Monday, August 1, 2011


Austerity protest in Ireland

Austerity, austerity, austerity. What does it mean?
Merriam-Webster gives this definition: The quality or state of being austere.
Well that explains everything except what the hell "austere" means.
I looked that up to! Merriam Webster again: Stern and cold in appearance or manner.
Yes, yes, so they're describing me... I see. However, we're discussing economic austerity today, the kind that many European countries like Ireland and Greece are currently embracing (or being forced to embrace), as well as our own Congress and the President.
So, Wikipedia tells us: "In economics, austerity is a policy of deficit-cutting, lower spending, and a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided. Austerity policies are often used by governments to reduce their deficit spending while sometimes coupled with increases in taxes to pay back creditors to reduce debt.
"Austerity" was named the word of the year by Merriam-Webster in 2010 (determined by the volume of user hits at in response to current events and conditions; (2) Pragmatic, (3) Moratorium, (4) Socialism (interesting), (5) Bigot, (6) Doppelganger, (7) Shellacking, (8) Ebullient, (9) Dissident, and (10) Furtive).
Let's carry on. Our nation, the United States of America is currently fixated on reducing the deficit (the discrepancy between the amount of money the government spends and what it takes in with revenues, such as taxes each year. At the present time the federal government is spending more than it's taking in (and no wonder, two unnecessary wars are exceptionally expensive, so are unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy, and less revenue in taxes due to high unemployment and a weakened economy), so the nation is running a deficit rather than a surplus. It has been running a deficit for quite a while, ever since George W. Bush came into office in 2001, ten years now, almost eleven. This adds up over time, and what has the Republicans and the Tea Baggers all riled up is the accumulated amount of all those years of deficit spending (borrowing), which is called the United States public debt (PD). So when you hear in the media about the conservatives wanting to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, what they're really talking about is reducing the public debt of the country which is quite formidable. It now stands at about 14.46 trillion dollars. Now as I'm sure you know, a trillion is represented numerically as 1,000,000,000,000. A one with twelve zeros behind it. You could also say a trillion equals a million million. It's certainly more than I'll ever make. Below is a picture of a trillion dollars.

See that guy standing at the left hand corner of all those pallets of cash. Each one of those double stacked pallets represents 100 million dollars (do you think they'd miss just one?)... American. Multiply all of those pallets by 14.5 and you'll have all of the money the U.S. currently owes (fortunately it owes most of the money to itself).
That's about 98.6% of the countries annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or rather the public debt equals 98.6% of the total value of all of the goods and services produced in the United States during the past year.
With an estimated current population of 311,035,6821, each and every one of us owes about $46,149.42. Babies too!
I'll take cashier checks or money orders only. Come on, cough it up!
Our public debt stands as the twelfth highest in the world.
Japan's PD is over 200% of it's GDP, yet it's unemployment rate is 4.7% (compared to 9.2% in the U.S.), and two out of the three major Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSRO's, Fitch, Moodys, and Standard and Poor's) rated it's economy as stable (AA-) before last March's earthquake and tsunami. Despite the unprecedented costs associated with the clean up and rebuilding of the affected ares (which paradoxically may strengthen the local economies with increased job growth), Japan plans to decrease it's indebtedness through budget consolidation, social welfare and tax reforms. Due to it's lower credit rating, Japan may be forced into "austerity like" measures, cutting pension benefits while increasing employment insurance payments, but nothing as drastic as the cuts in social programs as the Republicans would have it here in the U.S. Why? Because Japan actually cares about it's citizens.
The austerity plan for the United States, if the Republicans have their way, will include no tax increases whatsoever on large corporations and those making $250,000 a year, or more. No higher taxes at all. No they want to lower the PD through spending cuts only. And what will they cut? What is commonly known as "entitlements," (the word entitlement refers to a notion or belief that one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit. This is hardly true. Social security is called an entitlement. It is not. It is an insurance fund that workers pay into through their payroll taxes throughout their working lives. Social security is a promise by the government to pay back that money when workers reach a certain age, or become disabled) social security, medicare, medicaid, programs for the poor and seniors, infrastructure (the Republicans have something against high speed rail systems, probably because they don't wish to give President Obama any credit at all for building such successful and efficient transportation networks), emergency first responders... oh hell, they want to cut spending for everything (especially the Tea Baggers).
Will members of Congress join along in the "shared sacrifice," themselves by reducing their own salaries, that conforms to the spirit of austerity that they are forcing on the American people?
Nope. H.R. 204, was introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last January, three days before she was shot in the head by a madman in Arizona. Fortunately she survived and is in the process of recovery. Her bill though has languished, having not even been considered by the House of Representatives.
To briefly sum up, austerity measures that the Republicans would foist upon the American working class include trillions of dollars (over ten years typically) in cuts to the budget in social safety net programs that affect the middle and lower classes, seniors, women and the poor. They vehemently refuse to increase revenue (please remember, there are only two ways to balance a budget, from your own personal home budget, to that of a nation, and that is to either cut spending (buy or use less things or services), or increase income (such as in taxes). A mixture of both is ideal) under any circumstances, even though the tax increases proposed will only affect the wealthiest corporations and individuals.
They are protecting corporations that are making billions in profits annually while the rest of the country is in economic misery. They are protecting corporations that are not creating jobs even though the Republican rational for not increasing their taxes is that they are the "job providers." They are protecting corporations that are indeed, showing little allegiance to this country other than to suck it's economy dry. It is protecting corporations that send American jobs to China and India.
The Republicans are protecting corporations, and the richest among us, that created the economic crisis to begin with, which has seemingly made austerity measures necessary, not just in this country, but around the world.

To be continued

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