Tuesday, April 7, 2009

¿Dónde está la rabia?

Every day the news gets worse in Spain.   The twin pillars of the Spanish economy real estate and tourism that combine for an obscene 40% of the country's GDP are taking a beating from the global crisis (see: here and here for examples); while the third (banking) has needed state intervention. And, what has the socialist government's response been? It has offered to pay the social security taxes of the foreign multinationals at a time when rising unemployment is putting a greater strain on state services, and to pursue labor reforms that will move more people to part-time contacts.  As for those still working full-time: you can be happy to know that you're earning 34% less than the average European.

Anyone who has lived in Spain over the years knows: these are just the latest developments and the consequence of policies that stretch back decades, covering administrations from both parties, and involving national and regional governments from across the political spectrum.  In fact a recent article in the Spanish News estimates the amount of debt owed by local city halls at 32,030-billion euros, which begs the question: Where has all the money gone?   The answer, of course, is right before our eyes.

For those of us who live in Barcelona,  it's the Diagonal Mar and its glistening luxury hotels and apartment buildings that overlook the sea and, with a 600,000-euro price-tag, far exceed the salary of the average person living here. Even the symbol of "the New Barcelona," the 140-million Forum  is a shiny example of the incestuous relationship between the local government, construction companies and banks, and the censorship of an outspoken critic evidence of its depth.  I mean: are the second 14.5-million euro cable car for Montjuic or the W Barcelona hotel by the port really necessary?  Every time I look around Barcelona and see what is being built, and then listen to a nationalist politician demand more local control of the autonomy's finances, I wonder - is for the betterment of Catalunyna or his pocket?  A recent trip to New York by the leader of the nationalist party here at a total cost of 80,940-euros, I think, answers that question.

Maybe, it was marching in the street only to see their government go against the wishes of the people and support the Iraq invasion.  Perhaps, it was seeing the local party with the most votes blocked from power through the collusion of three minority parties twice (A practice that has even united the two, opposing, major national parties in the Basque coutry).  But, aside from some isolated protests back in December, people mostly just complain about the fleecing of their country and the steady deterioration of their economic well-being, ending the conversation with the Spanish phrase: Es lo que hay (It is what it is).  To which I ask:  Dónde está la rabia?  And they simply shrug, sip on their beer and smoke a cigarette before changing the topic to an upcoming vacation.

But, just like the crisis doesn't solely reside in Spain, nor does this passive acceptance of the current situation only occur here.  As a recent article in Salon, shows - the change in administraion across the Atlantic hasn't meant a change in the policies that brought the word "crisis" to all our lips.  So, to the American people I also ask: Where is the outrage?

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