OK

Wherein I bring up three topics

  1. Austerity.
  1. Argentina.
  1. Alfonsin. President Raul Alfonsin.

In an attempt to capture some sense of why we - as in all Americans - vehemently disagree on what the challenges are, what the solutions are, and who is right to be attempting any solutions at all.

Because we are afraid to acknowledge just how dire our peril has been for some time, and how little room there is to move even when we wish to move in the same direction.

And because we are desperate and afraid, and distrustful, we don't all want to move the same way.

This is not a bash piece, nor a paean to the President, nor a statement of existential despair, nor a harbinger of hope.

It's just...it's just a DKOS diary.

Austerity is something of a four-letter word in development circles. The definition from the One True Wiki sums up why:

In economics, austerity is when a national government reduces its spending, to pay back creditors. Austerity is usually required when a government's fiscal deficit spending is felt to be unsustainable.

Which ours is.

Development projects, welfare programs and other social spending are common areas of spending for cuts.

What cuts are not made at the expense of social spending will have to come from other areas of public spending.. or be passed on to other governments - state and local ones. I hear New Jersey, for example, is reassessing property values and in effect raising property taxes - under a Republican governor. Get used to this pattern. The city of Charlotte, NC is always finding opportunities to raise sales taxes.

In many countries, austerity measures have been associated with short-term standard of living declines until economic conditions improved once fiscal balance was achieved (such as in Canada under Jean Chrétien, and Spain under Felipe González).

Short-term standard of living declines. You're living them.

Private banks, or institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), may require that a country pursues an 'austerity policy' if it wants to re-finance loans that are about to come due.

A significant amount of the U.S. public debt is always 'about to come due'. Guessed who peaced out of the U.S. public debt refi business last week? China. And since almost all new mortgage originations starting in 2009 are made directly against the U.S. public balance sheet, guess what else? Banks are either about to start assuming credit risk themselves with no public (read: Chinese) backing - or just go straight to Beijing themselves for backup. of course, the problem there is China has its own problems. The other question you have to ask is, unlike the United States in decades past, if the Chinese will refrain from engaging in direct political influence to protect its collateral (including many houses purchased this year and in years past) and other real assets on U.S. soil.

It's a good thing the Supremes did not vote  in favor of Citizens United expansively, else that might be a real worry. (Checks universe location again. Oops) Looks like I had that backwards! SCOTUS did open the floodgates to direct foreign influence after all! How awkward!

The government may be asked to stop issuing subsidies or to otherwise reduce public spending. When the IMF requires such a policy, the terms are known as 'IMF conditionalities'.

It does not look like we are here - yet. We will know more in three years.

Austerity programs are frequently controversial, as they have an impact on the poorest segments of the population and often lead to a wider separation between the rich and poor.

Don't hold your breath hoping the wealth gap will be fixed. It's just not happening. Being already marginal and weak, the poor are easiest to kick to the curb when they going gets tough. Besides, they're already poor. They're used to it. The problem with a sustained austerity program is that people who never considered themselves at risk of poverty see that risk of becoming poor climb toward - then past - 100 percent. And they do not like this turn of events.

Many such persons - just above poor, and getting there fast - are presently non-Hispanic whites, who in recent decades trend Republican in their voting. Guess what's happening? Tea parties. Even persons in this demographic who are NOT  conservative and into 'bagging are desperate and pissed and receptive to appeals that, if they just take another chance on the Republican Party...well. You get the idea.

In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.

Perhaps that should be rephrased for applicability to the American case -  ....populations are forced to repay the debts of past wastrels.

And those leaders who follow such scoundrels.. theirs is often a thankless task - to ask sacrifice of the already-suffering, to ask the afflicted to be forgiving and the mighty to curb their contempt for the people.

They are rarely honored in their life of service.. or even their lives.

Such is the plight of saints. Such is also the fate of elected leaders who, capturing the hope of the many, are forced to weather challenge after challenge from all fronts.

Not so long ago, there was a land far to the south named Argentina. A man named Raul Alfonsin http://en.wikipedia.org/... who represented the return of the people to power in that country.

He didn't do everything. On many fronts, he could make very little headway. He faced hostile press, infighting, rumbles of coup from the right, rebellion from the left, cries for justice, for financial relief, for bread.

Ultimately, he left office.

In time, he passed away of natural causes.

He had a gift for words. One supposes the original Spanish must be something else, for the meaning of several phrases attributed to him are moving, indeed:

With democracy we eat, with democracy we educate, with democracy we heal.

....

Ideas go on, men don’t. Men succeed or fail, but it is the ideas that transform themselves into torches that keep democracy alive.

We here in the America of 2010 live in an age of thankless tasks. Few - perhaps none at all - fully understand the depth of our diminishment in the way of the fruitless wars, the evisceration of our institutions of knowledge, of law, of justice, of becoming a society where the will to help for the good of all is considered morally offensive and grounds for rebellion... and cause to compare the plight of the poor with that of stray animals. What we as a society do with stray animals is left without mention. It does not need mentioning at all.

So here we are, inheritors of horrible problems brought on us - or simply blown off - by the Republicans. Problems that, should the Republicans return to power in 2010 and 2012, will be amplified (and ignored yet again).

And perhaps one thinks - these problems need solutions. We need someone to do something, anything - even if it is to make problems appear to go away for a while.

And some people, some of your friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues and fellow citizens WILL vote on this basis - to try anything and anyone new that preserves them from the need to sacrifice, to forgive, to refrain from contempt, to be more generous...

... to change.

For change, needful change most of all, is a thankless task and its advocates are rarely well treated in their lives of service - or even their lives. Many lose their lives for what they believe in.

As for the example of Alfonsin and Argentina - many, many lost their lives in far darker times, in far worse circumstances, with far fewer tools of knowledge, of organization, of wealth, of trust and hope than you - you online readers, you progressives, you independents, you occasional conservatives visiting this very diary today.

You might not like the pace and form and personalities of change that are present today.

But you have no cause to let history happen to you without comment or contribution.

Originally posted to cskendrick on Tue Jan 26, 2010 at 09:27 AM PST.

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