Monday, February 25, 2013

The "Tide Of Citizens" Washes Over Spain... As Italians Elect A New Government


Every corner of Spain was the scene of angry but still mostly nonviolent protest over the weekend-- students, doctors, unionists, young families, pensioners... all pissed off about political corruption inside the neo-fascist government of Mariano Rajoy and inside the so-called "royal family," privatization of public services, and the exact same kind of failed Austerity Agenda Paul Ryan and the GOP are demanding for our own country. Over half of Spain's young workers are unemployed. It's a familiar theme-- bailouts for the banksters paid for by massive cutbacks in healthcare. The right-wing government has very tepid support and is starting to panic.

Europe, whose elites largely bought into the Austerity bullshit, is in an economic tailspin, with recession getting deeper and deeper across the Continent. Moody's downgraded the U.K. after George Osbourne's Austerity program went bust again while he and other advocates of more pain to the people are drowning in a river of denialism.
The eurozone will remain mired in recession in 2013 and leading nations such as France and Spain will miss debt-cutting targets, the European commission has admitted, backtracking on forecasts that the 17-country bloc will grow this year.

The European Union's executive body blamed a lack of bank lending to households and businesses, and record joblessness, for delaying the recovery. Unemployment in the eurozone is set to peak at 12% in 2013, or more than 19 million people, it said. Greece and Spain will be the worst-hit countries, with jobless rates of 27% this year.

The estimate highlights the widening chasm between Germany and France, the two largest eurozone economies, amid warnings this week that France is drifting closer to the bloc's periphery than its main economic rival. The commission predicts that Germany will grow by 0.5% this year, while France is expected to eke out just 0.1% growth. Joblessness among the French is expected to hit 10.7%, compared with 5.7% in Germany.
Bulgaria's right-wing government fell last week and the economic news in Portugal, Greece and Ireland is dismal. Over the weekend, with very low voter turnout,  Cyprus elected-- and by a landslide-- a conservative, Nicos Anastasiades, campaigning on an Austerity agenda. They already agreed to German demands that they cut salaries and pensions for public workers and hike the regressive sales tax and are well on the way to replicating the failed plans destroying Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, etc. They'll be whining for help as they flush themselves down the toilet. And yesterday Italy had national elections-- which conclude this afternoon at 3pm, that's 9am EST. (Results are expected by tomorrow morning but right now European markets are reacting to leaked reports of a Bersani victory.) With 5 of the 7 main parties pledging to kick Austerity to the curb, the election really is being seen as a referendum on the much-hated system of pain to working families.

Berlusconi, who has still managed to evade prison while appealing his guilty verdicts, has been sounding more and more like Mussolini as he accused Pier Luigi Bersani's center-left Democratic Party (PD) of fomenting jealousy against Italy's job creators. Ironically it is Berlusconi-- who will say anything-- who is the harshest critic of Austerity, and it has made him a plausible candidate again. Bersani makes the left sound kind of... safe and conservative, insisting that Italy stick to its European commitments and urging internal reform that shifts the emphasis away from Austerity and towards investment and growth.

And while Europe writhes in agony from the failed Austerity agenda, Paul Ryan and John Boehner and the rest of the GOP are still pushing it 24/7. The latest installment of the pain they have in store for America is called Sequestration and yesterday Rob Zerban, the progressive Democrat who nearly defeated Ryan last November spoke about it to the annual Wisconsin Democratic County Chairs Association in Stevens Point. Rob sounded a lot like what many in Europe fighting back against Austerity sound like. Only the names change:
"Paul Ryan and his right-wing colleagues don’t understand the importance of investing in the American people.

"He recently tried to pin the blame for sequestration on President Obama, but we all know he has been a longtime supporter of these mandatory, arbitrary caps that would be so dangerous to the middle class and our economy.

"Paul Ryan wants to cut, reduce, downsize, marginalize. And that is somehow supposed to make America great? I think America needs to grow, expand, prosper. We can do that by investing in the things that will help our economy grow and making sure that every kid in this country has the same opportunities that I had growing up. Because it sure paid off for me.

"America is supposed to be a place of opportunity. Our country doesn't just exist for the wealthiest people in our nation. It should be a place where those who come from modest means can learn, grow, and contribute to making this country stronger than it is today."

What a mess! The lower House went left (not really left, just kind of establishment-left) and the Senate looks like it went right. And the tiebreaker is the party started as a protest movement by a comedian, Beppe Grillo. The EU-- and, perhaps more important, Germany-- want a governing coalition headed by Bersani (the "leftist who isn't) and Monti, the guy the Germans installed last time to implement their Austerity agenda. Italian voters were less sure. So now the operative word is "deadlock," punto morto.
With returns from almost all districts processed, Mr Bersani's centre-left bloc had won 29.57% of the vote for the lower house (Chamber of Deputies) to 29.15% for Mr Berlusconi's bloc.

Mr Grillo's Five Star Movement had 25.54% and the centrist list led by Mario Monti 10.57%. "We've started a war of generations," Mr Grillo said in an audio statement on his website which taunted the leaders of the mainstream parties.

"They are all losers, they've been there for 25 to 30 years and they've led this country to catastrophe."

Mr Bersani was projected initially to win a majority in the Senate, where seats are decided region by region. However, as the results came in, Mr Berlusconi's bloc moved ahead in three of the four key swing regions.

He was set to win in the northern region of Lombardy, as well as the central region of Campania and Sicily.

Mr Bersani has pledged to continue with Mr Monti's reforms but suggests current European policy needs to do more to promote growth and jobs.

The election was called two months ahead of schedule, after Mr Berlusconi's party withdrew its support for Mr Monti's government.

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