the road to serfdom(Pittsburgh) A few days ago I was in Rome, now I’m in Pittsburgh. My serotonin level is in freefall. No, Pittsburgh’s nice, really! The frutti di mare is good here. It’s the jet lag and the hemorrhoidal bonfire in my ass that make me want to die. And my VISA bill.

I asked an emaciated 70-year-old Pittsburghian taxi driver, Troy, whether the city was doing okay. He said that the unemployment rate was 7%, a point lower than the US average, that they never had a housing bubble here, and that manufacturing jobs have been gone for so long that nobody even remembers them. Pittsburgh is the Germany of America! Contrast that with Spain where the unemployment rate is 24.6% and the rate for under-25s is––holy-crap––53%. We had a situation like that once. They called it the Great Depression and it left a whole generation of Americans so damaged that they have a nervous breakdown every time they have to leave a tip. Eso es desagradable, Jack!

Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is helping the situation by being Merkel’s good little austerity bitch and cutting unemployment benefits in his part of the continent-wide pogrom against the poor. First-time job seekers get no help at all and only 60% of the rest now receive benefits. The number of households in Spain with nobody working is 1.7 million. Eso es una puta, Xavier!

Meanwhile, as if you needed more evidence that the banking industry is a bubbling cesspool at every level, now you’ve got the Libor scandal. We don’t know what the Libor rate is, but it appears that the fuckers were alternately shaving and inflating it and making money off the float. Municipalities and others who had loans and investments tied to the Libor got reamed by the banks as usual. If you have anything in your checking account (HA!) you’d better read your monthly statement carefully. There’s nothing to suggest that pilfering your deposits would be beneath these zero-scruple assholes.

Anyway, back to Europe. The European Union keeps talking about which strategy to use to “help” the countries with massive debt. That help includes cutting social spending, welfare, social services, public sector jobs, and increasing taxes. While everybody is peeing themselves over the Olympics, coal miners in Spain are threatening to sack Madrid with homemade bazookas that shoot golf balls, and the military has been called in to put down the rebellion with batons, teargas, and rubber bullets.

The next phase in “helping” the south is “structural reforms,” lowering wages to make the country more “competitive.” That means turning the southern countries into the EU’s Mexico. Labor unions are dissolved and the people become so desperate that they work for next to nothing and profits for the corporate slime go through the roof. Next comes “liberalization” of the economy where foreign banks and corporations buy up the roads, hospitals, water systems, utilities, natural resources and anything of value for pennies on the dollar. The thieves are then congratulated for making such “risky investments” in the poor countries that need it so dearly. Today’s prescription for Europe existed once before, we call it feudalism––six hundred years of destitution, malnutrition and misery for everybody but the aristocrats.

College kids, even though you can’t afford it, and you may not get your first job until you’re in your mid-thirties, grab your backpacks and get over to Italy, Spain, and Greece now before the social unrest gets ugly. You think pickpockets are bad––think carjackings, kidnapped tourists, beheadings, rising fascism. Go now! See the monuments! I’m glad I did. Southern Europe’s going to be a dangerous place to visit for a very long time.

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  • danielwalldammit

    "Austerity" is what we call it when the wealthy take the profits from long-term systematic wealth redistribution.

  • Hemmorhoidal bonfire?

    Serves you right for letting Druids take residence up your bum at midsummer.

  • nounverb911

    But the good news is the Pirates are over .500 for the first time in centuries.

    • Reinforcing my efforts to lobby for widespread piracy amongst hoi polloi

    • RadioBowels

      And how about them Stillers?

    • BaldarTFlagass

      Not when they go up against Navy Seals they aren't.

    • Callyson

      Andrew McCutchen = gift from God.

      Pirates over .500 for first time since paleolithic era = miracle to end all miracles.

  • Goonemeritus

    Pittsburgh is not the Germany of America, Rochester New York is and if you say that again the next sound you hear will be the roar of our tanks and the screams of our Stuka’s

    • kittensdontlie

      And from Cleveland, we will unleash our River of Fire on you and your fair city, and have a hearty laugh about our naughtiness. Suck on that Steeler man.

      • Callyson

        We'll see your river and raise you two more, Brownies…

        JK, kind of, Cleveland is actually OK compared to Cincinnati. At least you guys didn't send Boneheader to Congress…

        • kittensdontlie

          Bonerhead's tearfulness is both amusing and sad. He got the sympathy vote, but shows no sympathy. Cinci has much to recommend itself otherwise. Riverwise, you win,…burnt brownies are never a good thing.

    • Ah…Rochester…
      The ol' Eastman School…
      I spent many hours there crying in the bathrooms.
      Good times!

      • Goonemeritus

        At least it was a prestigious conservatory you could have been crying in a SUNY bathroom.

    • Beowoof

      Living here in Rochester, when I first arrived there was Teutonic smugness because Rochester continued to do well as manufacturing poured out of New York. Then, the people who invented digital photography, just couldn't let go of their cash cow of film. That simple decision, led Kodak to from 60,000 employees to around 5,000 and shrinking on the way to complete dissolution of the company. Now it seems to have become a cold Sicily, good Italian food, but not much else happening.

      • Goonemeritus

        Actually the early burn-out in manufacturing lead to a lot of start-ups and Rochester is doing pretty well by national standards. A reasonably sane government, excellent art scene and affordable housing make it a pretty livable city. Not that I live in it but my son does and he seems happy.

        • Beowoof

          The City of Rochester is pretty sane. Get out into the suburbs and it is teabag central. I have seen more Gadsden flags driving through the suburb of Greece than anywhere I have been in the last year. The same suburb of Rochester that is home to the bus lady who was tortured by the teabagger kids. The University of Rochester and RIT are the source of many of the start ups. Without the big colleges Rochester would be Utica. The arts legacy is left over from George Eastman.In many ways it is a very livable city lots stuff for families with kids, lots of artsy stuff for big kids to do. And I am not kidding about the Italian food. There are excellent restaurants in Rochester, particularly the Italian. If you are in town my favorite is Ristorante Lucano on East Ave. The big manufacturing of Kodak and Bausch and Lomb is gone. Xerox hangs on because of its big complex in Webster. Probably way too much info.

          • Goonemeritus

            By a country mile the best restaurant in town is Rooney’s, the waitstaff are true professionals the bartender deserves a knighthood and the food is boldly retro. It’s a little upscale but not out of reach, when I take clients there it never fails to impress.

          • Beowoof

            Haven''t been to Rooney's but will put it on my list. For real Tuscan fare, Lucano's can't be beat.

          • Goonemeritus

            I will give Lucano’s a try their web site looks really good. As to your comments about the surrounding areas it’s more of a mixed bag then you think. Yes there is large number of social conservatives and the religious right but there are also areas like Seneca Falls and Ithaca that make NYC look like Kansas.

          • I think you both double as Crank Tango, knowing so much about Rochester. I'll remember Lucano and Rooney's when I go this Thanksgiving..

          • Goonemeritus

            I would be remiss if I failed to give a shout out to The U of R Memorial Art Gallery. It is one of the best and most cohesive mid-size art museums I’ve ever been in. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving in Western NY.

          • Beowoof

            It is a nice mid size museum and they have an awesome art festival in early September.

  • memzilla

    "It’s the jet lag and the hemorrhoidal bonfire in my ass that make me want to die."

    These aren't the 'roids you're looking for.

  • SorosBot

    A job? I remember what that was like, actually working and making my own money instead of having to live off of what I can beg from my parents.

    • MissTaken

      It's okay honey. You'll make a good kept man for me.

      • SorosBot

        Aw, thanks sweetie. But it would be nice if I could buy you nice things.

        • BaldarTFlagass

          You two should get a room. Huh? Oh. Nevermind.

    • hang in there man. i was out for nearly two years. and you are obv of superior abilities as you hang here.

      and with misstaken.

    • AbandonHope

      Hey, just out of curiosity, what field are you in? My particular sector isn't hiring now, but the company I work for is huge, and we get access to internal job boards for things that haven't been posted publicly yet.

      • SorosBot

        I'm in law, although quite frankly I'm feeling disillusioned with the field right now and really looking at anything I can. It's really frustrating.

  • BaldarTFlagass

    Maybe Spain, Italy, and Greece can sign a Pact of Cast Iron and then invade Poland.

    • nounverb911

      While Mitt's there?

  • Jus_Wonderin

    Soylent Green is Tourists!!!

  • coolhandnuke

    The pain in Spain falls mainly on the poor.

  • BaldarTFlagass

    But doesn't wine cost something like 10 cents a liter in Spain? Seems to me that would deflect a lot of complaining.

    • davidcmoisan

      Vodka was cheap in the old Soviet Union, too…

  • FakaktaSouth

    Remember when 70 year olds used to could retire and didn't have to be taxi drivers?

    • BigSkullF*ckingDog

      They should stop being selfish by taking all the jobs and just let us eat their stringy old corpses.

  • BaldarTFlagass

    "we call it feudalism––six hundred years of destitution, malnutrition and misery for everybody but the aristocrats."

    And the clergy.

  • memzilla

    Geez, if only a really strong leader would emerge, someone who could unite all of Europe behind the ideas of a single currency, full employment, low inflation, and government-sponsored work projects…

    • nounverb911

      Mitt Rmoney?

      • memzilla

        He has experience running the Olympic Games, also, too!

    • Schmannnity

      And make the trains run on time.

  • BaldarTFlagass

    Sounds to me like "They're looting the Food King!" will soon be something more than just a line from a movie.

  • barto

    This is the Laffer curve corollary – the more you suffer, the better off you are!

  • Schmannnity

    What did you do during the class warfare, daddy?

