FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Why We Need to Ditch Austerity Policies

By next year, the richest 1% of the world will own more wealth than the rest of the entire population of the planet, according to Oxfam. This is a staggering figure, almost impossible to comprehend. And yet, this fact alone puts into focus a harsh truth: that we live in a fierce, inhuman, capitalist world where a handful of the richest people get richer and more powerful, even as governments across the globe enact austerity measures against the working class.

It is completely ludicrous that governments are carrying out austerity policies while the global 1% are set to clutch over half of the world’s wealth by next year. But here we are, watching the impossible unfold right in front of our eyes.

In Jamaica, IMF-imposed austerity measures are the most severe on the planet, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. And, of course, the US is largely to blame. The CEPR explained, “through its leadership role in the IMF, the U.S. is imposing unnecessary pain on Jamaica through harsh austerity and a debt trap.” Since 2007, poverty in the country has doubled, with unemployment currently at 14.2 percent.

While the double stranglehold of debt and austerity brings Jamaica to its knees, activists in Spain are also fighting against government cuts. Earlier this year in Madrid, there was a major mobilization against austerity measures imposed by the government, policies which have worsened homelessness and poverty among the poorest. Protesters carried banners reading “Working for a general strike” and ““Bread, work, a roof and dignity.” Between 2012 and 2014, the Spanish government made $162 billion in spending cuts. The country is experiencing an unemployment rate of 23.7 percent; one out of every four members of the workforce in Spain are unemployed, and half of all young people in Spain between ages 16 and 25 are without jobs. But people are fighting back. Protester Antonio Colmenar told reporters, “It is a day to claim our rights.”

Anti-Austerity

While the 1% fills their pockets, protests against austerity have been rocking the globe. In Montreal, Canada, students are leading the charge against cuts in healthcare, education and public services. “Today, we’re proud to launch a raucous spring,” Fannie Poirier, a spokesperson from the student protest committee told the Montreal Gazette in March. “Austerity measures have been presented as the lesser of evils to confront a deficient economy. But what we’re seeing … is a massive impoverishment of the population, full-frontal attacks on working conditions and a loss of security for society’s most vulnerable people.”

Even in Vermont, a US state known for its progressive politics, Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin has been pushing for austerity measures in education, healthcare and among public sector workers. Steve Howard, executive director of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, commented on Shumlin’s moves to NPR, “Before you take money out of the paychecks of snowplow drivers, nursing assistants, custodians and administrative assistants … we believe you have a moral obligation to ask for a greater contribution from a broad-based revenue source paid mostly by the wealthiest Vermonters who have had all the economic gains of the last decade.”

Austerity is trumpeted by many politicians as a necessary, though painful step to ensure long term economic viability. But it’s simply a way of perpetuating, rather than challenging, capitalist business as usual, a business in which the global 1% get richer and richer while schools go without sufficient funding and workers get laid off.

Governments enacting austerity measures are protecting the 1% and global capitalism. And the 1% has more than its fair share of influence in government policy development. Oxfam reports that the global elite “spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.”

Meanwhile, according the Harvard Business School, CEOs in America currently make 350 times what the average worker makes, and 774 times as much as minimum wage workers. Such a concentration of wealth not only takes place with impunity in America, it is encouraged as part of free market ideology.

Since 1979, Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent. Yet, according to Forbes, income has not increased at the same rate, if it has increased at all. Furthermore, “the rich spend about 17 percent of their income traveling for business and pleasure” while “the lower classes spend about 17 percent of their income on feeding their families.”

Inequality is not a symptom of the ills of global capitalism, it is its fuel. Austerity measures won’t change this; they simply maintain an unjust system that needs to be transformed from the bottom up. The global 1% and their allies in government need to be confronted and overturned. The entire system needs to be overhauled in a way that puts people, not profits and greed, first.

Luckily, there are exciting movements fighting against this upside down world and proposing alternatives, from Greece to Vermont. “I believe in fighting against the system,” Sara, a protester against austerity measures in Germany told reporters. “It won’t change if you don’t do something.”

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

This piece first appeared in TeleSUR.

 

More articles by:

Benjamin Dangl teaches journalism as a Lecturer of Public Communication in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont. He has worked as a journalist across Latin America and written three books on Bolivia, including The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia (AK Press, 2019).

Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
Steve Martinot
The Desire to Kill
David Yearsley
The War on Kitsch
Amy Eva Alberts Warren – Rev. William Alberts
Why are Certain Christians Democratic and Others Authoritarian?
Lawrence Davidson
Covid Madness
Brian Cloughley
Britain’s Disorder and Decline
Ellen Taylor
The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World
David Rosen
White Nationalists on the Attack
Jeff Cohen
Politicians of Color Should Not be Immune From Criticism
Joseph Natoli
Drawn Away from Reality in Plain View
Frank Joyce
Give Me Liberty,  Give You Death
Jonah Raskin
My Adventures in the Matriarchy
Paul Street
The Racist Counter-Revolution of 1776
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Corruption of the Democratic Party: Talking to Ted Rall about his new book
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Record on Foreign Policy: Lost Wars, New Conflicts and Broken Promises
Paul Edwards
A Bridge Too Far
Jennifer Joan Thompson
How to Do Things With Theses: Chile’s National Police Force Sues the Feminist Artistic Collective, Las Tesis
Shawn Fremstad
Vacations for All!
Thomas Knapp
A Modest Proposal for Compromise on “Confederate” Military Bases
Vijay Prashad, Eduardo Viloria Daboín, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Venezuela’s Borderlands Have Been Assaulted by COVID-19
Thom Hartmann
COVID Masks: The Latest Faux Conservative Outrage
Jesse Jackson
Mandatory College Football Practices in Time of Pandemic are Nuts
Nicholas Vincenzo Barney
Consensus Politics on the Fringe: The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Intellectual Dark Web
Ted Rall
The Data is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden
Joshua Tartakovsky
Sergei Khrushchev: An Eulogy from His Close Student
Theresa Church
In Reconsidering ‘Normalcy’ Genetically Engineered Trees Do Not Belong
Chelsea Carrick
Let’s Not Lose Momentum
Adam Rissien
Sorry Secretary Perdue, Our National Forests are Not Crops
Paul Gilk
A Few Theoretical Percentages
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”:  A Phrase That’s Tells us Very Little, if Anything,  About the Actual Levels of Danger We  Face
Claire Chadwick
I Got COVID-19 at Work. I Won’t be the Last
George Wuerthner
The Upper Green River Should be a National Park, Not a Feedlot
Julian Vigo
Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19
Ravi Mangla
Policing is Not a Public Good
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail