infomatique
In short, the real objective of current austerity policies is not to save money, but to open up the public sector for private investment. The financial crisis is used as a justification for a drastic transformation of society resulting in a redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich and a change in the power balance from labour to capital. Austerity policies are a strategy of class warfare!


And yet, alternative policies are available. Whether they are implemented is a matter of political will and, ultimately, a matter of the balance of class power in society.  



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

23 August 2013

'Outing Corporate Evil' Anti-Austerity Tour: First Stop Chicago

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The Age of Austerity: Fighting Cuts and Privatisation.

Since coming to power in 2010, the current coalition government in the UK has implemented drastic austerity policies across the public sector. During the Spring semester 2013, the local University and College Union (UCU) association at Nottingham University organised a series of talks on local anti-cuts initiatives. The purpose of this post is to bring together the various reports from these talks.

Photo by Dean Thorpe
As different as the various areas affected by cuts are, ranging from the National Health Service (NHS) to schools to the Bedroom Tax, several common features can be identified:

(1) austerity policies have nothing to do with cutting back national debt. Rather, they are intended to open up the public sector to private investment;

(2) downward pressure on terms and conditions of those working in the public sector is the general result;

(3) austerity policies are mainly directed against the weak and vulnerable in society;

(4) austerity policies are decided by those, who will not be negatively affected by them. Cuts in education and health have no implications for the rich, who are already accessing private education and health services; and

(5) many current policies had already been initiated by previous New Labour governments. Turning austerity around will, therefore, need to go beyond defeating the current government. It also requires an internal struggle for the direction of the Labour party.

Overall, austerity is a class project against working people’s gains since 1945!

The reports collected in this post highlight the dramatic implications of cuts, but they are also a testimony to the continuation of resistance and the possibility that austerity can be defeated.



Since April 2013, health service contracts have also been offered to private providers, able to cherry pick profitable parts of the NHS such as walk-in treatment centres. Opening up the NHS to private capital is clearly the purpose underlying this change in legislation. The related implications are two-fold: (1) while patients may receive similar levels of service from these privatised units during the initial years, this is highly likely to decline later on; (2) privatisation will lead to a two-tier labour market, where workers in private facilities will earn less and have less good pensions than in the NHS. Downward pressure on wages and working conditions across the sector is the inevitable result. Yet, resistance against privatisation continues. The main aim of the Broxtowe Save Our NHS campaign is regime change and, thus, the de-selection of the current local Conservative MP Anna Soubry.


Hands Off Our Schools!

After coming to power in 2010, the new government pushed in record time an education bill through Parliament, facilitating the transition of schools into academies. In order to incentivise this transition, funds are channelled from local education authority budgets to new academies. As a result, other schools suffer further cuts and essential local services for children with special needs are under threat. There is uncertainty over teachers’ terms and conditions in academies and in general the switch to academies may be the first step towards the privatisation of education more generally, considering the recent emphasis on so-called ‘free schools’. Resistance against the transition to academies continues, but in order to be successful it requires an alliance between parents of pupils at the school and the teachers.



Women are particularly negatively affected by current austerity policies. Considering that two-thirds of public sector employees are women, job cuts in the public sector will affect women disproportionately. Moreover, it is often women in our society, which have caring responsibilities. Cuts to benefits, as a result, also affect especially women. Finally, women are also more likely to suffer from cuts to public services, considering that they are more likely to be lone parents or to suffer from domestic abuse. Nevertheless, women are not defenceless victims. The Nottingham Women’s Conference on 21 September 2013 has the goal to raise consciousness and empower women to stand up for their rights.  



The bedroom tax is one of the clearest examples of how austerity policies are mainly directed against the poor and the weak. It affects people in social housing, who are deemed to have a spare bedroom and, therefore, are asked to move to smaller accommodation or have their housing benefits cut. The tax does not only endanger these people’s livelihood, it also puts them under enormous psychological stress, as they live in constant fear of receiving a letter of eviction. Considering that the eviction of tenants is more expensive than the money saved through the tax, it may well be that social housing as such is the main target of the tax.



It is the proliferation of food banks, which most dramatically illustrates the devastating social implications of austerity. Overall, there are now 15 food banks in the wider area of Nottingham, where people can turn to in order to receive emergency food supplies. The main reason for why people need to access food banks is the changes to the welfare system. When people have their benefits withdrawn or cut by job centres, they often have no alternative than to go to a food bank to feed themselves and their families. The proliferation of food banks makes clear that austerity must be resisted and defeated.



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

18 August 2013

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Austerity and Resistance: The politics of labour in the Eurozone crisis.

Europe is haunted by austerity. Public sectors across the EU are cut back and working class gains from the post-war period seriously undermined (see also Reflections on the Eurozone crisis). In this blog post, I will assess the causes of the crisis, its implications for workers and discuss the politics of labour in response to the Eurozone crisis.


The underlying dynamics of the Eurozone crisis

Photo by Gwydion M. Williams
Current problems go right back to the global financial crisis starting in 2007 with the run on the Northern Rock bank in the UK and reaching a first high point with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Two major consequences of the crisis can be identified. First, states indebted themselves significantly as a result of bailing out failing banks and propping up the financial system. Second, against the background of high levels of uncertainty financial markets froze. Banks and financial institutions ceased lending to each other as well as industrial companies. Countries too found it increasingly difficult to re-finance their national debts. The Eurozone crisis, also called sovereign debt crisis, commenced.

Nevertheless, this analysis ultimately only scratches the surface of the causes of the crisis. The fundamental dynamics underlying the crisis have to be related to the uneven nature of the European political economy. On the one hand, Germany has experienced an export boom in recent years, with almost 60 per cent of its exports going to other European countries (Trading Economics, 10 May 2013). Germany’s trade surplus is even more heavily focused on Europe. 60 per cent are with other Euro countries and about 85 per cent are with all EU members together (de Nardis, 2 December 2010). However, such a growth strategy cannot be adopted by everybody. Some countries also have to absorb these exports, and this is what many of the peripheral countries now in trouble, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, have done. They, in turn, cannot compete in the free trade Internal Market of the EU due to lower productivity rates. Germany’s export boom results in super profits, which then require new opportunities for profitable investment. State bonds of peripheral countries as well as construction markets in Ireland and Spain seemed to provide safe investment opportunities. In turn, these investments led to yet more exports from Germany to these countries and yet further super profits in search for investment opportunities.

Photo by informatique


Who is being rescued?

It is often argued in the media that citizens of richer countries would now have to pay for citizens of indebted countries. Cultural arguments of apparently ‘lazy Greek’ workers as the cause of the crisis are put forward. Nevertheless, this is clearly not the case. Greek workers are amongst those, who work the most hours in Europe (BBC, 26 February 2012). In any case, it is not the Greek, Portuguese, Irish or Cypriot citizens and their health and education systems, which are being rescued. It is banks, who organised the lending of super profits to peripheral countries, which are exposed to private and national debt in these countries. For example, German and French banks are heavily exposed to Greek debt, British banks to Irish debt (The Guardian, 17 June 2011).


What is the purpose of the bailout programmes?

Is the purpose of the bailout programmes to ensure the maintenance of essential public services in Europe’s periphery? Clearly not. On the contrary, the Troika consisting of Commission, European Central Bank and IMF demands cuts in public finances precisely for services such as education and health care. Is the purpose to assist peripheral countries in re-gaining competitiveness? Again, this too is clearly not the objective. The bailout programmes do not include any industrial policy projects.

Photo by HatM


The true nature of the bailout programmes is visible in their conditionality, making support dependent on austerity policies including: (1) cuts in funding of essential public services; (2) cuts in public sector employment; (3) push towards privatisation of state assets; and (4) undermining of industrial relations and trade union rights through enforced cuts in minimum wages and a further liberalisation of labour markets. Hence, the real purpose of the bailout programmes is to restructure political economies and to open up the public sector as new investment opportunities for private finance. The balance of power is shifted further from labour to capital in this process. Employers, ultimately, use the crisis in order to strengthen their position vis-à-vis workers, facilitating exploitation.


Are German workers the winners due to the export boom?

In contrast to general assumptions, German workers have not benefitted from the current situation. German productivity increases have to a significant extent resulted from drastic downward pressure on wages and working related conditions. ‘Germany has been unrelenting in squeezing its own workers throughout this period. During the last two decades, the most powerful economy of the eurozone has produced the lowest increases in nominal labour costs, while its workers have systematically lost share of output. EMU has been an ordeal for German workers’ (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 4). The Agenda 2010 and here especially the so-called Hartz IV reform, implemented in the early 2000s, constitutes the largest cut in, and restructuring of, the German welfare system since the end of World War II. In other words, Germany was more successful than other Eurozone countries in cutting back labour costs. ‘The euro is a “beggar-thy-neighbour” policy for Germany, on condition that it beggars its own workers first’ (Lapavitsas et al, 2012: 30).  
Hence, while the mainstream media regularly portray the crisis as a conflict between Germany and peripheral countries, the real conflict here is between capital and labour. And this conflict is taking place across the EU as the economic crisis is used across Europe to justify cuts. In the UK, although not in the position of countries such as Greece, Portugal or Ireland, people too are faced with constant further cuts and restructuring including privatisations in the health and education sectors as well as attacks on employment rights. In short, across the EU, employers abuse the crisis to cut back workers’ post-war gains. The crisis provides capital with the rationale to justify cuts, they would otherwise be unable to implement.  


What possibilities for labour to resist restructuring?

Considering that austerity is a European-wide phenomenon, pushed by Brussels but equally individual national governments, it will remain important that trade unions combine resistance to neo-liberal restructuring at the European level with resistance at the national level. To declare solidarity with Greek workers is a good initiative by German and British unions, for example. Nevertheless, the more concrete support is resisting restructuring at home. Any defeat of austerity in one of the EU member states will assist similar struggles elsewhere.

Photo by informatique
When thinking about alternative responses to the crisis, short-term measures can be distinguished from medium- and long-term measures. Immediately, it will be important that German trade unions push for higher salary increases at home so that the German domestic market absorbs more goods, which are currently being exported. Along similar lines is the proposal by the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) for an economic stimulus, investment and development programme for Europe. This new Marshall plan is designed as an investment and development programme over a 10-year period and consists of a mix of institutional measures, direct public sector investment, investment grants for companies and incentives for consumer spending (DGB 2013). Neo-Keynesian measures of this type will ease the immediate pressure on European economies. However, they will not question the power structures, underlying the European political economy.

A victorious outcome in the struggle against austerity ultimately depends on a change in the balance of power in society. The establishment of welfare states and fairer societies were based on the capacity of labour to balance the class power of capital (Wahl 2011). Overcoming austerity will, therefore, require a strengthening of labour vis-à-vis capital. As Lapavitsas notes, ‘a radical left strategy should offer a resolution of the crisis that alters the balance of social forces in favour of labour and pushes Europe in a socialist direction’ (Lapavitsas 2011: 294). Hence, in the medium-term, it will be essential to intervene more directly in the financial sector. As part of bailouts, many private banks have been nationalised, as for example the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK. However, they have been allowed to continue operating as if they were private banks. Little state direction has been imposed. It will be important to move beyond nationalisation towards the socialisation of banks to ensure that banks actually operate according to the needs of society. Such a step would contribute directly to changing the balance of power in society in favour of labour.

Photo by apasp


In the long run, however, even the change in power balance between capital and labour will not be enough. Capitalist exploitation is rooted in the way the social relations of production are set up around wage labour and the private ownership of the means of production. Exploitation, therefore, can only be overcome, if the way of how production is organised is being changed itself.


This post was first published in Norwegian on radikalportal.noand in English by the Global Labour Column as well as by the Social Europe Journal


Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

29 July 2013

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The Age of Austerity: Fighting Cuts and Privatisation — The proliferation of food banks!

‘A mother walks four and a half miles through the snow to a food bank for some handouts to feed her family. With her are two small children, their shoes full of holes. She has put plastic bags around their feet so that they are at least shielded against the wetness, if not the cold.’ This is not a sentence from one of Charles Dickens’ novels. This is a real story in 21stcentury austerity Britain.

In the fifth session of the series on the local impact of austerity policies, the UCU association at Nottingham University welcomed Nigel Webster, the Director of the Bestwood & Bulwell foodbank, for a talk about the proliferation of food banks in and around Nottingham.

The Bestwood & Bulwell foodbank, Nigel explained, is part of The Trussell Trust, which currently runs a network of over 325 food banks across the country. In greater Nottingham alone there are five food banks linked with The Trussell Trust, i.e. a third of the overall 15 food banks operating in the area. The Bestwood & Bulwell foodbank works closely together with frontline care professionals such as doctors, social workers and job centre officials, who give vouchers to people in need. These vouchers, in turn, can be exchanged for three days of food at the food bank. The general idea is to provide people with help for emergencies. The objective is not to provide permanent assistance. In general, everyone is entitled to a maximum of three vouchers. With 13 million people living below the poverty line in 21st century UK, it is no surprise that food banks are in high demand. According to the Trussell Trust, ‘in 2012-13 foodbanks fed 346,992 people nationwide. Of those helped, 126,889 were children’ (The Trussell Trust). Since the food bank opened in Bestwood and Bulwell last September, 1550 people were fed.

