Unemployment and $3 Gasoline in the U.S., Austerity and Street Protests in the Capitals of Europe

BOOK SHIELDS IN ROME. One of many photos circulating in European newspapers and blogs, of protests against government austerity plans. This one shows students in Rome using book-like shields. Tomorrow, you'll likely see similar street theater in London. But only if you have access to European sources.

The beautiful people on CNBC, the Wall Street propaganda channel, chat happily about how high stocks might fly, and the price of gold and oil.  It’s surreal.

Even as they talk, the economy of the Western world is teetering on the edge of chaos. Students protest daily in the capitals of Europe against draconian austerity plans designed to screw the middle class and working class, and especially the younger generations. European governments seem intent on staving off default by cutting deeply into funding for education, arts and humanities. As you can see, ConsterNation is an international state of mind.

You need direct European sources to keep up with events over there. For instance, news and photos of the book protests in Rome can be found at this Italian blog by Italian novelists. If you can read Italian, you could look at their main blog.

Baroque in Hackney reports that students in London will mount a similar protest on Thursday. Ms. B even provides the address where you can go on Tuesday to help make life-sized books for the demonstration, if you happen to be in London. If not, there’s plenty of time to get there by Thursday. It’s a small world, so they tell me.

“With Arts and Humanities a particular target for UK cuts this is a literal display of literary resistance.”  — Ms. B

For more inside information (and videos) from the U.K., you could look at Coalition of Resistance.

Until recently, the U.S. cable channels had been reporting on the debt crises in Greece and Ireland. But as the contagion threatens to spread throughout the southern half of Europe, coverage in the U.S. has all but disappeared. You’ll not likely see film or photos of protests in Europe on CNBC, or any other news channel.

Could the U.S. news blackout on European protests be a conspiracy to keep Americans from knowing the extent of economic turmoil, at least until after the Christmas shopping season? When did I become so cynical? Maybe the news blackout is to prevent protest fever from jumping the Atlantic and infecting U.S. students. Maybe it’s to prevent panic.

Let’s go to the NUMBERS.

Even as the beautiful TV people talk, unemployment in the U.S. is 9.8 percent, officially, and possibly twice that much, in reality. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces are fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for their service they will receive a 1.4 percent pay increase, the lowest in many years. The price of gasoline is $2.97 a gallon, where I live, and more than $3, in urban areas. The snow is knee-deep, or higher, in Buffalo, N.Y.; and the temperature is going down to 30 degrees tonight in Orlando, Florida.

LILY HAS AWESOME POWERS OF CONCENTRATION WHEN A DOG BISCUIT IS BALANCED ON HER NOSE.

And Lily, the golden retriever, has about a one-in-three chance of balancing a dog biscuit on her nose, tossing it in the air, and catching it in her mouth. I had to add the true story about Lily and the dog biscuit for a little comic relief.

No one can predict the future. But let me make a few guesses. The temperature will go up later this week in Florida, and the snow will melt in Buffalo, by late spring.

But across America, it is entirely possible that unemployment will remain above 10 per cent and gasoline will remain above $3. For how long? Forever.

And what will the austerity plan agreed to by the U.S. government and the Wall Street tycoons look like? I will not hazard even a guess.

— John Hayden

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2 thoughts on “Unemployment and $3 Gasoline in the U.S., Austerity and Street Protests in the Capitals of Europe

  1. I’m not sure it’s a Christmas scheme, but I’m fairly sure one reason for the lack of news involves the lack of obvious similarity between the US and Ireland or Greece (people in the US think of these nations as quaint, exotic places to visit, now look what the natives have gotten up to) and the perceived greater consonance between our society and economy and that of the UK or the continental EU countries. It may be all about image and perception, but the news people know that’s what engages their audience. Debt crisis in Ireland = poor leprechauns can’t find their pot of gold. Debt crisis in UK = OMG the people we think are “posh” can’t pay their bills. Things are really bad! Or something like that.

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