Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Cost of Austerity

Austerity, while popular with rightwing pols, can wreak havoc on a society.  Greece today is austerity's punching bag.

Austerity inevitably translates into cutbacks in services, even essential services.  In Greece this has resulted in a one-year increase in HIV/AIDS infections among IV drug users of 1250%.   And the rest of the population isn't getting off easy either as malaria makes a comeback in epidemic proportions.

As the public finds private healthcare increasingly unaffordable, creating a 24% increase in demand for public healthcare, the public healthcare budget has been slashed by 40%.   The head of Doctors without Borders, Greece, Reveka Papadopoulos, says the entire health system is rapidly deteriorating.

In Greece and other debt-ridden Euro states, the austerity crackdown is stimulating the rise of extremist left and rightwing movements riding the tide of public unrest.


Matt said...

If you are scared about what's happening in Greece politically, take a gander at Hungary's Jobbik Party!!

The Mound of Sound said...

I've just begun following Hungary's descent, Matt. I wonder if we're heading for the emergency of a NEU, Northern European Union, that jettisons southern and eastern Europe and leaves them to fend for themselves.

Owen Gray said...

Something tells me that historians will look back at what's happening in Greece as another example of The March of Folly.

Sam Gunsch said...

Largely from reading JR Saul, I'm aware that the same boiling kind of stew of economic fears, day-to-day hardship and political upheaval made it possible for Mussolini to build fascism on the political ideology of corporatism. This foundational social dysfunction + corporatism provided Hitler with his opening.

The privations of the average citizen are not yet near the 1920's/1930's experience, is my sense. Dunno' really.

But I find the parallels are very alarming.

One of the EU appointments in Greece last fall was openly a member of a fascist political group in his university years.

BTW...again most of this history of corporatism providing the intellectual respectability and underpinnings for Mussolini's fascism, I've found in John Ralston Saul's Unconscious Civilization and other books,and from books and articles in the bibliographies, footnotes of his books.

Probably readers here are familiar with this history and Saul's accounts and analysis...just mentioning.

The Mound of Sound said...

Owen, Sam, I suppose I take this personally given the experience of my Dad and my uncles in WWII. Theirs was supposed to have been the horrifying second, and final, act of the Great War. I know from talking with them at length that they truly believed they had finished this. Yet we found it much too easy to drift from conservatism to the radical political, economic, military and religious right that has descended on us today like a contagion. I wish I was half my age and had the strength and opportunity to fight this back.

Anonymous said...

Another cost of austerity is a larger amount of unpayable debt.

Wait, what? Isn't austerity for fixing the debt problem?

Under austerity, the economy is slowing and the money supply isn't growing. There is already more debt globally than can ever be repaid. Austerity just makes it harder to keep ahead with nominal growth. It also potentially transfers some debt away from the government to other parties. (ex those no longer receiving necessary services and those getting taxed more)

Public credit for private profit is such a screwed up way to have an economic system.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon. You're right. Blue collar Greeks, those who did pay their taxes, have a natural resentment to the affluent who were able to dodge their tax obligations and contributed to their country's fiscal fiasco. Yet it's the rich who can simply walk away. They're relatively immune to austerity measures which is why they're exacted on the working classes. It's unfair as hell, sure, and every nutjob aspiring to raise an extremist movement knows how powerful that resentment can be when it's harnessed. Oppression, inequality and injustice generate resentment and fear that can easily fuel extremism.