Photo by Birmingham News Room


People need to go to food banks for a whole range of different reasons including redundancy or not having enough hours of work, illness, debt, unexpectedly large bills, etc. The biggest reason, however, Nigel made clear, were changes to, and problems with, the welfare system. The Bestwood & Bulwell foodbank collects information about the people it helps and 40 per cent of all people come as a result of problems with the welfare system. People having their benefits withdrawn or cut by job centres often have no alternative than to go to a food bank in order to feed themselves and their families.

Underneath these figures are a wide range of different individual tragedies. One of the people coming to the Bestwood & Bulwell foodbank describes himself as ‘existing, but no longer living’. Many do not consider themselves anymore as a member of the human race, reported Nigel. A whole group of people is increasingly excluded from society. Out from the stream of human misery encountered in food banks emerge the contradictions of our society. For example, on the one hand local businesses are very supportive and supply the food bank with goods. On the other, the food bank assists some of the employees of these businesses, because they do not have enough hours of work to make ends meet. In general, the overwhelming majority of food, 90 per cent plus, comes from the local community (schools, churches etc.) and members of the public, rather than businesses.

Photo by Byzantine_K
Is it a coincidence that first thoughts about establishing a food bank emerged two years ago, the time when the first cuts to the welfare system by the current government started to bite? Unsurprisingly, with every further round of cuts the demand for assistance has gone up. Equally troubling is, according to Nigel, that due to the forthcoming holiday period, many children who are entitled to free school meals, will have one meal less per day over the weeks in summer. He expects demand to go up as a result.

During the discussions, the issue was raised whether food banks would step in and take over responsibilities, which were really the government’s obligations. Does one not let the state off the hook by providing welfare services, which the state no longer offers? Are food banks perhaps ultimately counterproductive as they fill gaps rather than pushing for change, which would make them superfluous in the first place? In his final comment, Nigel, himself a lay minister of the Anglican and Methodist Churches in Bestwood, made clear that for a Christian it was absolutely essential to help people in need. At the same time, however, he pointed out that with mercy comes justice. The demand for change has to accompany the help for others. Charity on its own is not enough. 



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

22 July 2013

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The Age of Austerity: Fighting Cuts and Privatisation — Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaign!

Austerity in the UK affects the public sector across the board, whether it is the National Health Service, Primary and Secondary Education, Further and Higher Education, disability services, social housing, etc. The fourth event of the series The Age of Austerity about Nottingham anti-cuts campaigns by the local UCU association at Nottingham University on 12 June dealt with the Bedroom Tax. It affects people in social housing, who are deemed to have a spare bedroom. Becky Kent and her mother Karen Wood spoke about the Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaign, the devastating impact the tax has on people as well as the attempts to resist the attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
 

The Bedroom Tax: a human perspective.


Photo by Mwezibou

Karen Wood, who had worked all her life until she became seriously ill, gave a powerful presentation on the human perspective behind the Bedroom Tax. Having already had her benefits cut by one-third due to the austerity agenda, she has now been hit by the Bedroom tax. Being asked to pay an extra £21 per week leaves her with £2.50 per week for groceries, toiletries, etc. The situation she faces is a choice between either paying the tax or continuing with her already very difficult normal life. But it is not only the harsh economic situation she is confronted with, it is the enormous stress resulting from the pressure to move, the general uncertainty about her future, as well as the daily worry whether another letter threatening eviction will be delivered by the post. It is the concerns for her severely ill son, which weigh heavily on her mind. He would have nowhere to go once he is out of hospital, if she had been forced to move out of a home, where she had lived for decades and brought up her three children. Listening to Karen Wood, it became clear why 53 year old Stephanie Bottrill saw no other way out than taking her own life, when hit by the Bedroom Tax (The Mirror). As Karen Wood made also clear, however, she does not see herself as a victim, because victims don’t fight back. She is determined to fight and defeat the tax.

Photo by Alan Denney


Economic nonsense and the attack on social housing: The real purpose behind the Bedroom Tax.

Becky Kent, in turn, made clear that the Bedroom Tax does not make economic sense. As soon as tenants are £100 in arrears with their payments, eviction procedures are started. The overall process of eviction, costing several thousand pounds per person, is, however, much more expensive than the debt by tenants. Moreover, while 5500 homes in Nottingham are affected by the Bedroom Tax, there are hardly any properties available, in which people, who are asked to leave, could move into. Housing them then in private or temporary accommodation would again be much more expensive than what would be saved by avoiding these people’s debts from the tax. Additionally, it should not be forgotten that many tenants have lived in their houses for years and build up a local community network of support. Moving people would not only deprive them of their social environment, it would also require local Councils to provide expensive assistance for tasks, so far carried out by friends and neighbours.

Clearly, taking all these factors together, the Bedroom Tax is not about saving money and reducing public debt. Yet again, as in the case of restructuring in education (see Hands off our Schools!) or privatisation of the NHS (see Broxtowe Save Our NHS), the real purpose is a market-based transformation of society. Social housing has been the target of Conservatives for some time and the current crisis gives them the pretext to undermine it severely.

Photo by Mwezibou


Resisting the Bedroom Tax

The Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaignfocuses on providing information and support for people affected by the tax. For example, they provide detailed information about the process of eviction, helping people to understand that it is actually not that easy to throw people out. It is important for people to know that the first letter threatening eviction does not imply that they have to leave within the immediate future.

The Bedroom Tax often affects some of the most vulnerable people in society, suffering from disabilities, long-term illnesses, mental health problems or a history of domestic abuse. Many have struggled for such a long time with difficult situations that they have become completely alienated from politics and find it often impossible to resist. The Bedroom Tax Campaign also provides a rallying point for these people to come together, regain confidence and develop collective agency in resistance.

Photo by Joey's Dream Garden
A key aspect of the Campaign’s strategy is to lobby and put pressure on Nottingham City Council, which is dominated by the Labour Party, to declare a no eviction commitment in relation to people, who are in arrears with their payments as a result of the Bedroom Tax. Broxtowe Borough Council has already made such a pledge, although there is only a small Labour majority unlike in Nottingham. Especially prior to the national general elections in 2013, it would be important to put pressure on the Labour Party, Becky Kent argued, to declare its position on the austerity agenda and the local level is the best place to start in relation to the Bedroom Tax. In order to sign a petition to Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, click on the Bedroom Tax Petition. 

The Bedroom Tax is not the Poll Tax, Becky Kent concluded. Because it affects only a small part of society, unlike the Poll Tax back in the 1980s, it is much more difficult to mobilise widely. Support for the Campaign is therefore necessary and spreading information about this attack on vulnerable people remains a task of utmost importance. Ultimately, should it come to evictions in the end, the final moment of resistance will be to put up eviction pickets. Mobilisation for this clearly has to start now.



Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

13 June 2013

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Austerity, Mass Unemplyment and Emigration in the European Union. Ireland and the Basque Country

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France austerity cuts affect health sector

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Austerity

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The Age of Austerity: Fighting Cuts and Privatisation — The Impact on Women!

Austerity and cuts affect especially women. In the third talk on local anti-cuts initiatives, organised by the UCU association at Nottingham University, Melanie Jeffs, manager of Nottingham Women’s Centre, illustrated the triple jeopardy women are currently facing as a result of government policy: (1) cuts to jobs; (2) cuts to benefits; and (3) cuts to services.

There are three key areas, in which cuts affect women disproportionately to men. First, the current government has announced that up to one million jobs will go in the public sector. Considering that two thirds of employees in the public sector are women, job cuts in this area inevitably will affect women more. As reported by the BBC in May last year, ‘female unemployment has been rising a lot faster than the male total’ (BBC News, 16 May 2012). Moreover, as Melanie Jeffs made clear, the economic crisis is also affecting the voluntary and charity sector now. As this sector is characterised by a predominantly female workforce too, the tendency towards higher female unemployment is likely to increase further.

Second, it is especially women in our society, which carry major caring responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, any benefit cuts, be it to childcare benefits, be it to housing benefits through measures such as the bedroom tax, affect women more than men. Finally, cuts to public services affect women disproportionately. Women are much more likely to be lone parents. It is women who have babies and it is women who are more often subjected to domestic violence. When specialised local services are abandoned and women refuge centres are closed, women are therefore the first to suffer.

In general, the state was regarded for decades as a great leveller, guaranteeing through employment legislation, benefits and public services that women have had an equal chance to develop their own talents. Recent cuts have drastically undermined this role and thus negatively affected women. 


Nevertheless, Melanie Jeffs’ talk was not all doom and gloom. It was time for women to fight back and make their voice heard at the ballot box, she argued. Thus, the Women’s Centre is closely involved in organising the Nottingham Women’s Conference on 21 September 2013 with the goal to raise consciousness and empower women to stand up for their rights.  


Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK

Personal website: http://andreasbieler.net

14 May 2013

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Economist Stephanie Kelton breaks down the muddled thinking and counterproductive results of a very bad policy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com May 7, 2013  |   Like this article? Join...

‘Austerity will lead to Europe explosion’

French President Francois Hollande warns that austerity measures will lead to Europe’s explosion as the continent continues to struggle with a protracted debt crisis.

“Austerity will condemn Europe to explode,” President Hollande said in a televised interview on Thursday.

“Prolonging austerity today runs the risk of not cutting deficits and certainly create unpopular governments,” he added.


The Socialist president went on to say that “My priority is employment… My mission is to get France to emerge from the crisis with all means.”

Other European leaders also warned in the past about the negative impacts of the austerity drive in the region.

President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy warned of social distress in Europe earlier this month.

Italian caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti said that European Union member states could face a backlash over the austerity measures.

Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. Insolvency now threatens heavily debt-ridden countries such as Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Spain.

The worsening debt crisis has forced EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered massive demonstrations in many European countries.

The long-drawn-out eurozone debt crisis is viewed as a threat not only to Europe, but also many other developed economies in the world.

MAM/HN

Financial Crisis, Austerity, and Health in Europe

europemap

by Marina Karanikolos, Philipa Mladovsky, Jonathan Cylus, Sarah Thomson, Sanjay Basu, David Stuckler, Johan P Mackenbach, Prof Martin McKee

The financial crisis in Europe has posed major threats and opportunities to health. We trace the origins of the economic crisis in Europe and the responses of governments, examine the effect on health systems, and review the effects of previous economic downturns on health to predict the likely consequences for the present.

We then compare our predictions with available evidence for the effects of the crisis on health. Whereas immediate rises in suicides and falls in road traffic deaths were anticipated, other consequences, such as HIV outbreaks, were not, and are better understood as products of state retrenchment. Greece, Spain, and Portugal adopted strict fiscal austerity; their economies continue to recede and strain on their health-care systems is growing.

Suicides and outbreaks of infectious diseases are becoming more common in these countries, and budget cuts have restricted access to health care. By contrast, Iceland rejected austerity through a popular vote, and the financial crisis seems to have had few or no discernible effects on health. Although there are many potentially confounding differences between countries, our analysis suggests that, although recessions pose risks to health, the interaction of fiscal austerity with economic shocks and weak social protection is what ultimately seems to escalate health and social crises in Europe.

Policy decisions about how to respond to economic crises have pronounced and unintended effects on public health, yet public health voices have remained largely silent during the economic crisis.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

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Copyright © Lancet, Lancet, 2013

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

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As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism." Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: "Anda," music by the pianist, arranger and composer Bebo Valdés. He died Friday at the age of 94. The son of a cigar factory worker and grandson of a slave, he studied classical music at the Conservatorio Municipal in Havana and became a favorite collaborator with the great Cuban singers of his era, including Beny Moré and Pío Leyva and Orlando Cascarita Guerra, along with Americans such as Woody Herman and Nat King Cole, was considered a giant during the golden age of Cuban music. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

Our guest is Richard Wolff, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, now at New School University, author of a number of books, including Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

I want to talk about austerity here at home. This is House Speaker John Boehner speaking last month defending the $85 billion budget sequester cuts that took effect on March 1st.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The American people know, the president gets more money, they’re just going to spend it. And the fact is, is that he’s gotten his tax hikes. It’s time to focus on the real problem here in Washington, and that is spending.

AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker John Boehner. Professor Richard Wolff, your response? And also, that the Obama administration was warning catastrophe if sequestration took place. It took place.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, it’s a stunning comment on our dysfunctional government built on top of a dysfunctional economy. Here we are in the middle of a crisis. We have millions of people without work, millions of people losing their homes, an economy that doesn’t work for the vast majority. The United States government is one of the major customers for goods and services in America. Sequestration is simply a cutback in government spending. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that if the government, as the largest single buyer of goods and services, cuts back on the goods and services it buys, that means companies across America will sell less, and they’ll have less need of workers, and they will lay off workers. So, this is an act that worsens an unemployment that is already severe.

If you put that together with the tax increase on January 1st—and let me say a word about that. We heard a lot of public debate about taxing rich people, not taxing rich people, Republicans and Democrats, but the tax on the wealthy is small compared to the tax on the middle and lower incomes that went up on January 1st. When we raised the payroll tax here in America from 4.2 to 6.2 percent, we raised over $125 billion—huge amount of money, much more than was raised by taxing the rich—and we savaged the middle- and lower-income groups in America, those that in the presidential election both candidates had sworn to save and support. We attacked them, thereby limiting their capacity to buy goods and services because we taxed them more.

You put together the taxing of the middle and lower incomes with the cutbacks of government spending, and you’re going to do what every European country that has imposed austerity has already discovered: You’re making the problem worse. So with all the homilies that Mr. Boehner can put out there about how spending is a problem, this abstract idea doesn’t change the fact you’re making the economic conditions of the mass of people worse by these austerity steps, not better. And that ought to be put as the fire burning at the feet of politicians, so they stop talking these abstractions and deal with the reality of what they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think needs to be done?

RICHARD WOLFF: A radical change in the policies. And I think it has to go far beyond simply reversing this austerity program, which, again, just for a word about history, back in the 1930s, the last time we had a breakdown of our capitalist system like this, we didn’t have austerity, we didn’t have cutbacks. We had the opposite. Roosevelt, in the middle of the '30s, created the Social Security system, went to everybody over 65 and said, "I'm going to give you a check for the rest of your life." He created the unemployment compensation system, giving all the unemployed for the first time checks every week for a year or two. And he created a public employment program and hired millions of workers. It’s the opposite of austerity. So any politician who says, "We must do this, because there’s no option," has forgotten even the American history of not that long ago.

So, the first thing I would do is go in that direction—not austerity, but its opposite. But I want to go further, because I think our problem is deeper. This crisis wasn’t supposed to happen. When it happened, it wasn’t supposed to last a long time. All of that has been proven false. The problems run deep. And I think what we have to do, and what that book tries to do, is to talk about reorganizing our economy so that for the first time we can say we’re not only going to get out of this crisis, we’re taking the kinds of steps that can prevent us from having them over and over again as our unstable business-cycle-ridden economy keeps imposing on us. So, for me, it’s the more profound change that we finally have to face, painful as it is. After 50 years of a country unwilling to face these questions, I think we need basic change. And that’s what I spend most of my time stressing.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we talk about the basic change, "democracy at work," as you put it—

RICHARD WOLFF: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —what could Obama do without congressional support right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think, in many ways, he could initiate a public employment program. I think it’s long overdue that he find all the ways available to him to say what Roosevelt said—and not that Roosevelt did everything correctly, and not that he’s a genius or any of that, but to take some lessons from those people in our country before who took steps that were successful.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Roosevelt didn’t plan on doing this when he first took office.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. He had pressure from below. The CIO, the biggest union-organizing drive in American history, never had anything that successful before.

AMY GOODMAN: As in AFL-CIO.

RICHARD WOLFF: That’s right. And with the socialist and communist parties, who were strong at that time, working with them, they organized millions of Americans into unions who had never joined a union before, and they pushed from below in a very powerful way. And they changed Mr. Roosevelt, showing that politicians, if subject to pressure from below, can change—same lesson that Cyprus has just taught us yet again. So, my response is: Learn from that. Roosevelt went on the radio to the American people and said, basically, "If the private sector either cannot or will not provide work for the millions of Americans that need and want to work, then it’s my job as president to do it." And he did it.

And I think Mr. Obama could and should overcome whatever has made him hesitate. We in this country not only don’t have a federal employment program, the Republicans and Democrats haven’t even put it on the floor to debate it as an important issue, even though it comes out of our own history. So I would say, put us—put our people to work. They want to work. The Federal Reserve says 20 percent of our tools, equipment, factory and office space is sitting idle, unused. So we have the people who want to work; we have the tools, equipment and raw materials for them to work with. And lord knows we need the wealth they could produce. Put them to work, and make it a national issue that that happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does the money come from?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, Roosevelt went to the wealthy, and he went to the corporations, and he said to them, "You must give me the money to take care of the mass of people, because if you don’t, we’re going to have a catastrophe in this country. We’re going to have a social revolution." My argument is, let’s go back to the same tax rates that Roosevelt imposed, or at least in that neighborhood, which is much higher on wealthy people and much higher on corporations than we have today. That’s what he did. That’s how he funded it.

And in case our politicians are worried, let’s remind them: Mr. Roosevelt, who took those daring steps, was re-elected to be president four consecutive times, the most popular president in American history. It’s not a dead-end political decision. It’s the best decision a president could make to leave his legacy in history, that, we are told, our presidents care so much about.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Richard Wolff, author of Democracy at Work. Again, before we talk about "democracy at work," I wanted to go to a recent hearing in Washington. Executives with the banking giant JPMorgan Chase appeared before a Senate panel earlier this month to answer questions around so-called "London Whale trades" that cost the bank more than $6 billion and derailed financial markets worldwide. This is Arizona Republican Senator John McCain criticizing JPMorgan’s actions.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: JPMorgan completely disregarded risk limits and stonewalled federal regulators. It is unsettling that a group of traders made reckless decisions with federally insured money and that all of this was done with the full awareness of top officials at JPMorgan. This bank appears to have entertained—indeed, embraced—the idea that it was, quote, "too big to fail."

AMY GOODMAN: Ashley Bacon, JPMorgan’s interim chief risk officer, testified at the same hearing.

ASHLEY BACON: I don’t think it is too big to fail. I think there’s further work that needs to be done to demonstrate and document that, and it’s in process. I’m not leading that process or deeply involved in it, but I think it is—it’s something that needs to be demonstrated to everybody’s satisfaction.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ashley Bacon, JPMorgan’s interim chief risk officer. Can you explain what took place here and what is happening?

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. On the question of "too big to fail," there really isn’t much to say. In 2008, our banks failed—all of them—the way the Cyprus banks failed and for very similar reasons. They took in a lot of depositors’ money, and they made risky bets they shouldn’t have made, and they failed, and so they didn’t have the money to honor their obligations, and they turned to the government for a bailout. And when the government hesitated, because it’s public money to bail out a privately failed bank, they were told, in another kind of blackmail, "We’re too big to fail. If you don’t bail us out, we will collapse and take the entire economy with us." And that was a persuasive argument. Particularly after they allowed Lehman Brothers to fail and that nearly did take the economy with it, that was a convincing argument.

You would have thought they had then learned the lesson about the problem of a too-big-to-fail financial institution. If you thought that, you would have been wrong, because the same banks that were too big to fail in 2008 are, all of them, bigger today. So we didn’t learn the lesson. We didn’t break up the banks. We didn’t limit, control their growth. They’re bigger now than they were then. And in a sense, maybe shame on them the first time, but having allowed this to happen, it’s shame on us.

Number two, we seem to need, as a nation, to believe that we have the power to control, limit or regulate, whether it’s the Glass-Steagall Act that came out of our disaster of the 1930s or the Dodd-Frank Act, which came out of the disaster that started in 2008. We seem to want to believe we can leave in place private banks, no matter how big they are, and hedge them about with regulations. The proof of the Whale trades in London, the proof of everything we know, is that these banks have the money, the staff, the resources to work their way around the regulations at least as fast as we impose them on them. That’s what these hearings fundamentally show. They can make trades that are too risky. They can lose wild amounts of money. They can turn to the government and demand to be helped and bailed out each time. And they get it. We are telling them, in a classic example, "Look, do whatever you want. You don’t have any risk of fundamental failure and punishment." Regulation doesn’t work, because we believe in place an entity, a large corporation, with the money and the incentives to get around it.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, did not testify. He was brought before the Senate, what, about last June, where the senators were asking him for advice. And then, when you looked at the senators on the Senate committee and how much money JPMorgan Chase had given each of them, we’re talking about millions of dollars went to many of them.

RICHARD WOLFF: When I say that the big corporations, particularly the banks, have the resources and the incentives, I’m being polite. Yeah, part of the resources are going into literally making sure that the political regulator is a good friend and understands the complexities. In simple English, they are buying their way into the situation we watch, which is: "We will pretend to be regretful. You will pretend to be protecting the public. You will make regulations that we help you write so that we can get around them." It is something that ought not to be allowed to continue, because we’re living the economic crisis that comes from that way of doing business.

AMY GOODMAN: What lessons have been learned since 2008? And today, could the U.S. see the same situation as Cyprus?

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. We have banks that are literally telling us, because we know from our controls that they are trying, even, to regenerate it. They’re trying to get people to borrow more money again. We’re not changing the wage structure of America, which means that Americans are required to go into debt to supplement their wages. You know, the irony is, we are trying, in the language of some of these folks, to kickstart our economy, to get it going again. But the problem is, our economy was a train heading into a stone wall in the first years of this century, and if we get our economy going again, without fundamental changes, what we’re doing is putting that same train back on the track heading towards the same wall. Cyprus shows us what’s happening.

But we don’t have to take just small countries. Take Great Britain, our classic ally. Their economy is now in the second or, in some people’s minds, the third recession within the crisis since 2007. They are following an austerity problem—process exactly like that supported by Mr. Boehner, and the economic downturn in Great Britain is catastrophic for that society. And so, we have this image of a future for us, if we don’t make fundamental change, but everyone wants to put it away and pretend that we can let it go by itself or a few regulations will solve the problem. They haven’t. They’re not doing it now elsewhere. That’s not a strategy we should pursue in this country, either.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we’ll talk to Professor Richard Wolff about the alternatives, about, well, what he’s put forward, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with Professor Wolff in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Richard Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, visiting professor at New School University here in New York, does a weekly program on WBAI in New York called Economic Update every Saturday at noon. His latest book is Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. So what exactly do you mean by this?

RICHARD WOLFF: What I mean is a change in the enterprises that produce the goods and services we all depend on and provide the jobs we all need and want. I think those have to be, in a fundamental way, democratized. So let me begin in that way.

We live in a country that says it goes to war around the world to bring democracy and that its central, most important political value is democracy. If you believe that—and I am a fervent supporter of democracy, and obviously you are—you’ve named your program that way—then we ought to have democracy in the place where we as adults spend most of our time. Five out of seven days we go to work. We walk into a place where we use our brains and our muscles eight or more hours, five out of seven days. If democracy is an important value, it ought to be right there, first and foremost. But we don’t. We basically have a situation where, for most of us, we go to work in a place where the decisions that are made are made by a tiny group of people. The major shareholders who own the block of shares in our system select a board of directors, 15 to 20 people, and they make the basic decisions: what to produce, how to produce it, where to produce it, and what to do with the profits. The rest of us must live with the results of that decision.

So if that tiny group of people make a decision to close the factory in Cincinnati or the office in Atlanta and move to Shanghai, the chips fall where they may. If they decide to use a toxic technology that’s not good for the air and water but is good for the profits, they do, we live with the results. And when they decide to take the profits of their business and to give enormous pay packages to a handful of top executives and big dividend payouts to their shareholders, which of course they do, since they’re in a position to do it, and the rest of us suddenly have to take out absurd debts to get our kids through college, then that’s the inequality of income and wealth that we have in America.

So, I look at this decision-making apparatus, I say, "Why are we surprised that they make the decisions the way we do—they do?" We all live with the results, and we have no say in how those decisions are made. It’s not democratic. That’s the first thing. But the second thing is, we’re now in five years of economic crisis that indicate that way of organizing the decisions doesn’t work for the mass of people. It works for them. The stock market’s back. The profits of big corporations are back—surprise, surprise—given who makes the decisions. But we are left.

And so, for me, the solution is, let’s face this. Let’s build an option, a real choice for Americans, between working in a non-democratic, top-down-organized capitalist enterprise or in what, for lack of a better term, we can call "cooperatives," workplaces that are organized democratically. I think we’ll have less inequality of income, we will have less pollution of our environment, and we’ll have less loss of jobs out of the country, if those decisions were made by the people, as they should have been from the beginning, who will not make the kinds of decisions that got us into the mess of economic crisis that we’re in now.

AMY GOODMAN: In June, you wrote a piece, Richard Wolff, in The Guardian called "Yes, There is an Alternative to Capitalism: Mondragon Shows the Way." Mondragon, Spain’s renowned co-op where all enterprise is owned and directed by co-op members. At the Green Party’s convention last year, the keynote speaker, Gar Alperovitz, said the Mondragon model is being replicated here in the United States. I want to just turn to a clip of what Gar Alperovitz said, the professor of political economy at the University of Maryland.

GAR ALPEROVITZ: So, in Ohio, the idea of worker ownership is a bigger idea. Lots of people understand it. And in Cleveland, building on the Mondragon model—some of you know about the Mondragon model—and other ideas, there are a series of worker-owned, integrated co-ops in Cleveland in a neighborhood where the average income is $18,000 per family. And they have got these co-ops, not just standing alone, but linked together with a nonprofit corporation and a revolving fund. The idea is to build the community and worker ownership, not just make a couple workers richer, to say the least, not rich, but to build a whole community, and to use the purchasing power of hospitals and universities—tax money in there—Medicare, Medicaid, education money, buy from these guys, and build the community. That model—and it’s the greenest for—one of the things is the greenest laundry in that part of the country, that uses about a third of the heat and about a third of the electricity and about a third of the water. They’re on track now to put in more solar capacity that exists—one of the other worker-owned companies—that exists in the entire state of Ohio. These are not little, dinky co-ops.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Gar Alperovitz talking about the Mondragon model here. And when we were in Spain, Democracy Now! went to Mondragon and interviewed one of the cooperative members, and we’ll link to that at democracynow.org [ Click here to watch the interview with Mikel Lezamiz, director of Cooperative Dissemination at the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain’s Basque Country. ] But, Richard Wolff, talk about that model and what’s happening here.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the model of Mondragon is so interesting, not only because it’s a real co-op, where the workers make the decisions—what to produce, how, where, what to do with the profits. And just to mention one of their achievements, they have a rule that the highest-paid worker cannot get more than a maximum of eight times the lowest. In our society, it’s typical in our large corporations that the CEO gets 300 to 400 times what the lowest worker. So, for those of us that are interested in a less unequal society than what we have here in America, the lesson is, if you cooperatize your enterprise, that’s a sure route to get there. And we haven’t found any other route that is just as effective.

So, the importance of Mondragon is, they start in the middle of the 1950s with a Catholic priest, Father Arizmendi—I always have to remember it—with six workers in the north of Spain, desperately trying to overcome the unemployment there. And here we are over a half a century later. Having to compete with countless capitalist enterprises, they won that competition. Trying to grow, they have a growth record that would be the envy of any capitalist corporation. They went from six workers in 1956 to 120,000 workers today in Spain.

AMY GOODMAN: And they are making?

RICHARD WOLFF: And they are making everything. They make dishwashers. They make clothes washers. They raise rabbits on farms. They do high-tech research, together with General Motors and Microsoft as some of their partners there. They do an immense array. They’re really a family of 200 to 300 co-ops that are united within the Mondragon cooperative corporation. So they’ve shown the ability to grow. They’ve shown the ability to adapt. They’ve shown their competitive power. They have—excuse me, they’ve shown all the different ways that a corporation can develop without a top-down hierarchical, undemocratic structure. So we don’t have to choose between effectiveness, growth, job, security, and a cooperative structure. The cooperative structure can be a way to get there.

Here in the United States, we have lots of such co-ops developing. There’s one even named after Father Arizmendi in California in the Bay Area. There are six Arizmendi bakeries and coffee shops that were set up on that model. They started with one; they’re now six. Hint: They’ve grown. And you can do this. And all over the United States, there are these efforts, often done by people who want a different kind of life. They want to be in charge of their own job. They want to have a sense of control and a sense that they’re not just a drone doing the work, but they’re part of the folks who design and direct. It brings out new capacities. It makes you more happier to go to work. It’s a more satisfying job life than you would otherwise have. So I think it recommends itself on all kinds of levels.

One other example, we can learn something from a country called Italy that we admire for its cuisine and its lovely countryside. They have a law there, passed in 1985, called the Marcora Law after the name of the legislator. Here’s what it does. It offers a choice to unemployed workers. You can take a dole every week, an unemployment check, the way we do in this country, or you have an option, an option B that we don’t have. If you get at least nine other workers to make the—unemployed workers, like yourself, to make the following choice, here’s what you can get. As a lump sum, you can get your entire unemployment program of two years of checks in your hands right at the beginning; you have to have nine other workers or more, and you have to use that money as the start-up capital for a cooperative enterprise. The idea of the Italian government was, if we give workers this to set up a job and an enterprise, they will be much more committed to it than they would if they didn’t have that role.

AMY GOODMAN: How do they know they’ll do it?

RICHARD WOLFF: They don’t. But they know those workers have an incentive, because if they don’t make that work, they can’t go back and collect unemployment. That’s what they got. The government doesn’t spend much more money than it would have anyway, but it creates jobs, and it creates workers committed, because it’s their enterprise, to make that work as their personal solution and as a way not only for them to survive, but for the whole of the Italian society for the first time to see what it’s like to have an enterprise where you run the affair.

You know, here in America, we want to believe in freedom of choice. Let’s give our people freedom of choice. They can have the choice to go work in a top-down, capitalist enterprise—what we’re used to—but if we develop the alternative, really a program of co-ops around the country, then American young people and older people could say, "What would it be like to work there? Let’s see what that’s like." And then we would have the choice we do not have in this country now.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Wolff, before we end, I want to turn back to the crisis in Cyprus and relate it to what’s happening here. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News warned his audience last week that Cyprus and other European countries are facing economic hardships because they’re so-called "nanny states."

BILL O’REILLY: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cyprus, all broke. And other European nations are close. Why? Because they’re nanny states, and there are not enough workers to support all the entitlements these progressive paradises are handing out.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Richard?

RICHARD WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economic professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as nanny states, then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier—Portugal, Spain and Italy; the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below 5 percent. Ours is pushing between 7 and 8 percent. So, please, get your facts right, Mr. O’Reilly. The nanny state, you call it, the program of countries like Germany and Scandinavia, who tax their people heavily, by all means, but who provide them with social services that would be the envy of the United States—a national health program that takes care of you, whether you’re employed or not, and gives you proper healthcare. In France, for example, the law says when you go to work, you get five weeks’ paid vacation. That’s not an option; that’s the law. You get support when you’re a new parent for your child care and so forth. They provide services. And they are successful in Germany and Scandinavia, much more than we are in the United States and much more than those countries in the south.

So they’re not broken, the south, because they’re nanny states, since the nanny states, par excellence, are doing better than everyone. The actual truth of Mr. O’Reilly is the opposite of what he says. The more you do nanny state, the better off you are during a crisis and to minimize the cost of the crisis. That’s what the European economic situation actually teaches. He’s just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.

AMY GOODMAN: In our last minute, other cures for capitalism, as you put it?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think that there’s a set of fundamental reorganizations. When you have a private banking system in the United States, the way we did up until, say, the 1970s and '80s, you had it in a position relative to the economy that made a certain sense. But over the last 30 and 40 years, for a whole host of reasons, we have made debt a central part of the economy. Today it is not unusual for a person who goes into a grocery store to get a bottle of water to use a credit card, basically to make a loan in order to buy that bottle of water. Everything that consumers do is now mediated by debt. Everything corporations do, and as we look around the world, the governments are in debt. Debt is everywhere. It has become the water we swim in, the air we breathe. That puts the banks in an unbelievably powerful position, because they're the repository of the means to borrow. If we’re going to make an economy dependent on debt, we can’t leave the power to control that—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

RICHARD WOLFF: —in the private hands of banks. Either we don’t become a debt-ridden country, or we make borrowing and lending a social program. We can’t allow private banking. It doesn’t work. It needs to be changed.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Wolff, I want to thank you for being with us. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Richard Wolff is professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, teaches at New School University.

As Austerity Looms, A Push for Progressive Budget that ‘Works’

There are two budgets up for a vote in the US House of Representatives this week.

One, according to many, is filled with terrible policy prescriptions that pamper the country's wealthiest while kicking the chair out from under workers, the elderly and the sick in the name of ending "the deficit problem" that even its proponents agree is not "currently" a problem.

The other is a progressive budget that aims to get people back to work, make Wall Street pay its fair share, and puts in place a series of financial instruments—including a tax on carbon and one on speculative and destructive trading—that economist historians say is not only "progressive" in its ideals, but truly a huge dose of economic common sense.

In an interview on Sunday's Face the Nation, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the plan's chief author, again defended the GOP's latest budget by stating flatly, "this is what the people want."

The problem?

According to numerous polls, he's dead wrong about what "the people" want.

“Our budget is a vision document," said Ryan. But, according to economists and political experts Ryan's proposals are not only tired and recycled ideas from previous budgets, they were collectively voted down in last years presidential contest when Ryan, running as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, trumpeted the same ideas nationwide.

In fact, when not tied to their partisan labels, most self-identified Republicans don't even like these ideas.

Meanwhile, progressives in Congress are struggling just to get the basic outlines of their budget proposal out to the public.

Released last week by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the 'Back to Work' budget—widely praised when explained—is being pushed hard by its backers even as it continues to get short shrift in the wider media.

Advocating especially hard for the CPC's work is the left-of-center Campaign for America's Future, whose team of analysts and writers have divided their time equally between extolling the virtues of the 'Back to Work' budget and exposing the failures of the Ryan/GOP approach.

Over the weekend, the group launched a petition which reads:

House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan has released a budget proposal that is the most reckless austerity plan he’s ever proposed. Instead of a budget that will slow the economy and kill jobs, vote for the Progressive Caucus Back to Work Budget, which will grow the economy, create 7 million jobs and asks the wealthy and the multinationals to pay their fair share so we can make investments vital to our future.

The progressive budget, writes CAF's Richard Eskow, "is smart, effective, and practical, creating up to seven million jobs while reducing the Federal deficit by $4.4 trillion."

So what's the problem?

The plan—despite its sound economics and alignment with the desire of numerous public opinion polls that show support for the policies it recommends—the plan is marginalized by the corporate press and dismissed by leaders of the CPC’s own Democratic Party.

In Washington, one hears mountains of commentary about the Ryan budget -- both for and against -- but the only Democratic alternative that receives much attention is the Senate budget put fourth.

But, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein argues:

The correct counterpart to the [Ryan budget] isn’t the cautious plan released by the Senate Democrats. It’s the “Back to Work” budget released by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The “Back to Work” budget is about exactly what the name implies: Putting Americans back to work. The first sentence lays it out clearly: “We’re in a jobs crisis that isn’t going away.” So that’s the budget’s top priority: fixing the jobs crisis.

It begins with a stimulus program that makes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act look tepid: $2.1 trillion in stimulus and investment from 2013 to 2015, including a $425 billion infrastructure program, a $340 billion middle-class tax cut, a $450 billion public-works initiative and $179 billion in state and local aid. That’s . . . a lot of stimulus.

And, according to economists, 'a lot of stimulus' is a good thing. On top of that, people like the impact that stimulus spending has proven to have on job creation.

"Its provisions are enormously popular with voters across the political spectrum," argues Eskow. "Yet in Washington’s insular world of self-fulfilling prophecies we’re told that this budget is unimportant because 'it will never pass.'”

But, as Common Dreams reported last month, "When the Business Insider polled registered voters and asked for their preferences among three [recent] Congressional plans floated to avoid the looming "sequestration" cuts in Washington, they found that when stripped of their partisan labels, the policies most favorable to the majority were those offered by the progressive wing of the Democratic caucus."

Votes on the budgets in the House are expected as early as Tuesday, but it remains unclear whether or not the Democratic party will use the opposing visions contained in the CPC and Ryan budgets to make a larger argument about the direction the economy should take in the months and years ahead.

"Progressives need to listen to the American majority and build a movement to demand action on jobs," writes Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. "Of course we should do everything we can to mitigate the damage from Republican austerity measures. But our more important mission is to lay out an agenda to create jobs and growth. We should take that agenda to the American people – and we should also demand that the Democrats, who claim to be the party of the middle class and the poor, embrace that agenda (something very much like the CPC Back to Work Budget) and take it into the 2014 elections."

_________________________________________

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Austerity and the Death of Logic

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Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And now it's time for our weekly Bill Black report.

Bill Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He's a white-collar criminologist and former financial regulator. He is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. And he's a regular contributor to The Real News. Welcome, Bill.BILL BLACK, ASSOC. PROF. ECONOMICS AND LAW, UMKC: Thank you.DESVARIEUX: So, Bill, what do you have for us this week?BLACK: I have report from the absolute silly season. So this is the complete death of logic and sense by pretty much everybody involved who are the serious people in Washington, D.C., who seem determined to screw up our economy royally. So here, to review the bidding, this is what we've got. We have the Republicans, and the Republicans hate everything European. Everything European is as�you know, it's a laugh line, it's a derisive line and such, except austerity. So they take the one policy that everybody can see has produced a disaster in Europe, thrown the Eurozone back into recession, and is potentially even going to tear the European Union apart, is going to cause government after government to fall, and they say, that's the policy we need in the United States, we need to emulate Europe, and with no discussion that maybe that's insane. So that's the Republican version of insanity. Then we have the White House version of insanity. And the White House version of insanity is: austerity bad—would cause the United States to go back into recession, and therefore sequester terrible—not only forces us back into recession, but causes us to cut all kinds of great programs. So what do we see out of the White House? We have the Conyers bill. And Representative Conyers has this very intelligent bill. It is the most wonderful thing in Washington, D.C. It is literally one sentence. And the bill says: the sequester is repealed. Right? And they will not—the administration will not support this. And this is what I've been talking about. This really is smoking out the true intentions of the White House. And what you're seeing time after time, now expressly, is that the president wants to cut the safety net, wants to cut Social Security, wants to cut Medicare, wants to cut public programs. Indeed, he wants to cut public programs in comparison to raising taxes at a ratio of two to one—in other words, $2 of spending cuts for every increase of $1 in taxes. But all of that's insane. We don't want to cut spending. We don't want to net increase taxes now. That's how you throw millions of people out of work. Meanwhile, we get almost complete silence about the real crisis in America, which is an employment crisis, where we have well over 10�million people who want to work full time, who are able to work full time, but we don't provide them with any work.DESVARIEUX: Bill, so how is this playing out in mainstream media? Specifically, MSNBC, some people call it, you know, the right hand of the White House. How are they playing this whole sequestration?BLACK: Well, pretty clearly in the nighttime ones it is just exceptionally pro this administration, whether or not it makes any sense. So MSNBC is simultaneously saying all these things. One, it's saying: sequestration disastrous, austerity disastrous. And support the president; he wants a balanced package. What is that a balanced package of? It's a balanced package of austerity. It's a balanced package of austerity plus cuts to the safety net, which, you know, 15�minutes ago, in media terms, MSNBC was railing against, I think quite appropriately and such. So it is the silly season everywhere you look. And Dean Baker has a spectacular column that people should read that basically says this is because the president simply will not tell the truth to the American people. The truth to the American people is, if anything, the deficit is too small. We've been doing one measure of austerity after another since mid 2011. And you can see what's happened to the recovery in jobs. It has strangled the recovery. It's time to stop shooting ourself in the foot and above. But right now that's not where we're headed. So, you know, I will channel my mother's side of the family, the Irish side, and, you know, wish everyone an early St.�Patrick's Day. It is, again, the most important holiday of the year.DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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The Global Austerity Resistance Continues

Protesters march against government austerity measures in Madrid, March 10, 2013. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)Tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Spain and Greece this week in response to ongoing budget cuts and high unemployment. In Spain, unemployment has passed the five million mark for the first time since records began—attracting widespread criticism over the conservative government's austerity plans. Similarly, Greece, which has served as a laboratory for austerity enthusiasts, has suffered mass poverty, unemployment and suicide since severe budget cuts were implemented by the government.

