It’s thumbs down on “austerity” in Europe

May Day 2012 made it clear once again that huge majorities around the world believe that the deep economic crisis enveloping the planet is actually a problem with a simple solution: put more money in the hands of the people.

The European solution of austerity has been totally discredited not just on that continent but by workers and their allies around the world.

“All you need do is look at what austerity has done to Europe,” said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, when she addressed the May Day rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square.

She was talking about the 11 percent official unemployment rate in the 17 European Union countries, which is almost a full percentage point higher than it was only a month ago.

“There is not enough demand in this economy,” Pulitzer prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said in a talk at the Economic Policy Institute yesterday. “We’ve conducted what is pretty damn close to a controlled experiment in what happens to an economy when conservative austerity policies are imposed during a recession. The experiment is in the euro zone, and the results are in. Austerity has been contractionary with a vengeance.”

Krugman said increasing the spending power of the majority is the only solution for what he now calls the “depression.”

“Never mind the arguments about structural economic problems that have disadvantaged the middle class and have put America at a global disadvantage.

“There is not enough demand in this economy.

“This is a problem that is not hard to fix, if it were not for the politics and the intellectual confusion,” Krugman said.

With unemployment raging out of control now all over a European continent that instead embraced austerity, eyes are on France and Greece which will hold national elections this weekend.

The polls now show that majorities in both those countries are ready to register their anger about the declining living standards and cuts in public services that have resulted from austerity.

Even before the weekend, however, voters are flocking to the polls in local elections today in the UK. Indications are they will massively reject the national austerity program of the Conservative government with Labor expected to gain 700 or more local council seats. There are 5,000 seats up for election.

Ed Milibrand, leader of the UK’s Labor Party, has been able to paint the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his party as bedmates of the rich and powerful. They have been able to take advantage of the unpopularity of Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Minister, for his ties to the right-wing media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. Hunt had functioned as a lobbyist for Murdoch’s News Corporation.

May Day 2012 and the elections in Europe this week testify to the fact that workers will resist being made the scapegoat for economic crisis they did not create.

Photo: Anti-austerity protests in Brussel in 2010. Stuart Lozowick // CC 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of