by Stephen Lendman
Austerity reflects predatory capitalist harshness. Bankers, other corporate favorites, and super-rich elites are enriched at the expense of most others.
Force-fed policies are destructive. Disadvantaged households are harmed most. Capital's divine right is prioritized. It profits by cutting wages and eroding social spending en route to eliminating it altogether.
Washington's fiscal cliff duplicity conceals class war. Bipartisan complicity wants America's social contract destroyed. By 2023 or sooner, it may no longer exist.
Robbing poor Peter to pay rich Paul is policy. It's happening across Europe. The worst of times are planned. Banker rights are prioritized over popular ones. They're on the chopping block for elimination.
OnJanuary 1, The New York Times headlined "Used to Hardship, Latvia Accepts Austerity, and Its Pain Eases."
It's hard imaging rubbish this unconscionable gets published. The Times featured it.
Latvia "provide(s) a rare boost to champions of the proposition that pain pays," said The Times. Hard times continue.
"But in just four years, the country has gone from the (EU's) worst economic disaster zone to a model of what the (IMF) hails as the healing properties of deep budget cuts."
IMF policies wage financial war on humanity. They're hugely destructive. They debt-entrap nations. They impoverish millions. They force-feed structural adjustment harshness. They mandate:
• privatization of state enterprises; many are sold for a fraction of real worth;
• mass layoffs;
• deep social spending cuts;
• wage freezes or cuts;
• unrestricted free market access for western corporations;
• corporate-friendly tax cuts;
• tax increases for working households;
• trade unionism crushed or marginalized; and
• harsh repression against opposition to a system incompatible with social democracy, civil and human rights.
Kleptocrats are empowered. Bankers and other corporate predators strip mine countries of material wealth and resources. Crown jewels are sold off at fire sale prices. Poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness grow.
People lucky enough to have jobs become serfs. Debt peonage substitutes for freedom. A race to the bottom follows. Force-fed austerity is neo-Malthusaianism writ large.
Its holy trinity mandates no public sphere, unrestrained corporate empowerment, and abolition of social spending. It's the worst of all economic/financial worlds.
They're financialized into hollow shell dystopian backwaters.
Bravo, said The Times. After seeing its economy shrink 20% from peak levels, Latvia dead-cat bounced a smidgen. Its exports rose.
"We are here to celebrate," said IMF head Christine Lagarde. She's a world class scoundrel. She was Washington's top choice to run things. Her support for neoliberal harshness won her the job.
Her mandate is austerity harshness, mass impoverishment, neo-serfdom, and extracting wealth for giant banks and other financial favorites. Her background showed she's up to the challenge.
She held previous high-level financial, trade, and other government and business posts. She didn't disappoint. She's a walking conflict of interest.
She's a longstanding hardline neoliberal insider. She's well rewarded for inflicting pain. She calls Latvia a success story. Its government sacked a third of its civil servants.
Wages were severely slashed. Benefits largely disappeared. Economic deprivation left vast numbers "severely materially deprived."
Fo ordinary people, crisis conditions persist. Anyone out of work on earning subsistence or sub-poverty pay understands what's going on better than talking-head economists.
Many people left and won't return. They include some of Latvia's best and brightest. Why endure IMF harshness.
Riga-based Stockholm School of Economics Professor Morten Hansen said Latvia's unusually open economy enabled relentless wage and benefit squeezing.
"You can only do this in a country that is willing to take serious pain for some time and has a dramatic flexibility in the labor market," he said.
In other words, it's only possible where workers have no rights, those most vocal and angry leave, and others know resistance faces stiff crackdowns. It's also easier perhaps in tiny countries. Larger ones are harder to control.
Hansen added that "The lesson of what Latvia has done is that there is no lesson."
Jeffrey Sommers and Michael Hudson addressed Latvia. Their article is titled "Latvia's Economic Disaster as a Neoliberal Success Story: A Model for Europe and the US?"
Latvia is today's "most highly celebrated anti-labor success story," they said. It's called a country "where labor did not fight back, but simply emigrated politely and quietly."
Workers endured austerity instead of resisting, it's claimed. Many voted with their feet and left. Most remained and suffered. Tax burdens are "decidedly on (their) backs…."
Latvia is praised for being "business friendly." It comes at a high price. It reflects 19th century harshness. It's a cruel unacceptable social experiment.
The New York Times article is discussed. Human misery is called the "Latvian Miracle." The newspaper of record "has fallen in line with the surrealistic Orwellian attempts to depict Latvia's austerity and asset stripping as an economic success…."
Wages and benefits are stripped to the bone. Workers endure unconscionable tax burdens. Real estate interests get off lightly. So do capital gains and other business-friendly initiatives.
Latvia became "de-industrializ(ed), depopulat(ed) and de-socializ(ed)." It's a model dystopian state. It became a "Protestant morality play."
"(S)toic Balts confront(ed) crisis" by avoiding "histrionics (and) getting busy with work." These type notions appeal to "smug middle-class prejudices and stereotypes in countries whose populations have not had to suffer economic experiments in neoliberal horror."
"Anyone with actual experience in Latvia will see the dissonance between myth and reality regarding the government's response to the crisis."
"Latvians most emphatically did protest both the corruption and proposed austerity following the fall 2008 crash."
Neoliberal regimes condemn resistance. Harshness was force-fed. Many people emigrated. Protests abated. People most vocal and angry sought better times elsewhere.
Latvia's post-Soviet population dropped from 2.7 million to "an official" 2.08 in 2010. "Demographic reports originally (said) 1.88 million in 2010. Some Latvian demographers" say totals were inflated.
Latvian "success" reflects "neoliberal Potemkin Village illusion." The country's 2008 economic collapse "was the deepest of any nation when the financial bubble burst."
The depth of its crisis permitted a dead-cat bounce. Officials and media scoundrels claim recovery. Privileged few alone benefit.
Success reflects population and capital flight, clear-cutting forests, de-industrialization, neoserfdom, unprotected workers, poverty-level wages, and addressing underdeveloped agricultural and transit sectors.
"Neoliberals call austerity and emigration 'stability' and even economic growth and recovery, as long as people don't complain or demand an alternative."
Is Latvia's model heading for America? Bipartisan complicity to destroy popular benefits suggests the worst of hard times ahead. They'll arrive incrementally over time.
The America older generations grew up in doesn't exist. Worse times loom. Younger ones face dystopian harshness. They'll be no place to hide.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.