Global Protests – Austerity and Alienation
January 9, 2012
By Thomas J. Mackell Jr
Austerity measures do not turn economies around. They exacerbate a slow growing economy and, in fact, contribute to a continuing slow down. They alienate the 99%. One only has to look at Europe and the Middle East to learn that lesson. Throughout the globe, people are clamoring for change and their protesting has attracted public sympathy.
Recently, hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheered a rural activist on a hunger strike. Israel reeled before the largest street demonstrations in that nation's history. Countries in the Middle East have been reeling from the Arab Spring of 2011 with no end in sight. London exploded with thousands of youth destroying property and neighborhoods.
Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries protesting against government initiatives to reign in budgets that have been providing a comfortable social safety-net for decades.
The Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. expanded into a wider movement with more participation generated in a multitude of cities across America and, today, it remains a potentially sleeping, angry giant even though the encampments have been removed.
The 1 % versus the 99 % emphasizes the inequality gap that has been building in the U.S. for decades. The fear of these public reactions is so real in the United States that it is reported that the Pentagon is dusting off some old plans in preparation for contending with serious civil disobedience in the U.S. over the next five years. This could be moving faster than a locomotive if things don't begin to change.
People are taking to the streets because they are frustrated due to growing income inequality, high unemployment, erosion of their savings, their debilitating defined contribution accounts and the loss of the equity in their homes and the inability to land that first job.
Mortgage foreclosures and recession-driven cuts in social spending and the fact that people have totally lost faith in their elected officials to do the right thing have added to the frustrations, anxieties and fears. Their job could be next one on the chopping block that leads to the unraveling of their family's financial well-being.
Gated communities surrounded by moats of money and protected by a twisted political system will not stem the tide of the fury building outside. The well-to-do will live cowering in their protected comfort for only so long before the gates come crushing down around them.
They call this "revolution."
Occupy Wall Street may prove to be the opening act of renewed backlash of resistance and rebellion. Rebellion against the second-rate corporate executives and intellectually-challenged political elites that has long-term sustainability and severe consequences.
My fear is that this could unfold into a very ugly class warfare that none of our leaders recognize. What kind of a society do we want? Have they thought this through?
Thomas J. Mackell, Jr. Ed.D., Senior Partner, Black Thorn Lynch Associates, Inc., former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and author of: "When the Good Pensions Go Away: Why America Needs a New Deal for Pension and Health Care Reform."