Note: this is about the European debt crisis, but the parallels with the USA are obvious
"Bild" is impressed with Greek reform efforts
Until now mass circulation daily Bild has distinguished itself by ridiculing or humiliating the Greeks in its reporting on the country's crisis. But yesterday's announcement of deep cuts in retirement benefits and the number of government officials seems to have impressed the editors of newspaper. "Fewer retirement benefits! Fewer officials! Now the Greeks really have to bleed" is Bild's headline against the backdrop of the Acropolis under the sunset's light.
Thrifty Northerners are offended by corrupt Southern free riders and want payback! (Replace "Northerner" by "Teapartiers" and "Southern free riders" with "welfare queens" or similar and you get the idea) - that article is a good example of what's been happening for a while now in terms of how the crisis is perceived - the crisis is no longer about economics (see here a list of potential solutions to the crisis) but about something else: a group smugly thinks they're working hard and weathering the crisis and sees no reason to help those that are struggling, seeing them as lazy or cheats or both - even if the result of such policies is to make things worse for everybody.
Some would call it morality, some would call it simply politics, but this is certainly not about rational decision-making.
But isn't it? I'm pretty sure most Germans would be ok with the solution to the current crisis which comes through higher wages for them. Their sense of righteousness at having sacrificed and thinking that these sacrifices are going to be taken advantage of by the profiteering Greeks is being whipped and promoted and inflated for a very good reason: it's a distraction from the real profiteering taking place: that of the investor class abusing the middle class in multiple ways and not sharing the fruits of growth anymore.
As I wrote a while back:
Germans should be pissed off (i) at their politicians for squeezing their wages to create profits for multinationals and their owners, (ii) at their banks for blowing off that money in stupid casino bets in US subprime and Spanish real estate, (iii) at their politicians for bailing out the banks at no political or practical cost to bank managers and bondholders, (iv) at their elites for blaming Greek laziness for the stagnant wages.
There is a "euro" crisis only because bond investors have taken the euro hostage, and claim the worst will happen if Greece defaults - and they've managed to impose sacrifice on the hapless Greek population and the other European taxpayers in order not to take any hit on their reckless investments. But this is not necessary (we could let Greece default, let investor take their losses and nationalise banks that fail as a result) - indeed it is economically catastrophic, as we enter a vicious circle of deflation and recession, but it can be made to look satisfying to those who can be encouraged to feel smug about this, because they get others to suffer more than them.
Again: replace "Germans by "middle class Americans," "bankers and investors" by "bankers and investors", "Greece" by "DoD" and "Greeks" by "Social Security recipients" and you get the idea...
In other words: propaganda works. And as usual it works by tapping into our worst instincts.