Thousands of European workers have come out today to protest austerity measures their governments have taken to combat debt. From the pension cuts to tax hikes, the Europeans are far from happy and have no problem showing it.
In economic terms, Wikipedia tells us that “austerity is when a government reduces its spending and/or increases user fees and taxes to pay back creditors. Austerity is usually required when a government’s fiscal deficit spending is believed to be unsustainable.” That is precisely what has all of Europe in such a panic.
In Brussels, Belgium, the European Union headquarters, police barricaded storefronts early Wednesday where labor leaders hope to round up 100,000 people from 30 countries. Belgium isn’t the only place with protests stemming from austerity measures. Strikes are also being held in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, Italy, Poland, Serbia, and Ireland.
Because of the financial crisis, millions of Europeans lost their jobs with many more layoffs to come as austerity plans come to fruition. Ireland is feeling the crunch and hit its highest unemployment rate in 16 years. John Monks, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, warned:
There is a great danger that the workers are going to be paying the price for the reckless speculation that took place in financial markets. You really got to reschedule these debts so that they are not a huge burden on the next few years and cause Europe to plunge down into recession.
The overall sentiment is the same everywhere. Bernard Thibault, leader of the CGT French trade union, explained his position,
We’re here to say ‘no’ to the multiplying number of austerity plans, whether adopted by governments or by European institutions.
If only that kind of thing worked in the United States!