Saturday, May 5, 2012

Election Season

Tomorrow there will be elections in France, Greece, Italy, and Germany.  In November, there will be elections in the United States.  Not everybody may see just how those elections are interconnected, but if they don't, at the very least, they ought to try. The European voting should be seen as a plebiscite on austerity, the modus operandus of the European Union since the financial debacle.

The Italian elections are local but, like last week's local elections in the UK, may be an indicator of how the electorate is swinging.  The elections in Germany are for the Schleswig-Holstein region, and have the potential to push Angela Merkel out of power if the Social Democrats and the Greens do well and are able to form a coalition.

There is a lot more attention, of course, to the national elections in France and Greece.  Polling shows Francois Hollande, the Socialist, leading Nicolas Sarkozy.  France, unlike a bunch of other European nations, isn't quite in official recession yet — but the handwriting is on the wall.  Hollande says he wants European action to stimulate growth, and it seems the French populace is responding to that message.  The question, at the moment, is what kind of winning margin he can achieve (assuming he wins.)  Nobody knows which way the National Front (the Tea Party of France) will turn, if they bother to vote at all.  It would be very amusing is they went for Hollande.

The Greeks have sufficient parties and political schisms so that it is possible that no coalition government might be formed.  Most of Europe is hoping that the socialist Pasok party and the conservative New Democrats (makes you think of Clinton) gather enough of the vote to form a coalition government (!) that can pander to the Germans enough to keep Greece in the Eurozone — but the situation is really crazy.

At the moment, the United States too is in austerity.  The (inadequate) Obama stimulus has run its course; the Fed is standing pat; the states continue to dump cops, teachers, motor vehicle clerks, etc.  According to the most recent figures, job growth appears to be slowing.

The Republican answer to this is more austerity — albeit, unlike the Europeans, Republicans refuse to raise taxes (especially on the very rich), and hope to "balance the budget" on the backs of the poor.  The example of Europe sliding down the economic drain means nothing to the corporate elite, the rentier class, and the rest of the plutocrats.  Hell, it won't hurt them.

The vast majority of America (including Democrats) consists of economic illiterates.  Pointing out that so-called "balancing the budget" by decimating government is exactly what failed in Europe will do little good.  I really hope Obama has a plan — however shifty and devious — to overcome the stupidity of the American people.  Needless to say, I also hope that, somewhere in his heart, there is a little "Old" Democrat who will do the decent thing when he no longer has to worry about re-election.

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