Indebted America is in danger of turning into destitute Greece, or so congressional Republicans and conservative commentators have been warning us for years now. For many reasons, this is an absurd comparison – but it may not always be quite so ridiculous if Washington’s advocates of austerity get their way.
The Republicans actually want to impose Greek-style budget-slashing on the United States. And the federal budget sequestration scheduled to take effect next week could represent the first serious step here toward the kind of fiscal policies that have proved so ruinous not only in Greece — raising unemployment, destroying hope, and encouraging extremism — but across Europe.
Nearly every day, House Speaker John Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – or Senator Rand Paul or Rep. Paul Ryan, or almost any other prominent Republican – insists that the only way to improve the economic prospects of the American people is to impose drastic budget cuts on them. While these Republican leaders don’t love the sequester budget only because it cuts too deeply into defense programs, they are eager to impose similar cuts or worse on every domestic function, from health care and education to food safety and infrastructure.
Unwilling as they usually are to name specific cuts, the Republican plans that have emerged lately are indeed similar in scope and impact to those imposed by European central bankers on Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and other beleaguered states across the continent (and imposed by the British government on the United Kingdom itself).
Enacting the same fiscal policies in this country would, presumably, induce the same effects. Yet despite their enthusiasm for extreme austerity the Republican, Tea Party, and assorted media soothsayers almost never want to discuss what has happened in Europe as a result of those same policies. It is not always possible to ignore the unhappy reality of renewed recession, from England to Italy.