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Reality and “Radicals”

5:03 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

Mario Monti
He was embraced by Italians as a change agent, much as Barack Obama was here in the U.S.

Appointed to replace maximally corrupt, ethically clueless, egotistically overwrought, picture-of-him-in-the-dictionary-next-to-the-word-“elitist” Silvio Berlusconi, Mario Monti surely seemed like a knight in shining armor: Here was a respected economist calling for reforms including higher tax rates and strong efforts to combat tax evasion.

Upon becoming prime minister, he even gave up his own salary.

But Monti also proposed pension reform and, backed by his technocrat cabinet – no member of which had ever been elected to public office – advocated “austerity” measures including the weakening or outright repeal of key labor laws. One ensured high levels of competency for cab drivers, pharmacists, doctors and lawyers. Monti’s reform, which was overwhelming approved by parliament, made it easier for less qualified people to attain licenses in these professions. It was done in the name of “increasing competition.”

Another reform targeted a longstanding law requiring employers to re-hire workers found to have been fired without cause.

Seems reasonable, right? If a company can’t say why someone is being let go, that person shouldn’t lose their job. Days ago, despite widespread worker and labor union opposition, Monti pushed the reform through, albeit a somewhat weakened version.

He argued that allowing companies to lay workers off more easily would open the door to more long-term work contracts.

(Individual workers negotiate contracts with their employers in Italy. Since the global financial crisis hit, companies have drastically cut hiring, and in the rare cases when a worker is added, market uncertainty coupled with the requirement to give cause when laying a worker off has led firms to commit to the shortest contracts possible. Still, Monti’s reasoning – that abolishment of the fire-for-cause requirement will somehow encourage employers to hire long term – is suspect at best, and makes contracts worth less than the paper on which they are printed at worst.)

Another Nude Emperor
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NPR: Conflating Austerity with Taxation

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Anthony Noel

The move has been subtle – almost imperceptible – but increasingly, the mainstream, corporate-owned media are blurring the line between austerity and taxation. In so doing, they are changing accepted notions of what tax revenue is for, to the detriment of working people the world over.

As the prime funder of government-sponsored stimulus, tax revenue will play a key role in creating new, sustainable, effective, accountable economies. But in more and more reporting on the “European debt crisis” – as that “crisis” plays out in “too-big-to-bail-out” countries like Italy – taxation is being increasingly (and I’ll say it right here: intentionally) lumped in with the “austerity measures” such countries are pushing through parliaments and forcing on their populations, that MPs might continue to line the pockets of their corporate benefactors “reduce their nations’ sovereign debts.”

In an interview this morning with European correspondent Sylvia Poggioli, Steve Inskeep of NPR (which, like our politicians, is corporate owned – simply listen to their roster of sponsors at the end of any program segment) asked about increased taxes as part of the austerity measures under consideration – against the bogus backdrop of Standard and Poor’s (read: Wall Street’s) “threat” to drop the “credit ratings” of Euro zone countries.

It’s a key distinction, one we must fight to maintain: Increased taxes are only “austerity measures” for people who – thanks to the devastating effects of unregulated industry and the politicians that corporations own – cannot afford to pay them. For the captains of industry, tax increases are merely a political football, kicked back into the faces of those honest enough to tell them it’s time to pay up, already.

Sadly, Poggioli followed Inskeeps’ lead. She mentioned protests in Greece, then said Italians are likely to protest property tax increases because higher-than-Greece home ownership rates in Italy mean more middle-income people would be adversely affected by higher taxes. To her credit, Poggioli noted that Italians would like to see the Church taxed on its real estate holdings, but by failing to make further distinction among the classes of Italian citizens, or even to mention whether the notion of increasing taxes on the country’s most wealthy has been discussed, she glossed over the reality that is driving the protests all over the world: The rich own us.

This is particularly surprising since Poggioli, according to her biography, is “[t]he daughter of Italian anti-fascists who were forced to flee Italy under Mussolini…”

The line between ill-advised government “austerity programs” – which afflict the working classes by slashing unemployment, education, and health and safety benefits – and taxation, which, done justly, would not only preserve social programs but enable huge stimulus initiatives to build new economic models from the ashes of the fossil-fuel economy, has nearly been erased. To re-establish it, protestors the world over need only begin chanting three simple words: