THE BATTLE OVER AUSTERITY MEASURES HAS MOVED FROM THE SUITES TO THE STREETS. WHAT'S NEXT?
By Danny Schechter, Author, the Crime Of Our Time
William Shakespeare put a key question this way; "To Be Or Not To Be?" Today's economists and policy makers pose a different choice: to spend or not to spend.
Governments throughout the west are in a panic as debt mounts and economies contract.
Their solution is cut, cut, cut, in the name of a doctrine called austerity. They are slashing budgets, trimming public payrolls and arguing fatalistically in the spirit of Margaret Thatcher's philosophy, "There Is No alternative." (TINA.)
Austerity is the other name for it. Confronting massive deficits fearful of losing investor confidence. European governments are pulverizing budgets and shutting down public services. The plan by England's new Tory government is considered among the most painful, if not draconian. It is justified as absolutely necessary.
This view is being challenged in the realm of the ideas and with a growing spasm of street protests rocking European cities.
You have probably seen the pictures: A bloodied former Minister in Athens as rioters denounce the IMF which is demanding concessions from their government. Strikes in France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy had the SWAT teams out in force. A meeting this week in Germany by Eurozone Ministers is unlikely to please anyone.
At time when most people are saying the path out of the financial crisis and European debt problem is for individuals and governments around the world to cut back, the American economist Paul Krugman wants us to spend, spend, spend .
What's behind the fervor for austerity, he asks?
"The answer is" he writes, is "to reassure the markets -- because the markets supposedly won't believe in the willingness of governments to engage in long-run fiscal reform unless they inflict pointless pain right now. To repeat: the whole argument rests on the presumption that markets will turn on us unless we demonstrate a willingness to suffer, even though that suffering serves no purpose."
This argument has moved off the op-ed pages and into the streets. These protests conjuring up a revival of the class war confrontations of the 1930's are erupting as the Eurozone is fracturing.
The marches are becoming more militant and bitter, as clashes between the police and angry protesters grow in intensity marked by scattered violence.
Symbolically, the one incident that received massive coverage was a student attack on British Royalty when Prince Charles car was attacked with some protesters chanting, "off with their heads."
Reported the Telegraph: