The American Bear


Czech government faces vote of confidence after protests over austerity | Guardian

From the Guardian:

The rightwing coalition in Prague is to face a vote of confidence in parliament on Friday in the latest survival test facing governments across Europe as they struggle to stay in office in the age of austerity.

The three-party government of the prime minister, Petr Necas, is hanging on by the most slender of margins, battered by large street protests over spending cuts, tax increases, job losses and corruption, and the splintering of his smallest coalition partner, after less than two years in power.

Last weekend about 100,000 demonstrators marched to demand the government’s resignation in the biggest street scenes since the rallies that brought down communism at the end of 1989. At the same time, the centre-right coalition in the Netherlands collapsed over its failure to agree on sweeping budget cuts, while Nicolas Sarkozy also lost the first round of France’s presidential election.

My two cents:

Austerity in a recession, ha! Foolish neoliberals. If only you people listened to actual economists (besides Milton Friedman and his ilk). It’s not like you weren’t warned.

But this isn’t about sound economic policy. From economist Hillel Ticktin:

The only way out of the present impasse is for a rationally planned economic reconstructive process, with governments playing a leading role. As the ruling class supports small government and the extension of private enterprise, it will oppose any such move. On the contrary, it is afraid that any attempt to go for reflation with government participation will lead to a political upheaval. In my view, they are right that the population will demand increased economic and political participation under conditions of full employment. That is in effect the immediate alternative, which is why the ruling class wants to take the opportunity [of the economic crisis], instead, to achieve a defeat of the working class of epochal proportions. Looked at this way, the policy of austerity is a defensive measure to preserve capitalism. Seen this way the policy is not crazy but rational, even if its application is mad.

And this from John Gray:

Cutting back public services, savaging pension entitlements and imposing a regime of near zero interest rates that guarantees negative returns for ordinary savers does not have the same devastating impact as hyperinflation or full scale deflation.

But the disappearance of any kind of security for the majority, and vanishing opportunities for young people are not fundamentally dissimilar to what was happening in Europe 70 years ago. Our rulers, it seems, have decided to save the banking system at the cost of sacrificing the living standards of the majority. It remains to be seen whether one can survive without the other.

It remains to be seen, but given the public’s rejection of governments across Europe, its looks a lot like the financial and political elites pushing the “starve the beast” policy platform have worn out their welcome.