I have argued for some time now that the recurring crisis in the eurozone is not driven by financial markets’ demands for austerity in a time of recession, as is commonly asserted. Rather, the primary cause of the crisis and its prolongation is the political agenda of the European authorities – led by the European Central Bank (ECB) and European commission. These authorities (which, if we included the IMF constitute, the “troika” that runs economic policy in the eurozone) want to force political changes, particularly in the weaker economies, that people in these countries would never vote for
This is becoming more blatantly obvious here in Spain, where the government – run by the rightwing Popular party (PP) – shares the political agenda of the European authorities, perhaps even more than the IMF does. The PP government has taken advantage of the crisis to impose labour law changes that will make it easier for employers to get out of industry-wide collective bargaining agreements. They have also taken away rights that workers’ had to challenge unfair firings. The goal is to weaken labour as part of a longer-term strategy to dismantle the welfare state; these changes have nothing to do with resolving the current crisis, or even reducing the budget deficit.
The government has also mandated huge cuts in healthcare spending, at €7bn. This is comparable to cutting 25% of Medicaid spending in the US, something that would be both devastating to the poor and politically impossible. Another €3bn will be cut from education.