Beggar-nations 238

Socialist economics don’t work. The welfare states of Europe are falling into ruin one after another. Greece, Ireland, Portugal have become beggar-nations.

Now Spain.

Soeren Kern writes at PajamasMedia:

Throngs of Spanish youth have gathered in more than 150 cities across Spain to protest skyrocketing unemployment, cutbacks to social welfare benefits, and rampant corruption among Spain’s political elite. …

The Spanish protesters have been inspired [perhaps] by the pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, and are using social media networks to coordinate the demonstrations. …

The largest protests have been in Madrid … Protests are under way in other major Spanish cities, including Barcelona, Bilbao, Granada, Palma de Mallorca, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Valencia, Vigo, and Zaragoza. The protestors have vowed to remain mobilized at least through the May 22 elections

Up until now, anti-government protests in Spain have been relatively few and far between, partly because of the strong ties that labor unions have with the ruling Socialists. But Spain’s nascent youth democracy movement is a spontaneous grassroots groundswell that is not left versus right but rather young versus old. The youth movement is highly inclusive and its members — who represent all of Spain’s socio-economic classes — have expressed disgust with both the governing Socialists and the main opposition conservative Popular Party. …

Corruption in Spain is endemic and politicians from both major parties have been implicated in scandals in all of Spain’s 48 provinces. …

Spain’s ailing economy too is a symptom of much broader problem, including the inability of the social welfare economic model to create jobs, as well as a highly paternalistic labor market that benefits an older generation seeking to preserve the status quo. Although Spain’s economic crisis has affected workers in all age groups, youth unemployment is more than double the overall jobless rate of 21.2 percent, the highest in the industrialized world. Around half of Spain’s youth are unemployed and the other half that is working often does so under highly exploitative employment conditions. …

Opinion polls forecast devastating losses for the Socialists. … Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced on April 2 that he would not stand for a third term in general elections scheduled for March 2012. …

But all major parties in Europe now are socialist, no matter what they call themselves, and an Opposition coming into power is unlikely to make any difference.

Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, stands to make huge gains in the elections … But after eight years in the opposition and after many months on the campaign trail, he has yet to say how he plans to reverse Spain’s economic fortunes if he finally becomes prime minister …

And Richard Fernandez reports and comments, also at PajamasMedia:

When Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took power seven years ago, he and his Socialist Workers Party set out to perfect the welfare state in Spain. The goal was to equal— or even surpass — lavish social protections that have long been the rule in Spain’s Western European neighbors.

True to his Socialist principles and riding an economic boom, Zapatero raised the minimum wage and extended health insurance to cover everything from sniffles to sex-changes. He made scholarships available for all. Young adults got rent subsidies called “emancipation” money. Mothers got $3,500 for the birth of a child, toddlers attended free nurseries and the elderly won stipends to finance nursing care. … [But his] main concern in his second term has become hacking away at government spending to preserve Spain’s credit rating. The icon of socialism just concluded a pact with labor unions and business leaders to freeze pensions, push back the retirement age from 65 to 67, trim union bargaining rights, cut civil servants’ pay by 5 percent — including his own — and suspend the childbirth bonus. The alternative, he warned, was bankruptcy. …

Now Zapatero is facing a revolt from his angry left, from the millions of socialist believers and youth — many of whom are unemployed — who were promised something for nothing and now feel betrayed.

They insist on getting “something for nothing”. They want “free “ health care, fat pensions from an early retirement age, rent subsidies, childbirth bonuses, scholarships for all – and full employment. But where will the money come from? To whom can any Spanish government turn? To Germany? Germans feel they’ve given more than enough to failed Eurostates (that shoud never have been allowed to join the Eurozone in the first place). To the International Monetary Fund (an agency that redistributes wealth on a global scale)?

Greece had hopes of getting a hand-out from the IMF. Its erstwhile head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was sympathetic to its importuning. But he is being held under house arrest in New York, charged with sexual assault, and has lost his powerful position, so the Greek government may hold out its trembling hands for alms in vain.

But even had their champion been at liberty to promote a second bailout, there was no guarantee that Greece would not default eventually and descend into social unrest. …

In Athens, home to almost half of Greece’s 11 million-strong population, the signs of austerity – and poverty – are everywhere: in the homeless and hungry who forage through municipal rubbish bins late at night; in the cash-strapped pensioners who pick up rejects at the street markets that sell fruit and vegetables; in the shops now boarded and closed and in the thousands of ordinary Greeks who can no longer afford to take family outings or regularly eat meat.

There were economists who could have told the European politicians that their socialist policies would bankrupt them. Could have and did. But government after government would not heed the warnings. Now they are learning the hard way, to their shock and distress, that what has been proved unworkable in theory doesn’t work in practice.

Is there any point in hoping that the American Left is taking note?

Zapatero’s problems are a preview of the fate which awaits a left-wing politician who promises to lower the level of the oceans and winds up raising the price of gas.