European Central Bank President Mario Draghi arrived in Madrid and the stock market went up. A few words were enough: the Spanish banks are in a positive process of restructuring. But then, after a kind word for the unemployed -- who, he said, are "having a bad time" -- he added that the reforms will have to continue.
What reforms? Well, the ones focused on austerity and cutbacks. Those that relieve the state of responsibility for employment, and lay it on the shoulders of the individual citizen. The market will create jobs when adequate conditions exist - that is, when the cost of labor is low enough so that a worker in Spain can compete with one in China.
This is a popular argument in tavern discussions, the punch line being that the government has no plan. I think otherwise. Yes, they do have a plan, and it is shared by many who are not aligned with the right. The thing is, this plan is so ugly that it can't be mentioned in an electoral program. The first pillar of it is to dismantle, as far as possible, the welfare state, slash investment in education, lower the cost of public healthcare, and cut pensions and unemployment benefits. To this end you have to break the power of the unions, exploiting the bad image they had won for themselves.
Yet Rajoy has had to admit that he has not kept his electoral promises -- in order to "do his duty," as he puts it. Indeed. In a few years, there will be no expensive deadwood left in this country: no public television, no national flagship airline, no centers for biological research, to give a few examples.
The abysmal difference from Obama's proposal is that, for the south of Europe, there are to be no incentives for employment
In this sense the Rajoy government is far ahead of Obama's, and is a perfect example of what Angela Merkel wants the southern European countries to be. Obama has sent a message that combines the intention of lowering the cost of the state, while expanding social, educational and healthcare policies, as well as investment in profit-generating infrastructure. His message attempts to quantify how these educational and social policies produce not only justice but also wealth. Not here. Here we have Rajoy and company: everything is to be cut, while leaving the privileged tax position of the powerful untouched. Merkel and Draghi applaud this policy, though warning that it must go further. How far?
The huge, abysmal difference from Obama's proposal is that, for the south of Europe, there is to be nothing in the nature of incentives for employment, if this means public spending. A ceiling on it is nailed into our Constitution.
One none-too-vehement social democrat, the former Bank of Spain governor Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez, raised a fuss a few years ago with his diagnosis of the Spanish economy. In short, he predicted a general 15-percent drop in wages, a liberalization of the housing rental market, and heavy outlays on education and research. It sounded harsh. What we are now looking at is a rather bigger drop in salaries (except for politicians and company executives) and nothing more.
The opposition leader, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, has been exhorting Rajoy to step down, on the grounds of the ongoing, endless Bárcenas scandal. Of course he ought to step down, merely for reasons of democratic hygiene. But afterward, what? Afterward, more visits from Draghi to exhort us to liquidate what remains of the state, and the occasional smile from Merkel, satisfied that the Germans can buy up at bargain prices the sprawling suburban developments that disfigure our coastline.
The essence of the matter is that we are not in Europe, but in Germany, whose government has made a firm decision as to which have to be the poor and rich zones of this invention, the EU, which just keeps growing.
If the PSOE governs again, our social policy will improve a little; but, as long as Merkel governs, no other EU policy can be hoped for. We are the poor of Germany.