"Poverty, unemployment, suicides. Enough is enough," was the slogan chanted on Syntagma square by some 1,500 Greek demonstrators non-affiliated with political parties who were mobilized through social media. The demonstration ended when police shot tear gas at protesters—a police tactic also used during the anti-austerity demonstrations in Athens when the debt cries began in late 2009.

Earlier this month, three people in central Greece killed themselves on the same day, and analysts said there is a correlation between the rising rates and three years of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions that have pushed many people into poverty. According to the Greek Reporter:

There has been a sharp rise in the number of suicides in Greece since the beginning of the crisis in 2009, with official sources putting the figure at over 3,100 from the start of 2009 to August 2012, though experts say that deaths by suicide are often not documented as such because of the social stigma attached to them.

On Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised that there would be "no more austerity measures" as international creditors prolonged an audit of crisis reforms.

"There will be no more austerity measures," Samaras said in a televised speech to his conservative party's political committee. 

"And as soon as growth sets in, relief measures will slowly begin," Samaras said. 

But he noted that Greece's ailing economy was "out of intensive care, not out of the hospital."

However, it seems unlikely Samaras will have the last word on budget cuts, and auditors have made it clear they expect to see an increase in privatization plans. Under the bailout conditions adopted last year, Greece needs to cut public sector workers by 25,000 in 2013 and a total of 150,000 by the end of 2015.

In Spain, the Madrid protest ended when police fired tear gas at protesters and arrested 45 individuals, including nine minors. Reportedly, 40 individuals were injured during the protest, and police claim they found four firebombs in a backpack abandoned on a street, in addition to 22 firecrackers, five flares and a stick from two minors near Madrid's main railway station.

The AP reports rallies were organized in Madrid and 60 other cities by 150 organizations including trade unions representing the construction, car and television industries as well as police and health services. Police estimated some 20,000 people marched in Barcelona, but authorities did not have figures for a large rally held in Madrid.

Protesters marched to the Spanish parliament in opposition to tax hikes, spending cuts, high unemployment and alleged corruption. At the tail end of the demonstrations, young protesters threw bar chairs into a road and burned garbage containers.

At the beginning of the month, many thousands of demonstrators held marches in more than 20 cities in Portugal to protest against austerity measures. Tens of thousands filled a Lisbon boulevard during the protests and headed to the finance ministry carrying placards that read, "Screw the troika, we want our lives back." The troika is a slang term for the three organizations which have the most power over debt-ridden countries' financial futures: the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.

Protesters can be heard in the video below singing a song linked to a 1974 popular uprising known as the Carnation Revolution—named because no shots were fired when the population started descending the streets to celebrate the end of Marcello Caetano's reign; instead protesters placed carnation flowers into the muzzles of rifles and on the uniforms of the army.

Portugal is expected to suffer a third straight year of recession in 2013, and the overall jobless rate has grown to a record 17.6 percent—of which young people are a particularly devastated demographic with unemployment close to 40 percent.

© 2013 The Nation

Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny is the co-host of the progressive political podcast Citizen Radio (wearecitizenradio.com) and independent journalist who blogs at allisonkilkenny.com. Her work has appeared in The American Prospect, the L.A. Times, In These Times, Common Dreams, Truthout and the award-winning grassroots NYC newspaper The Indypendent.

Who Benefits from Austerity?

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Italians Rejects Austerity

It's high time voters somewhere did. It transfers wealth to bankers, other corporate favorites and rich elites. It wrecks economies. It creates poverty, unemployment and human misery. It turns countries into dystopian backwaters.

Sequestration: Fourth Austerity Shoe Drops

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Bill Black Financial and Fraud Report.

Mr. Black now joins us from Kansas City, Missouri. Bill's an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He's a white-collar criminologist, a former financial regulator, and author of the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One.

Thanks for joining us, Bill.

BILL BLACK, ASSOC. PROF. ECONOMICS AND LAW, UMKC: Thank you.

JAY: So the sequestration cuts and drama—what do you make of it?

BLACK: So both parties have conspired to bring us disaster. In this case, sequester is the fourth shoe to drop in austerity, and collectively this has strangled the recovery and may even put the U.S. economy back into recession.

So the first major act was in mid 2011 when they reached this budget deal that created the sequestration. And the budget deal in itself caused over $1 billion in spending cuts at the worst possible time.

JAY: So, just to remind everybody, the sequestration formula deal was a proposal by President Obama.

BLACK: Well, indeed it was created by President Obama—now, under, of course, Republican pressure, where they were threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, but it was an Obama idea. And the principal framer of it was Jacob Lew, the president's selection to be Geithner's replacement as a disastrous Treasury secretary. And then the president blocked a Republican effort to get rid of sequestration. And then the president went so far as to threaten to veto any bill that got rid of sequestration when the Republicans tried to get rid of it again.

Now, you shouldn't think too well of the Republicans in all of this. What they were worried about, pretty much solely, was defense spending and making sure there'd never be a drop in defense spending.

In any event, what you see is neither party, even at this time of crisis, where all the supposedly serious people finally agree that this act of austerity is insane, self-destructive, might well cause a recession, neither party is getting behind a clean bill that—it would be literally one sentence: the sequestration provisions are repealed. Right? And we could be free of at least that aspect of the insanity. We'd still have the debt ceiling insanity, but the sequestration, we would no longer be shooting ourselves—not in the foot, but substantially farther up our anatomy.

So, as I said, the sequestration is large, but it's not the sequestration all by itself; it's the fact that it is this fourth act of austerity. I began to mention the mid 2011 pact. Knock off $1 billion in spending at the worst possible time. Then we raise taxes on the wealthy, which you may well support, but it is an act that pushes you towards austerity. And then the far larger and vastly more destructive resuming the entire payroll tax on Social Security, which economists think all by itself knocked a half percentage point off of growth—and our growth is really small, so that's a massively important thing that is going to cost hundreds of thousands of people their jobs. And now the fourth shoe to drop of austerity, of course, is going to be this sequestration.

And meanwhile this is happening while we see Europe forced back into a completely gratuitous recession. The entire Eurozone on average is back in recession, and the European Commission's just come out with dreadful projections saying things are going to get worse.

Spain just announced today that a single bank that they were bailing out, or, you know, which is really seven failed thrift type entities, is going to cost them roughly $25 billion just this year. And Spain's a large economy, but nowhere close to the United States, so this is bigger by far than the most expensive U.S. banking failure in history, all occurring in Spain, all being driven both by the bubble and fraud and then this self-inflicted wound of austerity.

And we can't even get the president, who, you know, on day one will say, the sequestration—disaster, insane; and on day two refuses to put forward a clean bill to stop it; and on day three says, hey, that Jake Lew, the guy that created this disastrous scenario that is going to potentially hurl us back into recession, he should be our Treasury secretary and create our financial policies.

JAY: So when you read the business press, some of the stories are about how blase Wall Street is and corporate America is, and they're not very concerned about $85 billion cuts. And the stock market's doing fine. It's not seemed to be affected by it. Why is that if the recession or threat of recession is looming?

BLACK: Well, recession isn't necessarily bad for the stock market. We've had a record recovery in stock market prices with an extremely weak recovery from the Great Recession because it's been strangled. So they love the current system in which wages have not simply plateaued—you know, household wealth for the middle class is down to where it was 18 years ago. There's over a 15 percent of loss in wealth of the middle class and the working class and a massive increase in corporate profitability, where we get all these productivity gains, which is what allows you to pay workers higher wages without any inflationary risk. And virtually all of those productivity gains during the Great Recession have gone to the richest not 1 percent but the richest 0.001 percent.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Bill.

Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

‘Screw the Troika’: Tens of thousands protest austerity measures across Portugal

Published time: March 03, 2013 00:55

People gather against government austerity policies at Lisbon's main square Praca do Comercio March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Hugo Correia)

Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Portuguese cities protesting austerity measures that the government hopes will help to avoid the bailout and lift the country out of recession.

Protests, coordinated through social media by nonpartisan groups, have swept across the country with the biggest mass demonstration taking place in the capital Lisbon.

Over 200,000 protesters filled a Lisbon boulevard leading to the Finance Ministry. Many of them were carrying placards and chanting "It's time for the government to go!" and "Screw the Troika, we want our lives back," referring to the lenders from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

People in the crowd were singing "Grandola", a protest song from the 1974 "Carnation revolution" which ousted the fascist dictator Antonio Salazar and brought the end of the military rule in the country. During the past few week activists have sung the song to heckle government ministers making public speeches. 

What the protesters are demanding is a complete change of the government’s policies aimed at reviving Portugal’s economy as the county faces its worst recession since the 1970s.

Demostrators shout while taking part in a march against government austerity policies in Lisbon March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Hugo Correia)

The main reasons of mass protests are an increase in taxes and cuts in public wages imposed by the “Troika” of lenders in exchange for the 78 billion euro bailout, agreed in mid-2011. The measure pushed unemployment to record levels of 17 per cent.

"People are desperate, seeing their incomes fall sharply, their families and friends without jobs," the WSJ quoted a 49-year-old journalist and one of the protest organizers, Nuno Almeida.

On Thursday Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho promised more spending cuts as a part of a deep reform of the state, which, he said, is necessary to make lower taxes possible in the future.

"This government has left the people on bread and water, selling off state assets for peanuts to pay back debts that were contracted by corrupt politicians to benefit bankers," Reuters quotes one of the protesters said a movie-maker, Fabio Carvalho. "If not today, things have to change tomorrow and we need to remain in the streets for the government to fall."

The rallies were organized in Lisbon, Porto and several dozen other cities via the Internet by a group of activists known as Que Se Lixe a Troika, or Screw the Troika, Reuters reports. 

These demonstrations coincide with a quarterly review by the EU/IMF bailout inspectors.

People gather to protest against government austerity policies at Lisbon's main square Praca do Comercio March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Hugo Correia)

Demonstrators shout while taking part in a march against government austerity policies in Lisbon March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Hugo Correia)

People shout slogans as they take part in a protest against government austerity policies at Lisbon's main square Praca do Comercio March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Hugo Correia)

People march against government austerity policies in Lisbon March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Jose Manuel Ribeiro)

People shout slogans as they take part in a protest against government austerity policies at Lisbon's main square Praca do Comercio March 2, 2013 (Reuters / Hugo Correia)


On the News With Thom Hartmann: Italian Voters Are Fed Up With Austerity

Thom Hartmann here – on the news...

You need to know this. BP put profits ahead of safety. That's what Justice Department Attorney Mike Underhill argued yesterday, in the first phase of the trial that could force the oil giant to pay tens of billions more in damages for the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. According to the Associated Press, BP has already racked up $24 billion in spill-related expenses and $4 billion in criminal penalties, but could face up to $18 billion more under the Clean Water Act, and additional fines if found grossly negligent in the high-stakes civil trial. The libility of the rig owner Transocean and cement contractor Haliburton are also at issue in the tiral's first phase. During opening arguments yesterday, the three companies pointed fingers at each other in a triangle of blame, but BP received the brunt of accusations, from its partners and other plaintiffs in the case. The Justice Department's Mike Underhill piled on, saying, "Despite BP's attempts to shift the blame to other parties, by far the primary fault for the disaster belongs to BP." This first phase of trial is designed to determine what caused the blowout and determine responsibility of each of the three companies.   This phase could last as long as three months, as the case involves hundreds of attorneys, 90 million pages of documents, and more than 300 depositions from witnesses. Once this phase is complete, the second phase of trial will determine how much crude oil actually spilled into the Gulf. This trial is one of the most complex and costly civil cases our nation has ever seen, and it will be months before we see an outcome. Although no amount of money can ever fully repair the damage done to the Gulf, or bring back the 11 people who died on the rig, at least we'll finally see BP, Transocean, and Haliburton have to answer for the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history.

In screwed news... Republicans have yet another anti-worker tactic up their sleeve. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it mandates that workers get "time and 1/2" for overtime, but Eric Cantor thinks it should be eliminated. In a speech earlier this month at the American Enterprise Institute, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said he thinks overtime pay is bad for hourly workers. According to Cantor, "Federal laws dating back to the 1930s make it harder for parents who hold hourly jobs to balance the demands of work and home." His suggestion is that hourly workers should just bank overtime to use at a later date. The only problem...employers would get the final say as to when and how employees get to use this "accrued time," and it would eliminate protections for employees who work over 40 hours a week. Republicans have tried this anti-worker tactic before, with the 2003 "Family Time Flexibility Act," but were unsuccessful in repealing overtime laws. So Eric Cantor wants to give it another shot. Worker's rights in our nation are under attack, and we can't let these basic protections be undone by the big business puppets in Congress. Call Eric Cantor's office and tell him you won't give up your right to overtime pay.

