This was the scene that greeted us at Malaga International Airport as we began our journey to the States. Several union federations had banded together to protest cuts to airport security jobs -- I can't say whether we are seeing the equivalent of the TSA or airport employees generally. It was polite and peaceful but exemplary of the pain and sporadic resistance we saw all over Spain, one of the countries most hurt by the Great Recession.
Everywhere on our trip we saw the effects of Spain’s burst housing bubble: unfinished tracts; rural houses empty, but posted with “for rent” signs; stores selling off their merchandise (especially clothing) and going out of business. Everyone we talked with felt times were very bad -- and very different than they had been just a few years ago.
Economist Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times has been describing the misery that is the Spanish economic situation for several years. He argues strongly that Spain is being subjected to needless pain by (northern European) leaders that treat economic problems as a morality play, rather than a set of imbalances in the euro area that better policies could alleviate. Here’s a sample from last year:
Spaniards we talked with about this seemed to agree with Krugman’s conclusion:
Certainly there was tremendous alienation; none of their own politicians inspired any hope.
The belief that economics is a morality play and that people who can’t succeed in a rigged game have only their own sins -- laziness, profligacy -- to blame attracts conservatives everywhere. Our Republicans believe this -- and so apparently does Barack Obama when he is not actively rallying the middle and working class (of whom so many are not working) to support him.
But this is bull bleep: it’s time for an update of a once popular slogan: instead of (or in addition to) Question Authority, we need to Question Austerity! Neither Spaniards nor people in the US need to experience more economic pain. We need an economic jump start from our governments, damn the expense. What’s so hard about that?