Saturday, September 14, 2013

Inequality today

(US and Europe edition)

It’s grown to historic proportions. Here are a few items:

Democracy Now! interviews Robert Reich about inequality in the US and his new film, Inequality for All, out September 27:

Here’s a video from last year with some good graphics illustrating specifically wealth inequality in the US (I don’t agree with their take, but it’s well made and informative):

And here’s a new report from Oxfam, “A Cautionary Tale: The true cost of austerity and inequality in Europe,” which argues that “If left unchecked, austerity policies could put between 15 and 25 million more Europeans at risk of poverty by 2025.”

One major issue I have with the report summary is with this section:
The only people benefiting from austerity are the richest 10% of Europeans who alone have seen their wealth rise. Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK – countries that are most aggressively pursuing austerity measures - will soon rank amongst the most unequal in the world if their leaders don’t change course. For example, the gap between rich and poor in the UK and Spain could become the same as in South Sudan or Paraguay,” added Alonso.

Three years on, leading proponents of austerity such as the International Monetary Fund and many respected economists are starting to recognise that these measures have not only failed to achieve their objective to shrink government debt and budget deficits, but have also increased inequality and stunted economic growth.
I realize that people working as consultants and organizations hoping to maintain decent relations and open communication with the IMF in the hopes of influencing its direction feel the need to be politic when discussing its actions. But please, stop with these absurdly naïve representations of the knowledge and motives of the people behind austerity plans. Refer to their stated objectives if you must, but don’t encourage people to believe those are genuine.

The IMF has been imposing these sorts of austerity measures for decades around the world. They know better than anyone what the outcomes are going to be in terms of equality, human well being, and politics as well as deficit reduction and economic growth. Even the most blinkered ideologue amongst them – and they seem to have a never-ending supply – can’t deny this obvious reality. It’s impossible that they’re only now “starting to recognise” these results. Impossible.

Their history of continued insistence on these policies, despite decades of data showing their “failure” to achieve their alleged objectives, demonstrates clearly that those aren’t in fact their objectives. They wouldn’t have continued for decades to pursue policies that weren’t successful in some important way. The “leading proponents of austerity” know whose interests they serve, and it’s not the people of the countries where these plans are being imposed.

There’s no reason to expect austerity plans to have consequences any different than they’re having in Europe. As the authors of the report themselves note, there was no reason to expect it going in. It’s irrational to think that the austerity czars didn’t know that. Social movements can’t afford to be diverted by these gullible narratives. They can’t afford to waste time on efforts to educate the people imposing austerity measures. They can’t afford to become complacent, thinking that surely now the IMF is recognizing its “failure” and will have to change course.

No comments:

Post a Comment