(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.