Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Between A Rock And A Hard Case

One of the most stunning moments for me in Michael Moore's movie "SiCKO" comes when Tony Benn (I believe. I couldn't find the quote.) tells Moore that in America, the people are afraid of the government while in Europe, the government is terrified of the people.
The Teabaggers would be onto something if they didn't hamper the efforts of the left to make the people the most important part of the nation, but I digress. Instead, I want to talk about Greece.
You may have heard, or certainly might have been aware, that Greece is in serious financial difficulty. Greece's troubles make California look solvent. As a result, the European Union-- the bank of last resort for its members-- has agreed to lend Greece the funds necessary to bail itself out, but there's a catch: spending cuts and an austerity budget must be enacted.
Needless to say, this budget hits workers, particularly public sector workers, hard: wage freezes, tax hikes...yes, even Europeans can have their fill...and deficit cutting to comply with the terms of membership in the EU. Deficits apparently cannot be more than 3% of GDP. On that basis, technically, the United States would have been in default from 1982-1994 (with a couple of exceptions), and in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Hm, those were mostly Republican administrations.
It does make you wonder a) where our money goes, and b) how do Europeans keep their deficits in check?
Oh. Right. Taxes.  Again, I digress.
It would be an understatement to say the Greek workers are getting a little antsy about this. Three are dead in a bombing of a bank, and workers in the private sector, who understand that as goes the civil servant jobs so go their own jobs, are joining the picket lines. It appears that Greece, which had a long history of instability during the 20th Century, is poised to be upset once again.
The government fears its people, for good reason. And Greece is not the only nation that's seeing some unrest among its people: France, for all its vaunted Sarkosian conservatism, has been forced to deal with an Airbus strike. Even Britain had to deal with a 57 day strike by airline workers AND protests by Royal Post workers.
Not for wage cuts, as in Greece, but because wage increases have been proposed that are pathetic, on the order of one to two percent.
Imagine that! In America, we're told to accept wage cuts and like them. In France, they walk out over a pay raise!
What the hell is wrong with us????