Let’s fight austerity, not Germany

Austerity 2

Low-grade coins oust pricey coins. People collect pricey coins and exchange the low-grade ones. This is an old law with permanent validity. Something that also happens with opinions and ideas: People feel inclined towards the simplest ones rather than the vigorous and complex ones. Vacuum creates a sort of vertigo effect that is filled up with anything handy.

Is this analysis of the crisis and of the populist, light and unsubstantial conventional wisdom created by that poisons the public opinion–specially the angry citizens who want simple and quick answers–really applicable? Lacking a good discourse, the dominant arguments are not usually the most elaborate ones.

There’s a growing anti-German public opinion aimed at making of Merkel a scapegoat of everything that’s wrong. She might not be an angel, she doesn’t have the truth about austerity and she doesn’t hold the infallible recipe either. It’s not even clear whether she is the right one for the job in Germany. But this is not an argument that supports making her responsible of all misfortunes. It’s true that German media outlets, even the more professional ones, are of little help: they are as misguided by prejudices as their Southern neighbours.

The lack of a proper discourse about the crisis (neither the current nor the former government managed to generate a serious debate on austerity) opens the door to the populism and opportunism of the wisest. Even the government is elusive. They appeal to the discourse that ‘we shall do what we are asked’, ‘there’s no alternative’ or ‘now the European Central Bank should intervene if we want to overcome recession’.

None of these arguments are consistent, they are useless. There are alternatives; the ECB is Spain’s main lender. Spanish economic problems are mainly due to local and internal issues. Salvation won’t come from the outside even though the euro acts more like an anchor rather than something that would put the country drown. Coming from left and right, extremist arguments against the euro and against Europe keep growing, a fact that should worry everyone.

Germany is Spain’s first client, also the main investor, a loyal ally for decades. If Spain’s democracy owes something to someone it would be Germany. During Spain’s democratic transition, Christian democracy and Social Democracy German foundations sustained and alerted incipient political parties when they need it. As per Spain’s entrance to the EU, Germany showed its support since the very beginning… And both countries share more common interests than with any other member. We won’t leave the crisis behind by confronting Germany. Using these wrong, empty ideas like low-grade coins to keep growing is the best path to disaster.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.

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