Angela Merkel tried to contain her irritation when asked at a podium discussion in Berlin this week whether southern European countries could take much more German-ordered austerity.
But the frustration in her voice was clear enough after a week in which several European allies broke ranks, and in a public challenge to Germany, effectively declared the era of deficit reduction in Europe to be over.
“I call it balancing the budget,” the German chancellor told her audience at a book presentation. “Everyone else is using this term austerity. That makes it sound like something truly evil.”
So begins an article published yesterday by Greek Independent Press. The article continues:
There are signs the criticism is beginning to grate. German officials turn testy when the word “austerity” is mentioned these days. In recent months, they have deliberately adjusted their language, adopting the term “growth-friendly consolidation” to describe their policy approach.
Yes, whatever you do just make sure you don’t mention… “the austerity”!
Listening to Angela Merkel here, one might mistakenly imagine that “austerity” was some kind of nasty term made up by opponents of the agenda, whereas, in actual fact, it was coined as the euphemism of choice by those who advocated and most avidly sought the implementation of such an economic “shock therapy”. “Shock therapy” being, of course, a term conveniently applied by the earlier proponents of such measures, and good enough when the victims mostly lived in Latin America or Africa. But then, when “shock therapy” came back to Europe and America it needed another name, and, as euphemisms go, “austerity” obviously had its advantages: it was short and memorable, and unconsciously appealed to a certain kind of stoical, almost religious outlook, and as such was able to cover its ill intentions beneath the guise of such virtues as frugality and self-restraint.
Of course, the term “austerity” is actually just a polite cover needed to hide away the truly diabolical consequences of destroying a nation’s wealth and welfare provision. “Growth-friendly consolidation”, on the other hand, and aside from being unmitigated nonsense*, is far too much of a mouthful. After all, does anyone still remember the dear old “Community Charge”? – most people don’t. When it came to naming, more cuddly sounding “Community Charge” simply didn’t stand a chance against its punchier rival “The Poll Tax”. So Merkel and the others should be warned: they are no doubt already stuck with the term “austerity”, whether they like it or not.
And “austerity” is only getting a bad name because it is indeed “something truly evil” (as Merkel put it); an evil that, as time passes, will doubtless become more and more obvious to everyone. For “austerity” is as socially divisive as it is economically destructive: opening up the way for the very worst forms of political extremism to rise and prosper. Savage economics and hard right policies complimenting one another perfectly; the iron fist slipped (but only barely concealed) inside an already iron glove. We should call it what it is: extreme “austerity” is creeping fascism.
I actually visited Greece in the Summer of 2006, just about a year before this crisis kicked off, and back then it was a fully functioning western democratic society. It felt like a home from home. Yet, in little more than six years the country has been trashed. Broken on the wheel of “austerity”, and with no end at all in sight.
To see how terribly Greece has been ruined, and to also understand how, on the back of such wanton destruction, a neo-Nazi group like Golden Dawn has grown and incrementally seized more power, I strongly recommend a new documentary entitled “Into The Fire: The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece”, which was released just a few days ago and is embedded below:
Into the Fire is being crowd-released today [April 20th]: All over the internet people are embedding Into the Fire on their website or blog. With everyone who participates the audience and distribution network will grow. Are you participating? http://intothefire.org
A hard hitting documentary which shows the plight of refugees and migrants in recession hit Athens, Into The Fire is a film with a difference.
Shot and edited with sensitivity and compassion, it doesn’t pull its punches and makes for harrowing viewing in parts. It is the product of crowd funding, dedication, self-sacrifice and a burning sense of justice.
In times of severe austerity things look bleak for Greek people, but they’re far worse for those who have recently arrived. Without housing, legal papers or support, migrants in Greece are faced with increasing and often violent racism at the hands of the growing Nazi party Golden Dawn and the police in Athens. Many are trapped by EU laws and legislation of other EU countries meaning they’d be returned to Greece if they managed to get to another member state, they are desperate to leave the country.
* Here are some interesting graphs taken from an wikipedia article entitled “European sovereign-debt crisis”, which show the rise in the levels of Greek, Spanish and Portuguese debt since 1999 as compared to the average of the Eurozone:
All three graphs (and others including those for Ireland and Cyprus) show a marked turning point around 2007-8, providing further evidence not only that “austerity” hasn’t worked (even within its own terms of debt reduction), but that the western world is actually faced with a systemic banking crisis that flared up at that time. (Please note that the flattening off throughout the final three years of these graphs represents only projected estimates.)
The following is taken from an article written by Tyler Durden and posted on zerohedge from February 18, 2013:
“Beleaguered Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy just broke another record. As if a plague of corruption scandals was not enough, Spain’s debt-to-GDP has now reached levels not seen in over 100 years. As El Pais reports, Spanish debt levels rose at an alarming EUR 400 million per day in 2012 making for the largest annual increase in debt in the nation’s history – all the while proclaiming austerity.”
And here’s another helpful graph that goes along with the article, showing once more that rather than reducing Spanish debt, the imposition of “austerity measures” is very closely correlated to the spike in that debt: