Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tighten Your Belts, Please. Austerity Bumps In The Next Few Years.

Atrios links to this story about the economic tragedy that is today's Greece:
It has been a common secret among PE teachers for some time now that they don't expect pupils to do PE any more, because many of them are underfed and get dizzy.

They need to be discreet, as these underprivileged children don't wish to be exposed to their peers. In my previous school, the teachers arranged among themselves to give the school canteen some money, so that the canteen could give the child a snack, without embarrassing the child.

However, this was not enough. In many schools today, it is the parents' associations who come together, gather food and discreetly arrange to allocate it to those families of the school who are suffering. In co-operation with the teachers, they know which children in the school are hungry and in need of help. Again, they try to do it as discreetly as possible.

"Many families, suddenly left without work, are in shock and there is nowhere to turn. Social services are collapsing. They are not professional beggars. They are ordinary people like you and me, suddenly left with nothing. I know one area, where schools have specialised in what they gather: 1st primary school gather rice and legumes, 2nd vegetables, 3rd meat and chicken etc.

The nasty aspect of "shared austerity" is that it is never shared equally and whatever sacrifices the wealthy have to make do not amount to hunger.

But even if the sacrifices were shared equally their impact would be catastrophic on those who earlier were just hanging on to some kind of a life by a finger nail or two. It is the frailest among us who suffer the most under these austerity fits, unless the policies are very, very carefully crafted to avoid that very outcome.

When state governments in the United States gut their budgets, the kinds of things to go are the kinds of things which affect the weakest among us. The developmentally handicapped, the mentally ill, the families with multiple health problems, the frail elderly and the poorest children. These are groups who cannot fight back very efficiently and who do not have large enough of a voting bloc to defend them.

In exchange for all this, those state governments offer lower taxes to the firms and tax breaks to the so-called job creators.

This is morally distasteful, given that these groups of the neediest among us never caused the economic recession in Greece or elsewhere. But it is also bad economic policy, in particular when combined with stripping the schools and civil service of jobs that pay enough to live on. Who will be left to buy all those goods and services? Why would the so-called "job creators" create jobs if there are no viable markets for the final products?