EUROPE: HOW LONG WILL SHOCK THERAPY WORK?
VENICE, Italy, July 15, 2011 – In an abstract way Italy’s economic troubles are a stand-off between international speculators hollowing out Europe’s economies one by one and a public no longer willing to see their country’s ‘privatized’ public assets and services snapped up by foreign investors buying well below real value.
The saga began with the results of a referendum on June 14 this year when Italians, not always the wisest in choosing their leaders but sometimes endowed with great foresight, voted a resounding ‘no’ to their government’s intention to introduce nuclear energy and privatize public services. Few noticed that only three days later Moody’s Investor Service and Standard and Poor, the self-appointed arbitrators of a nation’s economic standing, warned international investors that Italy’s debt was heading the way of Greece, Spain and Portugal as well as Ireland (whose bonds the agency now considers ‘garbage.’)
The aim of this warning was obvious. By pointing the finger at Italy as the next victim in Europe, Moody and its associates hoped to send a strong message to the rest of European nations which, perhaps with the exception of Germany, struggle with the same deficits and debts as Rome. The message was simple: “Take note. If you don’t embrace privatization and budget cuts as recommended you too can be targeted, just like Italy.”
With its stagnant government, its political inertia and its ballooning deficit, Italy was vulnerable to ‘attack.’ Yet the irony is this: Italy and the rest of European countries have been happily running deficits for the last two decades. So why this sudden demand to balance their books in a global economy based, so it seems, on virtual trust and confidence easily manipulated?
The Italian referendum results, combined with the protests in Greece and Spain, apparently jolted the cabal of American and international investors who, no longer able to reap huge profits from developing countries, have turned their game on the developed world, picking off the weakest of the European nations in an EU whose strong Euro currency has been replacing the US dollar.
(Strangely enough Moody and its associates have so far failed to downgrade the United States, whose national debt is monstrous and the world’s largest or Britain which has an equally bad debt record)
Italy, run by a coalition of bunglers and boasters, the BBs, was an easier target. Italy is the third largest economy in Europe shackled to a 1.8 trillion Euro debt run for years like a private fiefdom by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi who has become increasingly unpopular but can still buy the votes of parliamentarians. He must hang on to power at any cost to stave off a score of trials, ranging from bribing a judge to having sex with a minor. Berlusconi’s coalition was badly buffeted by the June plebiscite which was a de facto vote of confidence the government badly lost.
Enter the cabal. As usual it disguised all demands as free market economics though the stipulations are obviously tailored to make vast profits - at the cost of making the victim poor. The prerequisites for this profit-making formula is presented to the targeted nation by a consortium of European banks and financial committees who inevitably prescribe the same antidote against bankruptcy: Dramatic budget cuts, salary cuts, pension cuts, employment cuts, the sale of government bonds below current prices but most of all privatization not only of public services like electricity, public transport, health and water but public assets like palaces, parks, waterways and anything else the sharks of the free market economy may deem worthwhile to possess, exploit or eventually resell at vast profits – in short a free hand to ransack anything of value at knock-down prices.
Ironically, as in the United States, these ‘official’ condition-makers come to their posts in government (or the European Union) from the private finance industry - which they continue to represent indirectly - and to foster. It is these lackeys of the cabals who present ‘what you must do’ to targeted nations.
Today Italy’s Berlusconi-led coalition has the tricky task to pacify the cabal by acceding to its demands. Yet at the same time the government is handicapped by a referendum that makes it unconstitutional to privatise public assets and services until 2016.
As ministers and legal advisers scramble to find ways to wriggle around the plebiscite the real issue emerging in Europe is the public’s right to enjoy what belongs to all and the public services it pays for in taxes. For decades these services and assets have been expropriated or slyly sold off by unscrupulous politicians to finance their own greed or cover corruption and mismanagement.
It was, after all, an Italian political philosopher, Antonio Negri, whose book “Commonwealth’ warned that capitalism, in its last gasp, would rob the public of what belongs to all, starting with intellectual copyright, patented seeds and human genes. And it was Naomi Kline with her book ‘Shock Therapy’ who pointed to the methodology of the cabal in forcing countries to bow to its will with the same scare tactics of financial meltdown now being practiced in Europe. (At political level governments use the scare of ‘terrorism’ to justify war expenditures and new laws).
In an Italy run for years by rogues, philanderers, liars and politicians more famous for their stupidity than their creativity the common peoples’ battle to save what belongs to all has just begun.
Uli Schmetzer was foreign correspondent for Reuters and the Chicago Tribune for nearly 40 years. He is the author of ‘Times of Terror’ ‘Gaza’ and ‘The Chinese Juggernaut’ all available on www.amazon.com