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Voters in France and elsewhere in Europe sent a powerful message in opposition to austerity measures in Europe where the poor, working and middle class face the brunt of austerity policies to reduce deficits through lower spending and massive cuts in benefits and public services.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been president since 2007, became the first sitting French president in three decades not to seek re-election and lose. He was defeated on May 6 by socialist Francois Hollande, who promised new stimulus spending to boost the country’s economy, which now suffers from 10 percent unemployment and low growth.
“Austerity can no longer be inevitable,” shouted Hollande to a cheering crowd of supporters in his first post-election speech.
Sarkozy was the latest of more than half a dozen European leaders swept from office by voters angry over austerity measures. On the same day of Sarkozy’s defeat, Greece’s ruling coalition suffered major losses in parliament.
Since the European debt crisis several European governments have responded by imposing fiscal austerity programs that have cut social spending by as much as double digits.
The austerity measures have not worked. High unemployment and low growth continue while citizens suffer unprotected because of an increasingly decimated safety net.
American economist Paul Krugman said austerity measures have been tried in Europe and have not worked.
“What’s wrong with the prescription of spending cuts as the remedy for Europe’s ills?” asked Krugman in a column published May 7 in the New York Times. “One answer is that the confidence doesn’t exist -- that is, claims that slashing government spending would somehow encourage consumers and businesses to spend more have been overwhelmingly refuted by the experience of the past two years. So spending cuts in a depressed economy just make the depression deeper.”
In the United States, the nation’s deficit crisis has been cited by Republicans as a reason for proposed cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs.
Republicans in Congress are proposing drastic cuts in social spending while opposing raising any taxes on the rich and ending corporate tax loopholes. The GOP blueprint, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., calls for $5 trillion in social spending cuts over the coming decade.
The U.S. is economically better off than European countries that sought economic recovery through austerity measures. It would be unwise to follow a failed strategy.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)
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