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Welcome To Europe – OpEd


By Porya Mohajer Soltani

Budget cuts, CCTV’s, bail-outs, unemployment and police brutality. Welcome to Europe! a continent that they themselves claim practicing free-market policies and being more democratic than most other countries.

Interestingly however, these past years they have all experienced a downward trend in most sectors, but of course not in military operations abroad.

Up until the Second World War, the European nations had colonized huge parts of the world. Even after the war, when the global decolonization had commenced, their presence was felt all over the world, as they had their corporations in most countries extracting resources. So when the price of oil and other natural resources began to increase some years ago, these nations were naturally first to cash in on the profit.

In a free-market economy, this should mean an increase in wealth and job opportunities for the entire society. Yet a 2008 UN report paints a different picture. The gap between the rich and poor households has witnessed a dramatic increase since 1990, despite the economic growth and creation of million jobs prior to the current financial crises.

The reason for this can be summed up in one much talked about term, inflation! Meaning that either prices have risen, or the purchasing power of money has decreased.

So when the employees wish to enjoy their income, they have to do this on credit. Consequently, debt increases, and now people are even more in debt. Being in debt however, is equal to a lack of wealth. Still people keep spending with their illusionary wealth, or what most of us would call, a credit card. What else could they do? After all, the same UN report tells us how the only way to save an ailing economy is to consume more.

And right now, everyone is in debts. Even companies and governments have debts they cannot repay. This has happened to some of the largest multinational companies, in some of the “wealthiest” European countries, such as the UBS of Switzerland or Northern Rock of England. Despite being bailed-out, they are still cutting down on certain expenses with the claim that they have to balance their financial statements. Unfortunately, it is only the man in the street that feels these cuts, lower wages and/or working conditions, longer hours of work and yet major bonuses are paid out to the elite.

This burden is clearer on ordinary citizens when the governments are faced with debts. In order not to default, which really is only a nicer way of saying not to have their regimes collapse, these governments have to both raise taxes and cut budgets.

The European governments have practically cut budgets in all sectors, except for bailing out big corporations, paying bonuses to the elite and of course in expanding their military operations abroad. No wonder people have again turned to the streets, protesting at their governments. 1st of May saw clashes between demonstrators and the police in England and Germany again. And now there are once more clashes in Greece. These clashes have been on and off for over a year now.

After all, why should military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya continue, when unemployment has reached 15.9% in Greece? Or when Northern Irelands Health department has to sack 4000 of its employees? When an increasing number of tenants in England are having problem paying their rents? When the UK national debt has reached the incredible amount of £ 1’000’000’000’000, and is increasing by £ 7’000 a second? When tuition fees have risen so much that education may soon become a luxury service? And who would ever believe that BBC would be in such a bad shape that it has to cut 25% of its budget? And yes, the same goes for most European multinational companies, downsizing their operations, shutting down factories and offices, cutting budgets, sacking people and most are happy if they have a better month than the previous month.

I suppose you could say it all started in Greece in early 2010, when its government declared the country is going bankrupt. And later, Portugal together along with the IMF and EU agreed to a €78 billion bail-out plan.

Now, this one little act of being bailed out, something so many companies and now more and more countries are faced with in a part of the world that claims to be enjoying a free-market economy, shows how these countries do not practice free-market policies at all. As in a free market, if a company is doing badly, it will lose its market share to a more successful company, and it might even be eliminated by this other company.

So, there is no free market in these countries. Instead what we have is a Casino economy. Where, you will literary gamble your own money, hoping to cash in big, but you lose. Now you are too scared to go home to tell your spouse that you have lost all your savings, so instead you go to the bank hoping that with the credit you might win your money back and even enjoy a small profit. But instead, you lose the banks money too. And now you are really scared to go home. Not only did you lose your savings, which was meant to pay for your children’s education, buy you that new car so you could have better transportation and pay for your sunny holiday trip because you need to recharge your batteries, but you also lost the banks money.

Hence, you will have to pay interest each month till this new debt is gone, so your monthly expenses have risen and you will have to cut back on your other expenses, less leisure, cheaper clothes and food, no new toys for the kids and so on. And instead of doing the right thing, which would be leaving the casino, letting your spouse know what you have done, and working together to get through this crises to be back on your feet as soon as possible, you go to the bank to spend some more of the money that is not yours, simply because the United Nation tells you that spending is good.

This ‘gambleholic’, is your employer in the company that you are working for. It is the members of parliament and the government that are running your country. The savings that has been gambled away was meant to create more job opportunities for youths, make it easier for youths to financially survive while undertaking a university degree, reduce inflation, improve health services, increase public safety and make life better for the retired.

The employer, the politician, and the leaders of the European nations have not done what they had to. They did not tell their people how they lost the people’s money. Instead they told them everything is fine and the economy is recovering, so you can go out and spend more. They even told their people if they are out of money, they could always take a loan. Then they told them, from now on everyone should save their money in pension funds, or, you will have no money when you are retired. All so the leaders could hit the slot machines. Most citizens that have retired these past years in Europe cannot even pay their own rent, as share prices in all stock exchanges all over Europe have gone down.

Now the situation is really bad in most of Europe. There have been so many cuts that hospitals, prisons and courthouses are not only sacking some employees, but closing down several branches. Universities are no longer being built to support the growth in population, but they are instead either being shut down, tuition fees are increasing, financial aid to university students are diminishing and filters are put into place to filter away unwanted students-to-be to never be accepted for a degree.

So it should not come as a surprise, when Greeks have once more turned to the streets, demonstrating against their governments spending spree. The question that remains is when will these leaders listen to their people?

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