Conversation at the bar:
“Did you see those mass demonstrations in Madrid? And the cops were brutal. But the people kept coming. ” says the Anarchist Rancher Gal.
“Them people ought to accept austerity,” says Neighbor Guy.
“What is austerity?” ARG says.
Deer in headlights.
“Let me help you out. You work in the county clerk's office. It means telling you that you can’t retire, they are reducing your salary, and when you do retire, there will be no pension money for you. Meanwhile the wealthy (in this case, the Spanish wealthy) have enough money to pay back all the debt. They think the people in those Madrid streets are turds. (pause) Them people are you. “
Further reading for next week’s friendly austerity discussion at the bar: Please read Counterpunch where Tom Gill writes “Europe is Revolting”.)
Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece don’t need an international rescue. Their own ruling classes have more than enough to bail their own nations out. In Italy, private wealth stands at 8.6 trillion euros, according to the Bank of Italy, or more than four times the country’s public debt mountain of around two trillion euros. If the wealth of the top 50% richest were taxed at a rate of 2%, that could raise more than 100 billion euros annually. A moderate tax on the top 1% could bring up to €15 billion annually into the state coffers. And then there’s the hundreds of billions in dodged taxes, facilitated by tax amnesties and tax havens that cash-strapped governments across the currency bloc like to talk much about, but don’t ever shut down.
And how about those wars?
Take Italy again and international missions like Afghanistan that are in place in the name of peace and humanity but are instead resulting in death and destruction. Withdrawing from these commitments would not only save lives abroad but save Italians €a tidy 616 million, according to campaign group Sbilanciamoci!, money that could be spent on improving their quality of life. Taking the axe to the military budget could yield €3 billion.