On May 6th, the People of France voted out right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, and elected socialist Francoise Hollande for president. Hollande will lead the first socialist government in over two decades. According to The Nation, “Greece has voted loudly, if incoherently, against the austerity program imposed by the EU and IMF. Across Europe.”
“Austerity” is described as an economic policy of ” deficit-cutting, lower spending, and a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided. Austerity policies are often used by governments to reduce their deficit spending while sometimes coupled with increases in taxes to pay back creditors to reduce debt.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austerity)
Governments around the globe have attempted to implement this policy, most have been rejected by the public, if not all. John Nichols, a blogger for The Nation, reports that “[Senator] Sanders knows that austerity is not just a European crisis. It threatens America as well. And he is highlighting what his Senate website recognizes as: ‘An Austerity Backlash.’ Sanders says Europe’s voters are sending a message that America’s voters can and should echo: the time has come to reject austerity measures that have unfairly burdened working families, while redistributing ever more wealth upward to millionaires and billionaires.” (http://www.thenation.com/blog/167755/bernie-sanders-brings-anti-austerity-fight-america)
I think that it is fair to say that we DO have a form of austerity in the U.S.; for example, cutting social security, and raising the retirement age to 70, can be considered a tax increase. Another example of this is when President Obama made the deal with republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts, even for the top earners in country, for two more years, but only extended unemployment benefits for one year. The bush tax cuts for the richest Americans cost the U.S. approximately $200 billion dollars of revenue per year.
Here are some things that many people don’t know: In December 2010, when Obama made the deal to extend unemployment benefits, by extending the upper-end Bush tax cuts he vowed not to continue, President Obama lowered the estate tax and cut the Federal Additional Compensation Program (FAC) from unemployment benefits; Unemployment insurance recipients lost the additional $25 dollars per week this program offered. The $2400 income tax exemption for those collecting unemployment benefits also expired. I think it’s safe to call that “redistribution of wealth upward.”
French citizens, who voted against austerity, won this election by a very small margin (53% of the overall vote). That is because they showed solidarity, commitment, participation, tenacity, and strength in their fight for the public interest.
As an American, it is my hope that we can all look at the French Presidential Election, and see its connection to the global, financial crash, and how we are much closer to the economic boiling point then we are lead to believe. In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned under the mantra of “change.” Unfortunately, there is a lesson that has been too long forgotten by America. The one that we should all know because the Framers of the Constitution, such as Alexander Hamilton, established it in our national doctrine. “Change” always comes from the people, not from the government or the people on top.