Monday, April 23, 2012

Europe's 99% isn't taking it anymore

Europeans are mad as hell about the austerity forced on them by the 1%. They're protesting in the streets and kicking their governments out of office. In Iceland, a jury just now convicted the former prime minister of negligence leading up to the global financial crisis. (He won't be punished, though.)

U.S. policy makers should take a hard look at how those ticked-off Europeans are fighting against the needless suffering caused by their financial elites. Especially as new figures on Medicare and Social Security will be released today. America's 1% would just love to get rid of these popular and efficient social programs so vital to the health of our economy. They should keep an eye on Europe.
In the Czech Republic on Saturday, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the government's budget cuts. The Truth is Now reports,
Tens of thousands of Czechs have taken to the streets in the capital city of Prague in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations since the fall of communism to protest against austerity measures. 
Unions, pensioners, student associations and others infuriated by austerity cuts took part in a protest rally on Saturday, chanting “Enough is enough.” The protesters demanded the government’s resignation over reforms and budget cuts and called for early parliamentary elections as they blame the country’s budget deficit on capitalism, the government and spending cuts. 
Unions have promised more protests and civil disobedience to paralyze the government unless their legitimate demands are met.
The Dutch government fell after the Netherlands' populist party rejected more austerity. France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost the first round of elections to a Socialist who opposes his severe budget-cutting. According to Bloomberg,
Europe’s backlash against austerity gained momentum, in a challenge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s budget-cutting prescriptions for resolving the debt crisis. 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy lost the first round of his re-election bid and a revolt against extra spending cuts in the traditionally budget-conscious Netherlands propelled Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition toward an early breakup. 
Together with anti-austerity rumblings in a campaign for elections in Greece, the shift in grass-roots sentiment at the heart of Europe generated fresh doubts about the German-driven strategy for getting to grips with the two-year-old crisis.
In Iceland, former prime minister Geir Haarde was convicted today on one count of negligence in the run-up to the global financial collapse. Iceland's three biggest banks collapsed, and Haarde was the only world leader to be prosecuted. According to Foreign Policy,
The case against him was based partly on the charge that he had ignored the economic recommendations of a government committee in 2006. The notion of prosecuting a politician for ignoring sound advice seems pretty odd in the U.S. political context, though under the principle of "ministerial responsibility" that, in theory at least, prevails in parliamentary systems, ministers are held responsible for the actions of their subordinates, even if they are not solely to blame. 
Of course, criminal liability for an act of mere incompetence is another thing entirely. As I wrote in 2010, Haarde was charged under a century-old Icelandic law, which has never before been invoked, that "stipulates that ministers can be held responsible not just for actions that put the country in danger, but for not taking action to prevent that danger."