In the best of the rest of the news...

Results in yesterday's election in Italy show voters are fed up with austerity, but the split results indicate they're divided on which candidate has the best solution to that nation's lingering economic woes. Results indicate that current Prime Minister Mario Monti, and his party, who have pushed for continuing austerity, won a majority in the lower house, The Chamber of Deputies, but no party gained the majority in that nation's Senate. Former Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga-Bunga" Berlusconi and comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo won enough votes to keep Monti from the 158 Senate Seats required to reach a governing majority. Several reports say that it's likely Italaly will hold another election to produce a majority capable of running the third-largest economy in the EU. The Italian voters will have another opportunity to say "No" to leaders demanding more destructive austerity. Let's hope Italians band together, and select representatives who will fight for them.

The Supreme Court says you can't sue the government for spying on you....unless you can prove the government is spying on you...which they'll never tell you. The Court issued a 5-4 decision in Clapper v. Amnesty International today, and said that a group suing to overturn the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act lacks standing to fight the law's constitutionality. Essentially, because the group of attorneys, human rights groups, and media organizations couldn't show that the government actually monitored their conversations, there was no way to prove their rights were violated. Conservative Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, saying "respondents merely speculate and make assumptions about whether their communications with foreign contacts will be acquired." Justice Steven Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion, saying, "the majority is wrong when it describes the harm threatened plantiffs as 'speculative'." And so, the legal catch 22 of FISA and all government surveillance continues. If you can't prove the government is listening, you'll never be able to say it's unconstitutional. And I wouldn't expect the Feds to admit their listening any time soon.

And finally... Be careful next time you buy a second-hand sweater from the thrift store. Televangelist Pat Robertson warns that demons may be hiding in the fabric. You heard that right. Yesterday on the 700 Club, Robertson responded to a viewer who asked if she should bless purchases from Goodwill before she brought them home. The TV Preacher responded with a scary story about a "witch who had prayed over a particular ring and asked for a spirit to come into it." According to Robertson, when a girl later purchased the ring, "all hell broke loose." Right. This may come as news to Pat Robinson, but The Devil Wears Prada was not a documentary.

And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, February 26, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Austerity USA Begins March 1st: Bipartisan Project to Impoverish the American People

U.S. politicians have cried wolf over austerity long enough for the public to ignore them. A perfect time, then, for politicians to actually unleash the wolves. Barring an unlikely last minute deal, here’s a short list of some of the massive, national bi-partisan-created austerity cuts, according to the New York Times: 

-600,000 food stamp recipients will be cut from the program

-Massive education cuts. According to President Obama:

“Once these cuts take effect thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. ”

-12 billion in Medicare cuts (more to come after 2013)

-Millions receiving unemployment will see their checks cut by 11% (an average of 132 a month)

-Federal funds to state governments will be cut, creating even more deficits for states and municipalities, and thus more localized cuts (the states have already made austerity cuts of $337 billion!)

Also, 700,000 jobs are expected to be loss, while 70,000 kids are also expected to be kicked off of Head Start

And this is just for 2013. The current plan for the austerity “sequester” cuts is $100 billion of federal cuts every year for ten years, equaling massive cuts to jobs, Medicare, education, and completely destroying federally funded social programs.

Will it actually happen this time? The New York Times reports: 

“In private, Capitol Hill staff members and members of Congress have admitted that there are no viable plans on the horizon to delay or offset the cuts.”

The finger pointing in Washington, D.C. has already reached a crescendo, with the perverted logic being that, if both parties are to blame, it’s really no one’s fault. In reality Democrats and Republicans created these “sequester” cuts, and they can just as easily undo them with a snap of the finger.Both parties are choosing not to delete the cuts. They just don’t want political responsibility for the fallout, which many economists have predicted will push the U.S. economy over the edge into official recession.

Obama has predictably blamed the Republicans for this mess, even though he personally began this process by creating the “deficit reduction commission” that helped shape the cuts (keep in mind there is zero debt crisis that calls for such drastic measures).

Obama could also just as easily appeal to the American public —over the heads of congressmen — to demand that the cuts be shelved forever. Instead, he’s proposing a “grand bargain” deal that he knows the Republicans won’t go for.

What’s in Obama’s grand bargain deal? According to the White House website:

-$130 billion in “savings” [cuts] to Social Security, by implementing a “superlative CPI.”

-$35 billion in “savings” [cuts] to the retirement of federal employees.

- $400 billion in health care “savings” [cuts], much of it Medicare cuts.

Obama cynically fails to mention the words Social Security or Medicare in the above plan, choosing instead to write in code (“superlative Consumer Price Index”). Obama’s plan to avoid the March 1st cuts still assumes that $500 billion in cuts will be implemented over the next ten years, as opposed to $1trillion.

But his plan is just a distraction. Obama knows his plan has no chance of being passed by March 1st. He’s falsely portraying his plan as the only alternative to the March 1st cuts, even though a far better idea — the one preferred by a vast majority of Americans — is to simply to shelve the sequester cuts forever. To not put forth this option makes Obama complicit in the cuts.

Many pundits have speculated that Congress will allow the cuts to go into effect for three weeks, since March 27th marks a fiscal deadline that will pressure Congress to maneuver anew.  This might trigger a new round of haggling over a new “grand bargain” that again targets “entitlement programs” and re-packages the massive cuts into a prettier box. The party that does the most effective finger pointing after the March 1st cuts will be in the best position to dictate matters post-March 27th, so say the pundits.

Whatever the actual result, the Democrats and Republicans share similar enough visions that massive cuts to cherished social programs appear to be inevitable. Much of the made-for-TV bickering is pure political posturing, meant to fool the working people most affected by these cuts into believing it’s “the other party” that’s responsible.

Politicians have been able to get away with this disgusting behavior because there are very few independent voices telling the truth about what’s happening. Many labor and progressive groups are consciously lying about the dynamic, placing blame squarely on the Republicans, thus allowing the Democrats not to be held accountable for their pandering to the corporate elite’s demand to use austerity to attack the social safety net. In reality both parties are jointly attacking working and poor people via austerity, on a city, state, and national level.

If Labor and community groups united in a demand of ‘No Cuts, Tax the Rich’ and organized massive mobilizations, there would be a very different public debate happening right now. It’s not too late for these groups to tear themselves from the jaws of their attackers.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at [email protected]

Osborne To Continue With Austerity Programme Despite Credit Rate

George Osborne insisted Britain would not "run away" from its problems and vowed to continue with his tough austerity programme after Moody's downgraded the country's AAA credit rating. In a major blow to George Osborne's economic strategy, the agency...

Spanish Doctors, Nurses March Against ‘Pillage’ of Privatization, Austerity

Protesters march as they shout slogans during a demonstration against regional government-imposed austerity plans to restructure and part-privatize the health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (Andres Kudacki/ Associated Press )Thousands of nurses, doctors and other health professionals staged protests in sixteen cities across Spain on Sunday, decrying the nation's continued austerity policies that they say are putting real lives at risk each passing day.

Specifically, the energized protests were aimed at thwarting a proposal by the ruling rightwing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of privatizing portions of the country's health care system.

"There is no study that shows that privatizing the management of hospitals leads to lower costs," said Emilia Becares to Agence France Presse. The 46-year-old nurse brought her three sons, aged seven, eight and nine to the day's protest. "This privatization hurts patients' health care to benefit other interests."

Civil servant Javier Tarabilla, 31, explained to the Associated Press that Spain’s welfare state was being systematically dismantled in order to be handed over to the private sector.

“This is pillaging of our public services, looting something we’ve all contributed to through taxes, to give it to private companies to run for profit,” he said.

As AFP reports, the Rajoy government has slashed "health spending by seven billion euros ($9.1 billion) a year as part of a campaign to squeeze 150 billion euros out of the crisis-racked country's budget by 2014."

And AP adds:

It was the third "white tide" demonstration in Madrid, named after the color of the medical scrubs many protesters wear. But it was the first time cities other than the capital took part, including Barcelona, Cuenca, Murcia, Pamplona, Toledo and Zaragoza. Protesters marched carrying banners saying "Public health is not to be sold, it's to be defended."

_______________________________

Healthcare workers and supporters hold signs as they take part in a protest against the local government's plans to cut public healthcare spending in Madrid February 17, 2013. (REUTERS/Javier Barbancho)

Protestors march as they hold a model with a skull face during a demonstration against regional government-imposed austerity plans to restructure and part-privatize the health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (Andres Kudacki/ Associated Press )

Protesters march as they hold a banner reading “Health care system not for sale” during a demonstration against regional government-imposed austerity plans to restructure and part-privatize the health care sector in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. Madrid proposes selling off the management of six of 20 public hospitals and 27 of 268 health centers. (Photo: Andres Kudacki/ Associated Press )

_______________________________

Ecuador Chooses Stimulus over Austerity

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Bio

William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement. Black developed the concept of "control fraud" frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Black Financial and Fraud Report with Bill Black, who now joins us from Kansas City.

Bill is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He's a white-collar criminologist, former financial regulator, and author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One. Thanks for joining us, Bill.BILL BLACK, ASSOC. PROF. ECONOMICS AND LAW, UMKC: Thank you.JAY: So you've been writing recently about how Ecuador's been dealing with the recession, and you think there are some things to learn. What is that?BLACK: Yeah. I was writing—I was prompted by a article in The Economist which was exceptionally hostile to President Correa and what was being done in Ecuador. So I have actually been there several times recently, so I decided to research. And there wasn't—hardly any data in The Economist's study. What I discovered is that Ecuador should have been in, you would think, terrible trouble with the Great Recession. First, the United States is its leading trading partner. Its leading export is oil, and, of course, our oil consumption was down quite a bit. And the other major source of foreign funds in particular is what is called remittances, which is what Ecuadorians living in other countries send home to Ecuador. And the two leading places that Ecuadorians have emigrated, one is historically the United States, which, again, was in a great recession, but of late it's far more Spain. And Spain isn't simply in a great recession; the austerity programs have thrown it into Great Depression levels of unemployment, where unemployment's over 25 percent, and young people, the unemployment rate is 55 percent—just extraordinary. So remittances were down, oil sales were down, oil prices were down, and you would have thought Ecuador would have been really trashed. But President Correa, who is an economist by training—has a PhD from the United States, a master's from a Belgian university, and an Ecuadorian degree, all in economics—responded in what turned out to be the classic win-win-win that is offered by a severe recession, and that is he increased spending in three major categories—education, health, and public infrastructure. And public infrastructure in Ecuador is not only grossly inadequate; it's really quite dangerous in terms of the roads. And, of course, it's a nation that is incredibly mountainous and is prone to terrible flooding, which destroys dirt roads. So this has been a major effort. And, by the way, he worked on bridge safety as well, something the United States desperately needs to do, and built vital airports.The result of all of this was that within one quarter of going into recession officially, Ecuador was coming out. And indeed, for the entire year it actually had positive growth instead of negative growth, which of course is the absolute norm in a recession. And since then, it's rebounded to have a growth rate that's varied between double and three times the United States' growth rate. Spending on these three areas—education, health, and infrastructures—has more than doubled under President Correa. Poverty is down dramatically. Unemployment is down dramatically. Inequality, which was severe but—in Ecuador is down very substantially as well. And as a result, President Correa was actually, in the kind of polls that they run, the most popular elected leader in all of the Americas—that's North America, Central America, and South America combined. He was the single most popular leader and is widely expected to win an outright majority and avoid a runoff.JAY: Bill, has this made it any more difficult for Ecuador, one, to borrow money internationally? And two, Ecuador does use the U.S. dollar. Does that help or hurt? Maybe it helps in some ways, 'cause one of the reasons countries in theory don't do this kind of spending is they're afraid of, you know, a selloff of their dollars or currency.BLACK: That is an interesting question. Again I think Correa has that one right as an economist. It's actually very bad not to have a sovereign currency. I've explained this several times to the viewers in the context of the euro and giving up the sovereign currency. So this is an extra degree of difficulty that Correa has had to deal with that dramatically reduced the scope of what he could do, and he still succeeded. So his joke, or the joke in Ecuador, is that the only thing more popular than Correa is the dollar. So this is one of those odd things. The dollar is actually a problem for Ecuador, being dollarized, but the Ecuadorian people love it. And so, you know, there—it makes no sense, if you're an elected official, to try to get rid of something that the people absolutely love. So Correa has criticized the dollar but said, you know, look, I'm a pragmatist, and the people love it and such, so, you know, we go forward with the dollar.JAY: But does this play a role in somewhat protecting Ecuador from a run on their currency as a result of all this spending?BLACK: No, because that—it doesn't provide any protection in that regard. What protects Ecuador from those kind of attacks is that because they lack a sovereign currency, they simply can't run large deficits. And they don't. They have a very tiny deficit. So Correa has not done this by goosing the deficit. And as one of your questions implied, they repudiated some debt. Now, actually, they didn't repudiate most of their debt; they had a commission to look into certain debts that had already been negotiated that they declared that had been done in violation of Ecuadorian law and that those bonds were actually unlawful. They repudiated those debts, and then they repurchased those debts, or at least 94 percent of those, at about somewhere around 30 cents on the dollar.JAY: So how's he paying for the new spending?BLACK: Ecuador is an important exporter of oil, and the price of oil has gone up. So that's part of it. But he has also done a whole series of reforms to the deals that Ecuador had with the oil companies, which were, as you would guess, incredibly one-sided, and Ecuador got only a really tiny percentage of the proceeds. Well, now it gets a much higher percentage of proceeds.Correa also made it a priority to improve their equivalent of the IRS. And so it now collects—especially from corporations—far more taxes that used to be evaded and such. These are all, again, good things that the United States could learn. And as I said, the consequences for the lives of everyday Ecuadorians are dramatically improved. The chances that your kid is going to school is way up. The chances that when you're sick you get health care are way up. The chances if you're one of the indigenous people that used to be forgotten that you get services is way up. The vice president of Ecuador is paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair and has led a movement to bring the disabled in Ecuador far more into the mainstream, and this too has been tremendously successful.JAY: Okay. If you want to ask Bill a question or make a comment, Tweet it to me, or you can email it to me at contact (at) therealnews (dot) com, or you can Tweet me @PaulJay_TRNN, and we will ask Bill your question and we'll get him to comment on it next time we talk. Thanks for joining us, Bill.BLACK: Thank you.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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G20 leaders to question austerity in Moscow

Screenshot from www.g20.org

Screenshot from www.g20.org

The need and the scope of belt – tightening in crisis stricken countries is due to be one of the central topics during the G20 summit in Moscow, as economic growth around the world is getting increasingly stifled by austerity measures.

