Living on the Ledge

Two days ago, two brief reports were posted on “”. The first was sent by Amanda Lang, under the lengthy headline, “General Strike Sweeps Europe as Millions Reject Austerity as Solution to Economic Crisis”.

“A general strike is underway across Europe today as millions are protesting spending cuts and tax hikes they say have deepened the region’s economic crisis. Spanish and Portuguese workers are coordinating their strike with work stoppages underway in Greece, Italy, France and Belgium. We go to Madrid for an update from independent journalist Maria Carron. She notes the general strike comes after a 53-year-old woman jumped from a balcony to her death as she was about to be evicted. The death of Amala Egana marked the second suicide in two weeks related to evictions in Spain as a growing mass movement has put pressure on the authorities to act.” –

The second report was submitted by the widely-read U.S. analyst, Sheila Samples, under the headline, “Anti-austerity strikes sweep southern Europe”.

“Police and protesters clashed in Spain and Italy on Wednesday as millions of workers went on strike in organized labor’s biggest Europe-wide challenge to austerity policies since the euro debt crisis erupted three years ago. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, schools were shut, factories were at a standstill and trains barely ran in Spain and Portugal where unions held their first joint general strike. Stoppages in Belgium interrupted international rail services. Workers also protested in Greece and France against austerity policies that have taken a heavy economic toll and aggravated mass unemployment.” –

The consequences of imposed austerity measures on the common people should now be obvious to lawmakers. Next in the progression of events will be, what? Riots and revolution? Believe it. But in this country, where the unemployed greatly outnumber those in Europe, what do you suppose is on the agenda of our lawmakers? You guessed it. Imposed austerity measures. Patrick Martin tips us off when he answers the question, “What is the ‘fiscal cliff’?”

“The term ‘fiscal cliff’, first used by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke last February, [wouldn’t you know it?] refers to the simultaneous expiration of tax cuts and imposition of spending cuts on January 1, 2013.

“The American media has seized on the term ‘fiscal cliff, and promoted it, in part, to suggest that measures which would otherwise be enormously popular – ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy or cutting military spending – are threatening, even dangerous.

“The main purpose of the media propaganda about the impending ‘cliff’ is to create a sense of financial emergency and override popular opposition to measures the Obama administration and congressional Democrats and Republicans will put forward to avert it, including sweeping cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“This is bolstered by the reaction in the financial markets, where a sharp sell-off could well serve as a political club to ensure that the policies demanded by Wall Street are adopted in Washington.

“Far from an emergency that requires dramatic action to slash the federal deficit, the various components of the ‘fiscal cliff’ are all consequences of legislation passed at various times during the Obama administration and can be averted by the passage of further legislation by Congress, regardless of whether that legislation adds to or subtracts from the deficit.

“Deficit reduction is not a requirement of any previous legislation, but a political mandate from the financial aristocracy, which is demanding that its two political parties take joint action to make working people pay for a fiscal crisis that is the product of the 2008 Wall Street crash and the trillions expended to bail out the banks and corporations.

“That the deadline is January 1, 2013 is politically revealing. In each of the bipartisan agreement between the Obama White House and congressional Republicans and Democrats – in December 2010, August 2011 and February 2012 – the two parties acted deliberately to push back the decision until after the November 2012 elections, in order to prevent the American people from having any say on the measure to be enacted.

“The same considerations were at work in the August 2011 agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, which was increased from $ 14.3 trillion to $ 16.4 trillion, a level the Treasury is expected to hit early in 2013, perhaps as soon as mid-February. This will provide an additional pretext for the two big business parties to enact further spending cuts, or it may become part of the proposed ‘grand bargain’ between the Obama administration and congressional leaders.

“There are at least seven distinct tax and spending measures that will take effect at the end of the year, with a significant effect on the jobs and living standards of the vast majority of the American people. The estimate produced by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank, places the total impact at $ 732 billion.

“Expiration of the Bush tax cuts – $ 202 billion …

“Across-the-board spending cuts – $ 128 billion …

“Expiration of payroll tax cut – $ 115 billion …

“Expiration of extended unemployment benefits – $ 39 billion …

“Expansion of the Alternative Minimum Tax – $ 114 billion …

“Expiration of miscellaneous tax provisions – $ 120 billion …

“Mandated cuts in Medicare reimbursement – $ 14 billion …” –

[If you think it’s critical in Europe, watch how jobless Americans react to these austerity measures.]