Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Spanish Ulcer

Our Most Beloved EU President, ‘Haiku Herman’ van Rompuy, has just been granted a fabulous new honour: the ‘Otto-von-der-Gablentz-Award’ for those who have distinguished themselves in furthering the European Ideal. He receives this prize for the incomparable manner in which (and here I translate the verbal diarrhoea of the citation) ‘he invariably manages to plot a feasible course for everyone involved, in spite of the many differences in interests and opinion between the leaders and the member states of the European Union’ (note the use of Leaders and Member States and the complete absence of Populations!) Ah, it must be highly satisfying to be feasted by your peers as you preside over doomsday and devastation! Yet I don’t know why, but it somehow reminds me of those Spanish generals of the Peninsular War against Napoleon who, after every dismal and disastrous defeat, got hung with splendid new medals to celebrate their bravery and pluck.

Speaking of Spain: here on the work floor of our Brave New Europe, things look a little bleaker than they do in those warm, cosy, comfortable Brussels offices. Last Friday Prime Minister Rajoy finally presented his long awaited Austerity Budget for 2012, the worst the country has seen since democracy arrived in ‘76. The ink on that document never got a chance to dry, and the stupefied nation was given no time to digest the depth, sweep and consequences of this slash-and-burn Brussels’ Diktat. No sooner had the hyenas of the ‘markets’ and the EU devoured the first juicy chunk, than they clamoured for MOOORRREEE…!!! MORE CUTS! MORE AUSTERITY! MORE SACRIFICE TO THE RAVENOUS GODS OF THE RATING AGENCIES! The beast howled to be fed with ever more virgins and fresh white meat of children…

Not that last Friday’s budget cuts were negligible. But at least they were fair and just! Oh yes! Only those with the strongest shoulders got to carry the heaviest burden, and only those most guilty of Spain’s present plight got to bleed for the adjustments. To wit:

            Public Works                                      22 % less
            Investigation + Development              34 %   
 Ministry of Education                         21 %
 Museums                                            13 %
 Culture                                               17 to 35 %
            Labour force formation                       24 to 34 %

At the same time, our weaker and more innocent cousins were happily spared. Thus, the budget of the Royal Palace was cut with only 2 %, the Catholic Church will be cut with 0 % (say: zero), while the owners of grand fortunes of black money who have been evading their taxes for years on end, will be allowed to buy off their obligations with a one-time fine of 10 % … Justice social and fiscal is being done!

How anybody can be so witless as to think he may, with impunity, implicate such blatantly unjust decisions in so tense a social situation as the present, beats an old man like myself who has seen countries go up in smoke for less. If cuts must be made (and I admit they must be made!) then at least Keep Up Appearances of Equity at all costs! If not, you will lose your support among the populace, and where will that leave you and your country?

But as said: there is worse. When Saturday the Markets and the ECB howled for MORE BLOOD, the Spanish Minister of Economy hurried to cater to their demands and immediately promised Brussels and Frankfurt that within a fortnight the government would chop an additional 10 billion budget cut from… the National Health Service and Education. Ah, yes, it was getting time, wasn’t it? Schoolchildren and sick people are famous bloodsuckers, parasites and freeloaders, who caused our present troubles and must be made to pay for their sins! It is Greece all over again, with this little difference that the Greeks are pussycats when compared with Spaniards, once you get them angry.

Getting a Spaniard sufficiently angry to swing into violent action is no easy matter, for the Spaniards themselves are only too aware how ferocious they become once the blood starts flowing. And they do not wish to be ferocious; they wish to sit on their porch in the sunshine, with a nice glass of wine at their elbow, chatting amiably with friends and loved ones. But beware to mistake their patience for indecision or weakness or – God forbid! - cowardice! If history has taught us anything, it is that there is no nation more difficult to beat once they come out against you. To get back to our beginning: perhaps the Van Rompuys and Barrosos and Draghis of this sorry continent of ours should take a cue from the Emperor Napoleon, another fellow with broad European ambitions.

Many years after his downfall, while exiled on frosty, wind-swept St Helena, Napoleon had ample time to contemplate Where It All Went Wrong, as all dictators and fallen tyrants will do once it is too late. After a lot of soul searching and babble about Traitors and Fate, he concluded: ‘The Spanish Ulcer destroyed me’. With this he meant to say, that in the latter years of his career, he had been obliged to throw ever more badly needed troops into Spain and Portugal to contain the brutal guerrilla war raging there in his back yard, and that this bleeding of manpower and resources had lost him the chance to beat the English, Russians and Prussians in the north. (If you’re interested how this worked, this here book is not the worst you can read.)

It is true that Spain lay in total shambles after the devastating 6-year conflict. But the Spaniards had been willing to sacrifice it all once they had decided to kick out the vicious French and their upstart Emperor. With lousy generals, tottering leadership, no army to speak of and no resources, the Spanish people themselves pulled off that feat, by sheer determination.

It is a lesson well worth remembering for the present day…  

[By the by, to show that Alfred B Mittington is not only a venom-spitting cretin at the side lines, here’s a tip for Mr Rajoy: start issuing War Bonds, don Mariano! Small denominations, appealing to Spanish patriotism to battle speculators and heartless financial markets in the name of national salvation, with a return of 3 %, which is 2 % more than anyone gets on his savings account and 2 % less than you now pay on international loans. I don’t know what the response of the Spanish people would be, but if it does not help it will not hurt, and it might just make the difference to remove the blackmail leverage exercised today by the global plutocrats and their Brussels lackeys.]

[Postscript April 13: as a special treat to Mr Campos, whose crusading comments grace this post below, I would recommend the reading of this here editorial from that notorious red commie socialist newspaper, the International Herald Tribune.]


  1. What! All this demagoguery against poor Rajoy´s rather tame measures and not a word about the PSOE government which has led Spain to this state of near Bankruptcy: Spend, spend, spend they sang, giving away the millions they did not have, nor the country,appart from the obvious COERCIVE manner in which all State money is gathered.
    Shame on your demagoguery Mittington, you haven´t a clue about how wealth is created and how a country´s wealth is ruined.

  2. I intend to select a few well informed people about economics and link their views here so that Mr Mittington LEARNS something about the economy and stops making an ass of himself with his socialist platitudes.

  3. DE Carlos Rodriguez Braun: liberal y catedrático de economía
    "Malditos dinamitadoresEn las entrevistas periodísticas el pensamiento único está a menudo más presente en las preguntas que en las respuestas. El País Semanal entrevistó a Albert Jovell, médico, enfermo de cáncer, y profesor en la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Sus comentarios sobre la naturaleza del cáncer me resultaron muy interesantes, pero no pude evitar dar un respingo ante la formulación de algunas preguntas de Jesús Ruiz Mantilla, que incluían razonamientos extendidos pero engañosos sobre el Estado del Bienestar.

    Por ejemplo: “este modelo que estamos a punto de desmantelar…nuestros propios políticos lo dinamitan desde dentro. El caso de CiU, en Cataluña, sin ir más lejos. Y no le digo el PP en Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha…el recorte llega porque sí y sin explicación…solo prima el [discurso] económico ahora…¿Por qué esa inquina, esa persecución hacia el sistema sanitario por parte de algunos partidos políticos?”. Lo que dice el señor Ruiz Mantilla presenta un llamativo contraste con la realidad, porque en ninguna parte ningún partido político con un mínimo de influencia quiere acabar con el Estado del Bienestar. Izquierdas y derechas por igual se dedican a consolidarlo, jamás a destruirlo. Suben los impuestos y empobrecen a millones de ciudadanos con el objetivo explícito y declarado de preservar la sanidad pública, y están claramente dispuestos a dinamitar las carteras de los contribuyentes antes que acabar con el Welfare State."

  4. Dear Mr Campos,

    You seem to me a very angry man, furiously trying to score points against anything that smacks of socialism or vaguely left-wing thought. What a waste of ink, breath and intelligence! The true battle of the present day, sir, is not between right and left, or rich and poor, or ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’, but between the whole of your nation and the two behemoths that are threatening to undo Spain’s social and economical prosperity: the EU and the so-called ‘financial markets’. It is distressing to see that you – and too many others with you – are willing to accept the destruction of Spanish jobs, businesses, education and future prospects just to get even with the – admittedly inane – Zapatero governments of the past.


  5. Dear Mittington: I am only angry with demagoguery.
    The financial markets exist anywhere in the world with a certain degree of free economy: i.e: capitalism.
    The markets don´t "intend" anything, as they are not individuals nor groups, they are only the result of economic (partially) free activity, and there are many other countries, even in the EEC,subject to the same play of "financial market" pressures who haven´t got the unemployment problems of Spain.
    One has to be blind not to see that the PSOE has aggravated the crisis in Spain well beyond what it would have been if it was only the effect of the world crisis.
    And your thoughts and sentences, Mittington, don´t just smack of socialism, they are rather trite socialist clichés. Have you had a look at Rajoy´s increase in taxation, hardly a "liberal" measure to favour the rich. It is you who is rather a slave of stale socialist rhetoric about the "rich" and the "poor", not to mention all those stereotyped clichés full of ambivalent praise-contempt for the angry, proud people of Spain and the heroics (?) they can be capable of if annoyed, ha,ha,Who? why?,where?
    I think you are only talking to yourself and your ghosts.
    I suggest you try and get in touch with Spanish papers, radios etcétera a bit more, and listen to the real people of Spain. They hold a very disparate discourse from each other, certainly, but also from yours.

