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Amy Goodman
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

The Growing Global Movement Against Austerity

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Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week’s general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14 had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25 percent, and among young people is estimated at 50 percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions. “Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals and groups have networked, creating rapid-response teams that flood the street outside a threatened apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the eviction notice, they can’t reach the building’s main door, let alone the apartment in question.

The general strike across Europe ranged from mass rallies in Madrid, with participation from members of Parliament, to protests in London, to outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, to high atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, where protesters flew anti-austerity flags and banners. In calling for the first pan-national general strike in Europe in generations, the European Trade Union Confederation hoped to express “strong opposition to the austerity measures that are dragging Europe into economic stagnation, indeed recession, as well as the continuing dismantling of the European social model. These measures, far from re-establishing confidence, only serve to worsen imbalances and foster injustice.”

Back in the U.S., a group from Occupy Wall Street, which itself was inspired in part by the Spanish M-15 movement against austerity that began on May 15, 2011, has taken a creative approach to the blight of debt that is afflicting millions. Calling itself “Rolling Jubilee,” after the ancient practice of forgiving all debts every 50 years, the group is buying debt from lenders, for pennies on the dollar, and canceling it. This discounted debt market exists primarily because collection agencies and “vulture capitalists” acquire bad loans that people have stopped paying for 2 to 3 cents on a dollar, and still make a profit by hounding people to pay back some or all of that debt. Rolling Jubilee, according to its website, “believes people should not go into debt for basic necessities like education, healthcare and housing. Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it ... to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99 percent by the 99 percent.” To date, Rolling Jubilee has raised $175,000, which it says will be used to abolish $3.5 million in debt.

The amount may be symbolic, but an important message to President Obama and House Republicans as they wrangle over the future of the U.S. tax rates, deficit reduction and how to fund so-called entitlements. Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies prefers to call Social Security and Medicare “earned benefit programs, because these are programs that American workers are paying into over their lives, and they have a right to that money, to have these basic social programs that have made us a much stronger society with a stronger middle class.” Anderson told me, “The approach to the debt should be to look at the ways that we could raise revenues through ... taxing financial transactions ... cutting fossil-fuel subsidies and using carbon taxes, and cutting military spending. That kind of combination could raise trillions of dollars over the next decade.”

As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

© 2011 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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ABOUT Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.


Please see:

I wrote to all the nations

I wrote to all the nations under the false gun of austerity, and am happy to hear that some are throwing away the conspiracy and funding jobs and housing. If there is anything I can do, let me know.

The very existence of the

The very existence of the market to buy bad loans for 2-3-cents on the dollar means that the primary lender (or at least the upstream lender or lenders) already canceled the debt with a 2-3-percent payout. That means the debt was just revalued at 2-3-percent of what it started as and the lenders are not going out of business at all. They are even fine with losing 97%-98% of the amount. So, if the vultures can take advantage of that, then the law should stipulate that the borrowers should get first benefit to have their debts reduced by that amount or totally canceled.

In the near to long run this is really the only viable option. Only this will get money moving again in the circulating economy. It should be noted (slight divergence, here) that a 2008 Moody's study found that each dollar of food stamps returned $1.73 to the economy, every dollar of unemployment benefits returned $1.64 and tax breaks for business returned 33-cents. People getting food stamps or unemployment needed to spend it right away for necessities so it supports a larger community.

So, back to 2%-3% buyouts of debt. When Rolling Jubilee does the buyout to cancel the debt they release spending money into the economy which goes right to the community.

Austerity happens once a

Austerity happens once a government runs out of other people’s money, can no longer tax its citizens sufficiently to fund its bloated state, and has lost its ability to borrow. Austerity is invoked by forces outside a government’s control. For the United States, austerity will be forced upon the government when foreigners refuse to lend to it at any reasonable interest rate and when there is little or no national income to tax because the economy is in full deflationary depression. Hence the inevitability in the not-too-distant-future of, you guessed it, austerity.

