Day before yesterday, Mariano Rajoy, prime minister of Spain, appeared in parliament to announce he would do everything he had solemnly sworn would never take place on his watch. Claiming that there was no other choice and no other way, he listed the greatest government spending reduction that Spain has ever seen, budget cuts and tax increases to the tune of 65 billion €uros over 18 months.
The list reads like the ludicrous exaggeration in a comic novel. VAT will be increased from 18 to 21 % in the top rate, and from 8 to 10 % in the ‘low’ rate. Unemployment benefits – never exactly lavish in Spain – will be drastically reduced after 6 months. The salaries of civil servants, who work little for scant money, will be cut, starting with their Christmas bonuses (i.e. a fourteenth part of their income or 7 %). Interest on mortgages will no longer be tax deductible (which really ought to help the prostrate real estate market get back on its feet…) Sin tax on tobacco and alcohol – surprise, surprise - will go up some 10 to 20 %, ‘in the interest of health’ (of course, that’s what it is all about…) And, more poignant still: the very lean compensation given to housewives who – after the children have left home – get to take care, day in day out 24/7 and 365 days a year, of invalid elderly relatives (one of the VERY few laudable measures of lame-brained Mr Zapatero) will be severely limited and reduced. They had become, Mr Rajoy said, ‘too general’; which is small surprise, since Spain has no old-age homes, except for the filthy rich…
|An untranslatable cartoon starring the minister of economics|
What strikes ye, reader, in all these measures of ‘reform’? Yes, indeed: they all fall on the poor and the middle classes. Those who had nothing to do with causing the crisis, but are now supposed to pay for the damage, so that the rich and the unscrupulous, the developers and the bankers who did cause the mess, may receive their 100 billion European slush fund and the fiscal amnesty over their tax-evading fortunes. For this is the linguistic irony of this whole disreputable Euro-adventure: the word Reform – like the word Drugs - has now acquired two distinct, even contradictory, meanings, depending entirely on the context and who is getting Reformed. Reform of the fiscal- and banking system means that billions of Euros are tossed into the plutocrats’ bottomless pockets; while Reform of the working classes means they get robbed. The Robin Hoodlums who pretend to be our leaders steal from the poor to give to the rich. It is sufficiently nauseating to become a communist again, in spite of our better judgement and the lessons of the past.
|Robin Hood Reversed|
We Spanish no longer have the choice whether or not to make sacrifices,’ Don Mariano whined on the rostrum. ‘We no longer have such liberty.’ A long way has he come from the triumphant figure who last week boasted of having made Mrs Merkel blink…
|Mayhem Now: Yesterday's miners protest in Madrid|
Ah, there is much mayhem to come this summer before the whole house of cards tumbles in next October, dear reader! People are beginning to stir in most unpleasant ways. Even those you least expect it from. Here you have one which I overheard yesterday in a bar on the Portuguese side of the valley, from a normally calm middle-aged farmer only slightly tipsy:
[PS If after the above you wish to read some more informed background which is enough to make you shudder for things to come, read this article from old Ambrose.]