  6. Dear Mr Campos,

    I do not know what amuses me more: your childish name-calling or your stunning naivety.

    I understand from your above discourse that in your opinion The Markets Are Always Right. I saddens me to see that someone enjoys the spectacle of his own country and compatriots being gutted and plunged into misery by self-interested foreign players, as punishment for a liquidity problem which those same self-interested foreign players brought about to their own advantage.

    I wonder, sir, if you have a conscience. Rather, you seem to have a cold chunk of ideological hatred where your heart ought to be.

    Now if you will excuse me: I have a cookblog to prepare for tomorrow.

    Yours, ABM

    PS For your information: the EEC no longer exists. It was absorbed into the EU in 1993 and formally abolished in 2009.

  7. Juan,

    Leaving things to The Market does not take care of things. It takes care of Those Who Are the Market. I am not eager to be in consensus with Mr Mittington (I love Food Processors!), but you are really only on the side that is winning. And that this side is winning is a dirty rotten shame. But the pendulum will swing the other way, and I hope to see you holding up your hand in poverty.

    Yours, Je R

  8. Ha, ha, if I know so little about the economy it is partly due to having read in my youth mostly intellectuals who called themselves socialists of some kind or another and knew about it even less than I do, like Mittington and JeR.
    By the way,dear Mr. Mittington, the nationalisation of Messi is no novelty. If you payed more attention to the really cultural and important things of life, like football, you would have known that under Franco-that socialist, by the way- we already nationalised the greatest argentinian player in history, with maradona and Messi. Añlfredo Di Stéfano. We also nationalised a few other great players from Hungary, on the run from yet another "true" socialist paradise,like Kubala and Puskas.
    I saw them all play for Barcelona or Real Madrid or for the Spanish national team. Sorry to say, Barcelona and Real Madrid, private companies after all, did rather well thanks to them, but the national team,a typical state socialist enterprise everywhere,ha,ha,never achieved anything with them

    As for the debt, weren´t you told as kids, not just by mum and dad and school teachers, but by your fellow school friends that a debt is a debt and is a matter of honour to pay it?
    Or maybe socialists are exempted...

  9. Kindly, to be read and pondered, Mr.Mittington:

  10. Dear Mr Campos,

    Ah, you are a veritable Oracle! You read Intellectual Books when young, no less! And there you picked up the Ultimate Logical Argument in any dispute: “Whoever does not agree with me, is ignorant!” (followed on its heels by that other charming one: “Whoever dares to offer an argument against my opinion is a demagogue!”)

    Well, at the risk of revealing myself once again as a red commie socialist manipulator whose ignorance is only outdone by his evil intents: Spanish sovereign debt, dear sir, was not caused – as you suggest – by socialist Tax-and-Spend, but by the Housing Bubble fed by overly cheap and easy Euro credit, cultivated as much by the PP as by the PSOE governments. At the onset of the financial crisis, Spain’s government finances were in fact well within the limits now set for budget deficits and Debt-to-GNP ratio. That this is no longer so in 2012 is the result of GNP shrinking, with the result that state income drops, and that the Debt-to-GNP ratio soars (figure it out on a piece of scrap paper: if the denominator gets smaller while the numerator stays the same, the outcome of the fraction will be bigger…) Ecco: applying even more austerity may not be the most adequate solution, since it will inevitably result in GNP shrinking even more…

    But of course, we do not need such lines of informed rational thought under the present circumstances. What we need to get out of the mire are infantile moralistic tales about honourably paying back your debts as your mama told you… That is truly a worthwhile contribution to the dispute, which will solve all the dilemmas facing us today!

    May I counter your recommendation to my reading list by the suggestion that you take a look at Paul Krugman’s article today in the IHT? ( )

    But of course, that gentleman is also a red commie socialist Dr Goebbels who knows nothing about economy (never mind his Nobel Prize).

    Yours, Alfred B. Mittington

    PS By the way: are you serious about Francisco Franco being a socialist? And if you are: is there anybody whom you disagree with who is not a satan-… I mean: socialist??

  11. Campos and Mittington, please read:

  12. Dear Mr Storvaxt (bloody H., where do YOUR ancestors come from?),

    Thank you so much for your recommendation. It very much reflects my own views.

    I must disagree, however, with the notion - seen here as elsewhere - that the EU might pull a Spanish Papademos out of the hat to replace Mr Rajoy. The whole point of the above post 'The Spanish Ulcer' is that Spaniards would never stand for that, and bring such a person down within days. Which of course does not mean that our Beurocrats, dumb as ever, will not try to do so. When were they ever stopped by wisdom, when it came to their own hegemony?

    We are living in interesting times...

    Yours, Alfred B.