    • Jus_Wonderin

      WTF? I didn't have a kid. Who are you?????

      • If I still had young children, I'd be stuffing them with high fructose corn syrup and transfats like they were geese

        And for the same reasons.

        • Schmannnity

          Patty pate'

        • HistoriCat

          Needs more creepy puppets.

  • Hera Sent Me

    I'm an historian by avocation and vocation. One thing I've learned is that people are people, regardless of time and place. The lives of people are always more similar than they are different.

    This year – 2012 – is starting to look like another year: 1932. That year, humanity faced a universal crisis. Some people responded with heroism. Others with fear. Hatred. Aggression. Fanaticism. Etc.

    How we face this moment will determine the future.

    I don't have a (supposedly) witty remark to add.

    • Jus_Wonderin

      Now I am depressed.

    • But free markets will step in and fix it all

    • Your gravitas is surprisingly comforting. Plus: "[a]vocation," etymology>> fun times for this word geek. +11 eleventy

    • I'll really start to worry once we start to see private armies.

    • BaldarTFlagass

      Ken, is that you?

  • BlueStateLibel

    I'm kind of looking forward to Europe going all pre-Renaissance Festival, the beheadings, outbreaks of the Plague and peasant revolts will just make it more interesting. And if history has taught Europe anything, it's that beating up on the poor always solves everything, right?

  • Where'd I leave that wall? There's a shitload of folks waiting to be put up against it.

    …with VOTES, of course.

  • Goonemeritus

    Fascism has a very short way to rise in some areas of Sothern Europe, I have relatives in Northern Italy that still have pictures of Mussolini gracing their walls.

    • BaldarTFlagass

      Lega Nord! Avanti!!!

      • Goonemeritus

        Roma ladrona!

    • Take hope, my Italian friend (from Milan, about 60), always calls him, "that bastard, Mussolini!"
      He says it like his name actually was That Bastard Mussolini.

  • But everyone knows it is their culture that doesn't allow Southern Europe to prosper.

    • Jus_Wonderin

      If only their trees were just the right height.

  • Well, since the corporations and the banks are doing well, does anyone really have to care about what is happening to the people?

    • Remember, corporations are people. So we're all doing just fine.

    • CapeClod

      Well, the people do. But who gives a crap about them?

  • CapeClod

    What Spain needs to do is send out a fleet of ships to discover a new world, loot it for it's gold, and then forcibly impose a strict religious order on the native inhabitants.

    • BigSkullF*ckingDog

      Don't forget the smallpox!

    • MissTaken

      Because no one is expecting it:

      ♫ The Inquisition
      (What a Show!)
      The Inquisition
      (Here we Go!) ♫

      • MosesInvests

        Cardinal Fang, is that you?

  • YasserArraFeck

    Maybe I'm biased (I live here), but the day I see Schittsburg and its friggin' Stillers, Bucs and Pens…and Western PA in general, in my rear view for the last time, will be one of the happiest days of my life.

    • DahBoner

      The Andy Warhol Museum is the best thing about Pittsburgh….

  • peaceocrap

    The IMF has been ruining third world economies with these prescriptions for generations. Now the banksters are finally moving on to Europe.

  • Well it's nice that the formation of the Eurozone has brought a new era of peace and prosperity — to the Germans.

  • Nobody expected the Spanish requisition!

  • Warco3

    We are so screwed.

  • mavenmaven

    yes, but proles and animals will be free.

  • bibliotequetress

    Is this supposed to be a satire of Friedman, without the happy cleanse of the streetsmart capitalist grammy selling socks knit from sewage and old newspapers?

  • BZ1

    how's that austerity thingy working out?

  • "Making money off the float." And that my friend, is capitalismo. All that solid melting into air, or in this case at least, trickle down piss on the rest of us.

  • poorgradstudent

    Austerity=Capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich.

  • amoamas

    "College kids" read Wonkette?

    Send a couple of them over my way!

  • Gorillionaire

    Lived in Pittsburgh for six months. It's a nice town. The symphony is fantastic. In the Polish part of town is a heavy metal band that does songs about perogies. And no Bank Of America branch for miles.

  • ken?

  • DahBoner

    The only reason I, as one of the few non-obese Americans over 40, want to visit Europe is to hear some overweight, obese Europeans tell me about how fat Americans are…

  • chascates

    So the EU banks screwed people over, will escape any penalties, and the Euro citizens will pay by leading lives of lowered expectations and less-than-quiet desperation. I'm beginning to think Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine may actually describe the situation pretty well. Profligate counties such as Greece can be penalized or forced out of the EU, social programs can be eliminated in the name of austerity, and the financial industry will strengthen its stranglehold on societies there. Sounds like America isn't so 'exceptional' after all.

  • ttommyunger

    I'll make the same deal I made here in Atlanta during the '96 Olympics: I'll stay home if they will.

  • jaytingle

    Doesn't Tom Friedman's cab driver ever take a day off?

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