Prudence happens ahead of disaster, by making conscious decisions to avoid a bankruptcy that is screaming toward you from down the tracks.

What people like you are refusing to do is allow the U.S. government to be prudent. Therefore, the inevitable result will be economic catastrophe and, yes, extreme—and I mean EXTREME—austerity.

@Joe Specht People have basic

@Joe Specht

People have basic needs in the USA that are not being met. I'd call that a failure of any economic system (For whatever reasons). When you take an economic system and elevate it above human need, you've created your own problems.

Regurgitate all of the topical "knowledge" about how the system of capitalism works and how it is a God of some sort because you are right.

Austerity will happen. When it happens people will react. When enough people react, change will happen. And given the dilemma your beloved system gives to people--suffer or die--I doubt they'll be choosing your system in the future.

In other words, blabber all you want. You're irrelevant in relation to billions of people who will and are now beginning to demand change.

Trish House's picture

If freedom means the right to

If freedom means the right to participate in power then it behooves us to place power into the hands of the people. If the right to land & the natural resources they need to make themselves self sustaining was the birthright of each one of us the people would be secure in their housing, could grow their own & secure their food supply and would thus have a stable base from which to excercise their power.

Economies & governments are supposed to act as service facilities for the people - and we have handed them our power by giving banks the control over mortgages, & governments the control of our land, and corporations control of resources. It is time to restore the natural order of things and put the people in charge by stabilizing their power. Give them ownership of the land & resources as their birthright. Give Governments, corporations & banks only enough power to serve the people well.

I'm deeply saddened and

I'm deeply saddened and frustrated that suicidal desperation has lead two people to commit suicide rather than endure impending foreclosure during the last two weeks in Spain.

Being a Brit and therefore part of the infamous British class system (lower echelons and refusing to be shamed by it), regardless of my wishes, I MUST point out that Americans are famous internationally as a 'classless' society, but if a Policy Studies person MUST define it in those terms, then what class does she think all those Europeans that are protesting about austerity 'belonged' to? Property ownership is considered 'middleclass'. The phrasing this spokesperson has used is ambiguous as to whether she is comparing the American middleclass as being stronger than Europeans now or to earlier Americans; and the implication is that either she doesn't understand the British class system - I would not presume to speak for any other European class system - or she's disingenuously inferring that these protesters are 'lower class' and disadvantaged; both being the politically correct euphemisms, otherwised whispered in private as the unemployed, scroungers, 'the great unwashed', scum, etc. which I find arrogant and offensive.

Bailouts for banks and

Bailouts for banks and massive tax cuts for the rich (who alone have made out so well in this bad economy), while telling the poor you are on your own, sounds like socialism for for the rich. The banks take big risks, but the middle class and poor are left to bear the brunt and foot the bills for those big risks.

Actually, it sounds a good deal more like fascism!

I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that the average citizen is held accountable for debt (regardless of how acquired) but the finance industry is not. All countries should enact taxes on financial transactions, tax finance workers in the same way they tax wage earners and split banking institutions between classic banking functions and those that are more speculative (to not allow one to subsidize or damage the other). I am glad to see citizens demanding that governments and financiers be held accountable. I could never understand how austerity was a solution - merely a punishment by those in power against the weakest members of a society. The WalMart model in action at a national level.

With the Clinton

With the Clinton administration, the US did embrace an austerity agenda for the poor. It appears that Americans continue to support this on the idea that "getting tough" gives people the incentive to succeed. Since Progressive media has largely ignored this issue, focusing on the hardships of the middle class, it's reasonable to assume that Clinton's austerity agenda was successful. If austerity enables those with the greatest disadvantages to succeed, becoming completely self-sufficient, imagine how spectacularly it would work for the middle class!

In response to

In response to DHFabian--Nonsense, austerity has only seen unemployment skyrocket throughout Europe. And let's not forget that the GOP famously told Clinton that raising taxes on "job creators" would stifle job growth and stall the economy. Republicans were WRONG!

~23 Million Jobs Created~

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