Economic despair is killing people. As the recession crisis unfolded in Europe the consequences of austerity measures on poor and middle class individuals, versus maintenance of high caliber medical care for the wealthy came into sharp relief. In Greece, for example, several rounds of austerity measures imposed by the IMF and the EU led to massive reductions in public health and medical services, starting in early 2009. By 2012 the Greek suicide rate and mental illness crisis had soared, pharmaceutical outages were reported all over the country, hospital hygiene and basic services had reached such low levels that doctors advised patients not to seek inpatient care, HIV incidence was climbing, malaria was widespread for the first time since World War II, dengue spread in various regions of the country for the first time in nearly a century, and tragedy plagued every aspect of health protection in the nation. When the state of Greek health was summarized for EU leaders in a May 2013 austerity meeting the Europeans reportedly left in “a state of shock.”
–Laurie Garrett, The Survival of Global Health — Part Three
Social Research quarterly, a publication of the New School for Social Research Center for Public Scholarship, in Volume 80 has two issues of particular interest to Public Good readers: Corruption, Accountability, and Transparency (number 4), and Austerity: Failed Economics but Persistent Policy (number 3).
Austerity programs pushed by the US, EU, World Bank and IMF are only partly about the greed of financial institutions and those that own them; it is equally about maintaining the power of social control by oligarchies of stolen wealth. People who are desperately foraging for food, shelter and medicine cannot muster the resources required to fight effectively for universal freedom from the impoverishing oligarchies. Mutual aid and solidarity of spirit don’t mean much when your network or milieu hasn’t the wherewithal to afford an Internet connection, telephone, or postage stamp.
Oligarchies established by theft of other peoples’ land, lives, resources and wealth need replenishing in order to maintain luxury lifestyles and keep democracy down. While murder is still a useful tool, theft of public treasuries is now the predominant method, and austerity for the victims the inevitable consequence.
Organizing effective resistance to thieving oligarchies is not a simple task under these conditions. It demands heroic sacrifice few will willingly make.