“I think of how many, and not just young people, are unemployed, many times due to a purely economic conception of society, which seeks selfish profit, beyond the parameters of social justice. I wish to extend an invitation to solidarity to everyone, and I would like to encourage those in public office to make every effort to give new impetus to employment.”Strong words from the Pope, a mere human who I am not a fan of whatsoever, but who has undeniable influence over numerous people in the world, especially in the Americas and European periphery. Top austerity proponent Paul Ryan, for example, is a practicing Catholic, among other Republican "fiscal conservatives". Perhaps the conduit to their God on Earth telling Republicans that spending cut policies are the wrong way to go will be their break point? I'm not holding my breath for a change of heart, but they've already disregarded the academic debunking of austerity, so maybe if their God figure is telling them, they'll actually listen.
There's a lot to loathe about the Roman Catholic Church and the joke of a position the Pope represents (support of fascism, inaction/conspiracy to cover up child rape worldwide, stupid birth control and social policies), but this is an important speech from a man who has secular influence on public policymakers in areas hit hardest by destructive austerity (and in the US, at risk of facing more). Combined with the hail of evidence both academic/theoretical and policy/empirical, austerity is basically a dead ideology.
His speech today came amidst protests for May Day, or International Workers' Day, all around the world. The mobilization of workers on this special day has been particularly strong in the West, especially Madrid and Greece and other parts of Europe.
The tide is shifting, and in the eyes of many worldwide, now we've got God on our side in the fight against austerity. The Pope's speech and May Day protests today come on the heels of news of a flagship austerity study from two Harvard economists being debunked by a public university PhD student, delivering a blow to right-wingers across the West. Additionally, the IMF and Eurozone have been processing new data on the multipliers of the effects of public spending cuts (finding that austerity leads to HIGHER debt/gdp ratios -- talk about counterproductive). Finally, now we have "divine intervention" telling the last remaining austerity proponents in Europe and the US to cut the crap and end austerity measures and take action in the public sector to create jobs.
The state of the movement against austerity is good, much stronger than in the past couple years. We've tried the right-wing philosophy of "belt-tightening" and it has failed, making things worse. And now there is copious amounts of evidence against austerity in public experiments and academic research. It's time for a change of policy and understanding of macroeconomics in the North Atlantic.
More and more everyday people are breaking through the propaganda of the assorted Pete Peterson debt-fear-mongering austerity-lovers, and beginning to truly grasp that leaving people unemployed is more economically destructive than any imagined debt problems. Since 2008, in the United States we have lost about $4.5 trillion in national income due to insufficient demand just because of a lack of will to produce currency. Similarly, the human cost in Europe is in the trillions of euros.
Acknowledgement and realization of the problem is only the beginning. But now nations must seize their monetary sovereignty and regain control from transnational corporations which are breaking down national labor markets and exercising abnormal control over the political process. Europe is nearing a breaking point, but the United States can learn from their problems and not disingenuously cut public spending because of false analogeis to households. As Columbia Professor Dr. Jeffrey Sachs explains (paraphrasing): with extremely low inflation in advanced economies, coupled with high unemployment, it's inexcusable to avoid stronger fiscal and monetary stimulus to reach full employment and rectify rampant inequality.
However, this change won't be easy. Germany is still representing the inertia against the anti-austerity push, and steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that austerity won't work in the Eurozone. State-side, Republicans will be running the House until 2014, and probably until 2016, and they're fixated on spending cuts and refuse to take action to reduce inequality. But we're getting more and more hope in the battle, and eventually, something's got to give.
I will close with these words from Vatican Radio that were quite touching:
A society that “does not pay a just wage”, that “does not give work” to people; a society that “that only looks to its balance books, that only seeks profit” is unjust and goes against God. It is work - not power, not money, not culture – that gives men and women a sense of dignity. By stripping them of work, society strips them of their God given dignity.This is one day where I can say, as an atheist, that I agree with the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church's stance!
Happy May Day!