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In sequester's austerity, will US echo Europe's politics of fear?

The enforced austerity of the eurozone crisis has roused surprising public anger. European governments are falling. The US need not follow this path if Washington finds a consensus over fiscal issues like 'the sequester.'

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Protesters hold masks during an anti-austerity and anti-corruption protest in Slovenia Feb. 8. The country's parliament dismissed the government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Feb. 27.

Reuters

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Americans, who face enforced austerity with the March 1 “sequester” of the federal budget, need only look across the Atlantic to see how they should not react to such spending cuts.

Europe is four years into its debt crisis, and last year it had appeared to be muddling through. But recent political instability in a few EU countries reveals a surprising level of public fear over dire economic conditions as well as anger toward elected leaders.

The results of Italy’s Feb. 24-25 election were the most telling. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the austerity policies of Prime Minister Mario Monti. But no one party received a winning endorsement, creating enough political instability to rattle markets and political confidence in the 17-nation eurozone.

On Feb. 27, the prime minister of Slovenia was ousted following massive protests in a nation that once was Europe’s shining new star but has seen its economy shrink by 2 percent.

And in the European Union’s poorest country, Bulgaria, the government quit last week after days of protests over austerity measures.

The weakening of Europe’s leadership through such public feelings of loss was also reflected in a New Year’s warning by French President François Hollande. He told France to expect almost no economic growth and rising joblessness. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron had to offer a referendum on whether Britain should exit the EU, even as the nation’s triple-A debt rating was downgraded by Moody’s.

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