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Where to cut the pound of flesh

Published time: October 05, 2010 20:44
Edited time: October 05, 2010 20:44

Americans are sitting and waiting for economic changes as Europe sizzles with rage over government austerity measures, with populations angered that they have to pay for others’ mistakes.

In October 2010, facing similar struggles, Americans have shown very little passion compared to the fury displayed overseas, where Europeans are striving much harder to protect their pockets.

The reaction to the tough times on the two sides of the Atlantic is very different.

While in Europe they say that, “Unfortunately, you can't tell from this, but only with a mass struggle can there be a positive development for the benefit of workers,” in Washington, DC, they say, “It's important to the US that our country maintains the liberty and the freedom we had in the past.”

Countries across the globe are facing one of the worst economic disasters in recent history. 14 million Americans are unemployed; one in five people in the United Kingdom are living in poverty and more than 20 per cent of Spain's population cannot find work.

American economist of the New School, Max Fraad Wolff, believes, “The more unequal your society gets, the more unequal it usually continues to get, because when inequality reaches the levels like we see in America now, the sheer amount of wealth and income in the hands of the very wealthy means they can begin to buy political parties. They can buy whole segments of the House and Senate.”

So now world leaders have to decide what to cut and what to keep.

US President Barack Obama announced that, “We've identified substantial savings and in the days and weeks ahead we'll continue going through the budget line by line and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.”

But it looks like Europeans might be one step ahead of the Americans. Tens of thousands of Europeans stormed Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, in response to news that participating governments would be fined if they ran up deficits.

EU citizens are active because, “Especially for countries with debts it would be even more pressure on budget cuts, and this means cuts in the social arena, on the public infrastructure and the crisis will end up being paid for by the workers,” one protester claimed.

So the news that more jobs will be cut, pensions frozen and wages lowered fired up the masses.

Washington DC radio host Thom Hartmann acknowledged that, “There are austerity measures going on in Europe and the Europeans are pushing back really hard. The consequence of those is going to be to reduce the European lifestyle, but they're coming nowhere close to the absolute destruction of the middle class that we're seeing in the United States.”

So why have Americans not taken to the street over the country's unsettling economic statistics? Yes, there is the Tea Party movement and the new wave of progressives who have rallied in response to those Tea Partiers.


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Many say these Americans seem more concerned with getting their theoretical freedoms back, rather than actually getting back specific benefits they lost like wages or retirement funds, like what is happening in Europe.

Economist Max Fraad Wolff thinks “Americans and Europeans are in the street. What's kind of very odd is that Americans are in the street asking for less government help because they've given up on the government, the Europeans are in the street asking for more government help because they still believe that their situation can be made better by social spending.”

The solution to this probably lies within the military budget and it is probably time for the United States to look at its good friend the United Kingdom, which has proposed cutting its military spending by one fifth.

While some Americans believe now is not a good time to decrease funding for social programs, some say the US’s enormous defense budget of US$533 billion is the only logical place to make a cut.

But others say even though it might be a good idea, it is not going happen anytime soon.

“The problem is that, because our politics are corporate-owned in the United States, going to the defense budget, which is mostly outsourced to defense contractors, and say ‘We're going to cut into that’ – it's just not going to happen,” Thom Hartmann concluded.

Richard Wolff, an economist at The New School, believes that it is the Europeans’ decision to overcome their differences in a common struggle against austerity programs.

“I think in Europe for the last 30 years you’ve had a pretty vibrant trade union movement comparing to what we have in this country,” Wolff told RT. “You have active socialist, communist and other radical organizations that analyze what’s going on in an ongoing way with daily newspapers and daily media outlets. You have an educated population that can see these issues.”

“I think Americans see the issues, but have no organized basis after the long-term decline of our… left organizations. So it’s taking longer in the US to mobilize,” he added.

Watch video with Richard Wolff

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