It is becoming increasingly evident that austerity brings almost no fruit. A two – day G20 meeting in the Russian capital is going to examine the problem.

"We'll propose to change the Toronto agreements, possibly by changing its parameters. They are not met at the moment, and they should be changed," the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) quotes Anton Siluanov, Russia’s Finance Minister.

In 2012 G20 leaders agreed in Toronto to cut their budget deficits 50% by 2013, as well as at least stabilize their government debts by 2016.

Economists calculated then that a €1 cut in the budget would cost about 50 European cents in lost growth, the real figure looks more like €1.50 for each €1 cut, according to the IMF and the G20's economic advisers.

The most recent economic data shows recovery has so far been anaemic, with Thursday’s figures showing the steepest year on year contraction in the eurozone since 1Q 2009. Even the area’s economic powerhouses – Germany and France – slid into the red in the last quarter of 2012, compared to the previous 3-month period. The latest report on the US economy was also an icy shower, as the country’s GDP showed a 0.1% contraction in 4Q 2012, while everybody expected it to grow 1.1% during the quarter.

"A third of the G20 is in recession. We need to do more to get people back to work and Toronto 2.0 is not the right answer," U.S. Treasury Under-Secretary Lael Brainard told a briefing earlier this week. "We must avoid jeopardizing the recovery with a premature shift to restraint."

Though not on the official agenda, the need to avoid currency manipulations, or so-called currency wars, would be one of the central topics at a Moscow G20 meeting. Member states are under pressure from host Russia to use "stronger and more specific language" on the issue, as the WSJ refers to a senior G20 official. This week the G7 reaffirmed that they won’t target exchange rates warmed up talks around the issue.

Among other issues to be discussed in the framework of G20 is stress testing for Russia’s financial institutions, as well as the ways to regulate rating agencies operations.

More Austerity Cuts Coming To The States

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The Great Recession has quietly devastated public services on a state-by-state basis, with Republican and Democratic governors taking turns leading the charge. Public education has been decimated, as well as health care, welfare, and the wages and benefits of public sector workers. The public sector itself is being smashed. Since the recession began, states have made combined austerity cuts of at least $337 billion, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities

The 2012-2013 budget deficits for 34 states resulted in $55 billion in cuts, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. The coming budgets for 2013-2014 that begins on July 1st is becoming clear as well, and the deficits are rolling in by the billions: Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, and many others have large deficits projected.

You’d expect after years of austerity cuts to public services, state politicians would think of new ways to raise revenue from those who can afford it — the wealthy and corporations. Not so. The cuts that began as a consequence of the 2008 recession are set to continue; raising revenue from the wealthy is “off the table” for Republicans and Democrats alike.

The pattern of budget cuts has revealed that the age-old distinction between Republican and Democrat has evaporated on the state level. The state budget trends — what’s getting funded and what’s not — are similarly aligned across the country. Both parties have merged their state-level agendas into a singular focus on “economic growth,” a bi-partisan euphemism meaning “corporate profits.”

Below is the bi-partisan funding trends for the states that began with the 2008 recession and continue to this day:

1) The Attack on Public Employees and Pension "Reform"

It wasn’t long ago that everyone understood that the states’ budget crises was caused in part by the recession, itself caused by the big banks and greedy corporations, and in part by the politicians continuing willingness to lower taxes on the rich. Now the corporate media and politicians have re-written history: suddenly it’s “greedy” public workers and their “lavish” pensions that are bankrupting the states. Two years ago it was the health care of public employees that was bankrupting the states, which resulted in large cuts to workers in many states.

The pre-recession pension system was working fine, but it, too, suffered under the bank-caused financial crisis; pension returns sank and right-wing economists projected ruin for the states in the future (they conveniently assumed that recession era rates would continue forever, thus under-funding the system).

Democratic governors are now as eager as their Republican counterparts to destroy the pensions of public employees. Democratic politicians in Oregon, Washington, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, and several other states are leading the charge to erode the last bastion of retirement security for working people, while continuing to lay off public employees by the thousands. This national shrinkage of state governments is a long-standing right-wing dream: the smaller the state, the greater the “growth opportunities” for corporations that take over privatized public services and the lower their taxes since a smaller state requires less revenue for operating expenses.

2) Education Reform

The National Governors Association (NGA) spoke for both political parties when announcing a renewed focus on education funding for the states during the annual “state of the states” address. The funding is necessary because schools across the country are expecting an influx of students, while school districts everywhere have been starved funds by the ongoing austerity cuts; the system has been literally crumbling. But the new funding is to be used for the undermining and destruction of public education, since it is based on Obama’s pro-corporate Race to the Top education “reform” where charter schools replace public schools.

Democrats and Republicans are in complete agreement over Obama’s education policy, which closes “failing schools,” (those in poor neighborhoods), opens privately run, non-union charter schools, and fires “bad teachers,” (typically those who teach poor students). The whole system is based on standardized testing, which poorer students will spend most of their education preparing for, (those who don’t drop out from sheer boredom). Bi-partisan education reform targets teacher unions while privatizing education — the Democrats have adopted the ideas from the right-wing think tanks of the 1990′s.

3) Raising Revenue - But Not From the Wealthy or Corporations

Many states have implemented — or are planning to implement — a variety of taxes that disproportionally affect working and poor people, including increased sales taxes, alcohol, tobacco and other “sin” taxes, not to mention increases in different fees, from state parks to driver registration.

At the same time that these taxes have been upped, a consistent clamor has been raised by the media and politicians to lower the taxes for corporations, give them new subsidies or “freeze” their already-low taxes so that future tax increases will be impossible. In Oregon the Democratic governor declared a “special session” emergency in order to ensure that NIKE’s super low tax status would be frozen in place for decades, outside the reach of the public, which might want to raise corporate taxes to fund public services.

Democrat and Republican controlled states are equally competing for the adoration of corporations by lavishing a never-ending flow of taxpayer money on them, while “guaranteeing” them “investment security,” i.e., promising low taxes and an open spigot of taxpayer money. This is the basis for several states implementing “right to work” laws that target unions for destruction, while also attempting to “revamp the tax code,” which is a euphemism for lowering corporate taxes.

4) Welfare Reform: Attacking the Safety Net

Waging war against the safety net is like picking a fight with road kill — the states’ safety net is already disfigured beyond recognition, but the bi-partisan assault nevertheless continues. Bill Clinton started welfare “reform” as president, and the 2008 Great Recession accelerated the attack on those in poverty. The year 2011 was a devastating one for welfare, now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

In 2011, states implemented some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through [TANF] … The cuts affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children; these families represent over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.

But these TANF “reforms” continue, to the detriment of the neediest. Newly released budgets in several states — including California and Oregon — further tighten the program, a relentless boa-like constriction that’s already suffocated millions of the country’s poorest citizens. Typically TANF reform either lowers the monthly payment, shortens the time one can receive benefits, or raises the standards for staying in the program.

Before the giant TANF cuts in 2011, the program was already shrunken such that TANF only assisted 28 families for every 100 in poverty — the ludicrous definition of “poverty” being a family of four that makes only $22,000 or less.

There is a direct link between the assault on TANF and the rising poverty levels in the United States. Cutting TANF in a time of mass unemployment means consciously consigning millions of families to grinding poverty, hunger, homelessness, and the many other barbarisms associated with extreme poverty.

Conclusion:

It wasn’t long ago that the Democrats understood that the government can and should create jobs, especially during a recession. But now the Democratic Party has fully adopted the economics of Reaganism. As a result, the only “job creators” now recognized are the corporations. This bi-partisan agreement not to tax the rich and use the revenue for public spending to create jobs — hiring more teachers, firefighters, roads and parks workers, etc. — is unnecessarily prolonging the job crisis, ensuring more years of deficits and a deeper gouging of the public sector.

These cuts are having a devastating effect on public sector unions, the last bastion of union strength in the country. These unions are being weakened to such an extent that stripping them of their right to collectively bargain — the nail in the coffin — becomes a real possibility. No state is safe from this threat.

If unions don’t unite with community groups to demand that public services be fully funded by taxing the wealthy and corporations, the cuts will continue, communities will feel helpless, inequality will continue to spiral out of control, and working people will be further subjected to the policies of the 1%, now implemented in chorus by Republicans and Democrats alike. But, of course, this means that the unions will have to break with the suicidal strategy of relying on the Democrats for handouts. Time and again the Democrats have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice the needs of working people in order to curry favor with the rich and corporations, their greatest benefactors when it comes to election campaign contributions.

Obama Pushes Austerity in the Guise of Defending the “Middle Class”

ECONOMIC AUSTERITY IN AMERICA: The Portland Community Begins to Fight Austerity

In the days leading up to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, the Obama administration has combined calls for austerity measures to slash social spending with demagogic attacks on congressional Republicans for advocating even larger cuts in domestic social programs.

Obama’s speech comes as back-room discussions continue between the White House and congressional leaders of both parties, driven by two imminent deadlines: the March 1 “sequester,” when $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts take effect, and the March 27 expiration of authorization for spending by all federal government departments.

The sequester is a consequence of the 2011 Budget Control Act, a bipartisan deal between Obama and congressional Republicans, while the March 27 cutoff comes as a result of the expiration of another bipartisan agreement, the six-month “continuing resolution” passed last October to avoid a shutdown of the federal government during the 2012 election campaign.

If the sequester takes effect, budget cuts will hit both defense spending and a wide range of domestic social programs. The military cuts would have only a marginal effect in the vast Pentagon budget, which dwarfs the combined military spending of the next 15 countries in the world. The domestic cuts largely spare the major entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but will devastate smaller programs like Head Start education for pre-kindergarten children.

On Friday, the White House published a list of the most egregious consequences of the domestic spending cuts looming under sequestration, as part of an effort to blame the Republicans for cuts for which both corporate-controlled parties are responsible. The list details the cumulative effect of the cuts, which total nearly $500 billion in domestic spending over the next ten years. Among the cutbacks:

  • An estimated 600,000 women and children would lose food stamps.
  • 100,000 formerly homeless people would lose their government-financed housing.
  • Head Start cuts would eliminate early education slots for as many as 70,000 poor children.
  • Federal support would be eliminated for 7,200 school employees who serve special-needs children.
  • Job safety and food safety inspectors would face unpaid furloughs.
  • Federal loans to small businesses would be reduced by $500 million.

President Obama devoted his Saturday radio and Internet address to the sequester, warning of thousands of federal layoffs or furloughs and a “huge blow to middle class families and our economy as a whole” if the cuts took effect.

He argued, “At a time when economists and business leaders from across the spectrum have said that our economy is poised for progress, we shouldn’t allow self-inflicted wounds to put that progress in jeopardy.” This is a transparent effort to put the blame on congressional Republicans for a deepening economic crisis that implicates the entire capitalist system and all its political representatives, as reports in the US and globally suggest that world capitalism is already sinking back into renewed slump, more than four years after the Wall Street crash.

At the same time, Obama has renewed his appeal to the Republicans to join him in reaching a “grand bargain” that will include unprecedented cuts in Social Security, the government retirement benefits program, and Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.

Obama’s alternative to the sequester is simply a different set of deficit-reduction measures. In his Saturday address, he called for “a balanced mix of spending cuts” and the closure of tax loopholes. “There’s certainly no reason that middle class families and small businesses should suffer just because Washington couldn’t come together and eliminate a few special-interest tax loopholes, or government programs that just don’t work,” he concluded.

