Contributed by Don Quijones: Not a day goes by without a new political scandal breaking in Spain. Just the last few days, King Juan Carlos’ daughter, La Infanta Cristina, was charged with aiding and abetting her husband in his myriad scams to embezzle money from the public purse. Now ties to a known drug trafficker hit the governing party, the Partido Popular.
The ominous term “competiveness” is bandied about as the real issue, the one causing Eurozone countries to sink deeper into their fiasco. To address it, “structural reforms,” or austerity, have been invoked regardless of how much blood might stain the streets. And a core element of these structural reforms is bringing down the cost of labor.
Contributed by Don Quijones: Italy has Beppe Grillo. But with European governments reeling from self-inflicted crises, and the euro debacle descending into a tragi-comic farce, one wonders who the real clowns are – especially here in Spain, where ministers gorge themselves on the public purse, leaving behind a trail of evidence so obvious that even the mainstream media can’t ignore it.
Contributed by Don Quijones: The stark reality facing millions of Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, and Portuguese is hidden, buried deep under a mountain of economic data, massaged to suit the purposes of the central planners-in-chief. But this is the story of a dying breed: self-made entrepreneurs and small business owners here in Spain.
Spain is on edge. Unemployment is nearly 26%, youth unemployment over 55%. The government is mired in a corruption scandal. The economy is grinding to a halt. On January 23, the Catalan assembly declared that the region constituted a “sovereign political and legal entity.” A step closer to secession. And then a general gave a speech.
Spain just can’t catch a break—a horrid economy with dizzying unemployment, a prime minister and ruling party tarred by corruption, collapsing banks…. Now a political espionage scandal blew up, scattering debris and money laundering allegations far and wide.
It should have been an exciting event for Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy: a tête-à-tête with German Chancellor Merkel. Afterwards, he’d stand next to her, illuminated by her glory. He’d brag about implementing structural reforms, cleaning up banks, and moving Spain forward. She’d endorse him with her benevolent smile. Instead, it was a slugfest about corruption.
“Private sector” is a rubbery term. Most of the bondholders that lost their shirts during the first Greek default last March, and during the second one currently underway, were banks, including banks in Greece, Spain, and Cyprus. They are now getting bailed out by the public. After nearly all of Greece’s debt was shifted to the public, a third haircut was announced. Now Portugal wants the same deal. The can has been opened.
“I cannot be disillusioned because I no longer have any illusions about Europe,” muttered Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker last week after the horse trading over Greece’s bailout had failed once again. But he isn’t the only one who lost his illusions. “There are better alternatives to the bailout policies of Chancellor Merkel,” declares the man who’ll run against her in 2013; alternatives that “protect taxpayers and don’t only benefit the banks.”
“Do you want Catalonia to become a new state within the European Union?” That may be the question on the referendum that is causing a constitutional crisis in Spain even before the final wording has been decided. Efforts by Artur Mas, President of Catalonia, to pry his region loose from Spain are not only shaking up Spain but are pushing the European Union deeper into the conflict—just as Spain is plunging into a demographic nightmare.