One policy choice by Obama speaks volumes about the real class basis of his administration. He proposed a pay raise for federal civilian workers of only one percent, after several years in which their pay has been frozen. According to the National Treasury Employees Union, federal workers have already accounted for $103 billion in deficit-reduction from the pay freeze and increased pension contributions. Since statutory pay guidelines call for at least a 1.8 percent pay raise, matching the level in equivalent non-government jobs, Obama’s 1.0 percent “raise” would take another $18 billion out of the pockets of federal workers.

The White House is seeking to conceal its anti-working-class program with another deluge of demagogy about Republicans defending the super-rich. White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, in a blog post on the White House web site, decried the refusal of the Republicans to close “loopholes for millionaires and billionaires.”

The cynicism of this rhetoric is demonstrated by reports that Obama will name his longtime financial backer Penny Pritzker, heiress to the billion-dollar Hyatt Hotel fortune, as his next secretary of commerce, and choose the CEO of REI sportswear, Sally Jewell, a former Mobil oil executive, for the post of secretary of the interior.

In the president’s radio speech, and in statements by other spokesmen, the Obama administration has laid special emphasis on the need to avoid cuts in military spending. Obama cited the Navy’s decision to delay dispatch of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, due to the uncertainty of funding.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued several warnings about the supposedly catastrophic impact of the minor trim in Pentagon spending, and the uniformed chiefs of the various armed services are to appear before congressional committees Tuesday and Wednesday to reinforce the message.

An Army memorandum to Congress complained of “a rapid atrophy of unit combat skills with a failure to meet demands of the National Military Strategy by the end of this year,” while the Air Force warned that “shortfall and sequestration will have drastic/long lasting impacts” on the US nuclear arsenal.

While sections of the congressional Republicans associated with the ultra-right Tea Party have called for the sequester to go ahead, as a down payment on the gutting of federal domestic spending, those Republicans with the closest ties to the military-intelligence apparatus have joined forces with Panetta and Obama to oppose the sequester.

The Foreign Policy Initiative sent a letter to congressional leaders opposing the sequestration cuts in military spending, signed by the bulk of the neo-conservative Republicans who spearheaded the war in Iraq, including William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Paul Bremer and Elliott Abrams, as well as Robert Gates, defense secretary in both the Bush and Obama administrations, and former senators Joseph Lieberman, Jim Talent (a top Romney adviser) and Norm Coleman.

Senate Democrats have drafted a measure to largely eliminate the cuts in the Pentagon budget, reducing it by only $3 billion a year instead of the planned reduction of more than 15 times that amount. The military cuts would be offset by equivalent deficit reduction through cuts in farm subsidies and implementation of the so-called Buffett Rule imposing a minimum tax rate on multi-millionaires.

Thousands March to ‘Lift the Burden’ of Austerity in Ireland

Over 100,000 Irish citizens took to the streets Saturday in protest of six years of severe austerity cuts and rocketing costs of living since the financial crisis plunged the country's banking system into an endless debt spiral. (Photo @kierfoley via ...

‘Lift the Burden’: Tens of thousands march against austerity in Ireland (VIDEO)

Screenshot from footage by RT's new video agency Ruptly

(4.5Mb) embed video

Tens of thousands of people have marched through cities in Ireland in a massive show of anger against severe austerity measures and high costs of living.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions,which organized the rallies, claimed more than 100,000 people attended, with some 60,000 marching in Dublin. Demonstrators also protested in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Sligo and Waterford.

Tough cuts were implemented to please Ireland's creditors in the wake of the country’s banking crisis. It has been relying on a joint EU-IMF loan since 2010.

The “Lift the Burden” march took place despite the Irish government’s recent bank debt deal with the European Central Bank. It saw 28 billion euro worth of costly promissory notes swapped for long-term sovereign bonds.

The union’s General Secretary David Begg vowed that the campaign against the debt burden will carry on until the European authorities fully honor the agreement reached last July to separate bank debt from sovereign debt, The Irish Times reported.

"It would be fatal for people to believe this issue is now resolved and we can all move on," David Begg said. "At the onset of the crisis Ireland had one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in Europe. The difference between then and now is due entirely to Ireland socializing bank debt at the behest of the ECB, to save the European banking system."

I've no confidence at all in the deal, it won't make any difference to ordinary people," Alfie Murray who marched in Dublin with his 8-year-old grandson, told Reuters. "It's the next generation that'll shoulder the cost," he said.

Financial advisor Marco Pietropoli explained to RT that the Irish per capita have ended up with a far bigger bill than the most countries who had a bailout. “Therefore they are suffering a great deal more.”

Pietropoli says that Ireland's situation is one of the most difficult in the EU and that Dublin's holding of the bloc's presidency isn't likely to make things any better.

“I don’t think the Irish with the presidency are necessarily going to be able to exert much pressure or much influence to actually change the situation in Europe, because the power remains with the Germans.”

Image from twitter user‏@kierfoley
Image from twitter user‏@kierfoley

Image from twitter user‏@gribers
Image from twitter user‏@gribers

Image from twitter user‏@Darren606
Image from twitter user‏@Darren606

Image from twitter user‏@Vero_Zuma
Image from twitter user‏@Vero_Zuma

Campus Fightbacks in the Age of Austerity: Learning from Quebec Students

quebec

by Xavier Lafrance and Alan Sears

The 2012 Quebec student strikes delivered one of the few victories we have seen in anti-austerity struggles in the Canadian state. The mobilization, which at its high point saw over 300,000 students on limited or unlimited strike, and demonstrations of hundreds of thousands, was a crucial highpoint that has a great deal to teach radicals. The attempted clampdown by the Jean Charest government through Bill 78 that attempted to outlaw the movement, unleashed a new and innovative round of resistance including the casseroles night marches.

The newly elected Parti Québécois (PQ) government of Premier Pauline Marois immediately cancelled the 75 per cent tuition hike implemented by the previous Charest government and rescinded the oppressive “back to work” legislation in Bill 78. This is a real victory, though the struggle in Quebec must continue. The PQ government has already made cuts to university budgets and is committed to smaller incremental tuition increases, indexing tuition to cost of living increases. Further, the PQ is organizing a series of roundtable discussions on the future of post-secondary education with a very clear agenda for technocratic restructuring that impedes rather than increases democracy, access and quality.

Trying to Spread the Victory

This is a partial victory, but a real one. At a time when the austerity agenda is rolling on relatively unchallenged, the Quebec student strike offers a crucial lesson in resistance. Yet the knock-on effect of that strike has been relatively limited to date. The Quebec student movement has done serious work to reach out to the rest of Canada and elsewhere to share the learning from this incredible mobilization, but at this point the impact has been limited.

This is unfortunate given the desperate need for effective mobilization to halt the austerity agenda in general, and in particular its application to the post-secondary field. The Ontario government is currently implementing a major restructuring of post-secondary education at a quite rapid pace, aiming to shift university mandates toward a market orientation, shift teaching toward on-line courses, continue tuition increases toward the goal of full user-pay, and implement cost-cutting ‘productivity’ increases. It would take a mobilization at the scale of the Quebec student strike to really reverse this agenda, but at this point there are not even many ripples of discontent.

A Mobilizing Perspective

In this article, we will try to discuss some of the ways that we imagine applying lessons from the Quebec student strike in coming battles around education, and particularly post-secondary education. At its core, the Quebec student strike modelled a mobilizing perspective grounded in democracy, militancy and audacity.

Over the last three decades, Quebec’s student movement has been divided between organizations gravitating around two models: a lobbyist model seeking collaboration with governments in place, on the one hand; and a democratic, activist student unionism, on the other. Since the early 1990s, the former model has been adopted by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), while the latter model has informed the activities of the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) du Québec (which regroups 30 local student unions representing some 70,000 CEGEP and university students). We will focus on ASSÉ’s organizing model, which is explicitly ‘unionist’ (syndicale).

The core goal of this unionist model is to defend members’ concrete interests (understood in a non-corporatist way) through their own mobilization. This organizing model is based on democratic decision-making through general assemblies at which a large portion of student body debates action and decides collectively how to proceed. This democracy can only function in a meaningful way when combined with a constant effort at informing and mobilizing the student population beyond layers of activists, in order to develop a membership which can make change with their own hands rather than engaging in periodic ritualistic and symbolic protest. Democracy of this sort is linked to militancy in that the goal of protest is not to appeal to the conscience of those in power, but to build a counter-power in the streets, schools and workplaces that can push back.

In the era of austerity, many unions and social movements have lowered their horizons and tried not to rock the boat too much. For example, Toronto municipal unions met privatization demands with a campaign that focussed more on public relations advertisements than mobilizing their own members, ultimately resulting in concessions. In contrast, the Quebec students mobilized around ASSÉ (who formed the Coalition large de l’ASSÉ (CLASSE) to launch and coordinate the 2012 strike) dared to challenge the core of the government’s post-secondary agenda and boldly campaigned over a two-year period to win a strike mandate.

The challenge to the government’s agenda combined the immediate demand to halt the government’s 75 per cent tuition hike with a broader call to abolish tuition fees and democratize public college and university education. Many students lined up to fight tuition increases, rallying around a demand that seemed winnable (“Stop the hike!”). Yet the mass movement raised many bigger questions about democratic governance and the character of post-secondary education that pointed toward a broader, transformative agenda.

This combination of audacity, democracy and militancy in many ways echoes the crucial battles that won trade union rights for workers in the first place, such as those waged by Windsor auto workers in the 1940s or by postal workers in the 1960s. The challenge outside Quebec is to figure out how to apply these methods in situations where there isn’t the same level of organization and activism or tradition of student mobilization

A Longer-Term Perspective

This was the ninth general strike waged by Quebec students since 1968, and the 11th year since the founding of ASSÉ as a radical and democratic student union consciously committed to learning from that history of struggle. ASSÉ built for the 2012 strike through a two-year campaign, which used petitions, demonstrations and days of action to mobilize students through leaflets, informal networks and structured organization including assemblies.

All of this seems daunting if you are sitting in a place where that long-term work has not been done, and where it is hard to even imagine a way to begin the building process. There is certainly no magic formula, nor any simple overall technique that will automatically elevate campaigns elsewhere. But there is a crucial orientation that others mobilizing against austerity can learn from – that of militant, democratic unionism. The implementation of this orientation requires a longer-term strategy that is difficult to balance with the immediate needs of the anti-austerity struggle.

ASSÉ was founded on the principles of democratic, militant student unionism in 2001. The people who founded the new organization sought to deliberately learn from the prior history of the Quebec student movement, both from the impressive victories and the grinding defeats. Indeed, the need to refound the radical wing of the student movement was an indication of the difficult struggles of the 1990s and the decision to ultimately disband the MDE (the previous radical democratic student union). Before ASSÉ, three student unions based broadly on democracy and militancy (UGEQ, ANEEQ and MDE) had developed and ultimately disbanded since the early 1960s.

At the core of these organizations was the principle of democratic, militant student unionism drawn from the student movement in France and expressed in the Charte de Grenoble from 1946. Article One of this document stipulates: “The student is a young intellectual worker.” Historically, within the Quebec student movement, this has meant that students, like workers, are engaged in collective activities, share common interests and can organize collectively – form unions – to promote these interests. Students have immense potential power through collective organization to withdraw their labour (in strikes) and ultimately take collective and democratic control over the process of education.

The power of student strikes comes from the disruption of an education system that the government as well as campus administrations have a responsibility to administer. For example, university students will have to graduate in order to make room for incoming high school students. Semesters simply cannot be cancelled on a large scale without creating an enormous administrative mess that would also have significant economic consequences. Though governments and administrators will use this cancellation as a threat in effort to force striking students back into class, they are in fact worried by this prospect. This is why semesters have never been cancelled in the history of Quebec student strikes, and why these strikes have forced governments to back down on several occasions.

The best way to make this potential power real is to organize along the lines of democratic, militant unionism, which aims to mobilize the mass of the student body and to win majority mandates for genuine collective action. The general assemblies that are so crucial to the success of the Quebec student movement are grounded in, and indeed cannot function properly outside of, this democratic and activist student unionist perspective. This perspective orients the militant minority toward their fellow students with the goal of discussing and debating in order to win genuine mandates for effective action. This requires constant mobilizing activities, such as printing flyers, publishing newspapers, going from class to class to present updates on campaigns and important issues, and engaging with students in cafeterias and in public spaces. In Quebec, this has generally been organized by mobilization committees in collaboration with student union executive committees.

Trying to adopt the assembly model without this commitment to democratic, militant unionism can lead to the separation of the core activists from most other students. A self-proclaimed assembly of radicals can give themselves a mandate to act in the name of the student body but without the genuine participation of larger layers of students they will remain isolated and they will not be able to build the power necessary to support this mandate. Indeed, one of the problems that lead to the downfall of the earliest Quebec-wide student union (UGEC) was the commitment of radicals to going it alone, without the patience and strategic orientation to win larger mandates.

Democracy and a Mobilized Membership

Democratic, militant unionism means orienting outward to win mandates for mobilization from the student body. Those mandates will only be meaningful if they are won through democratic and participatory forms of organization. The general assemblies of the Quebec student movement have been foundational in winning mandates through forms of decision-making that involve active participation, open exchange and direct democracy. Militant students must engage with those who disagree with them in such assemblies, trying to persuade fellow students that action is possible and necessary. These assemblies can be tense, and the outcome is very hard to predict as people respond to the flow of debate and the exchange of ideas. This puts a real premium