William Saas, Jorge Amar, David Glotzer, and Scott Ferguson
This is the first part of a three-part series on Spain’s economic crisis, the program of the new leftist political party Podemos, and both the limitations and potential of the Spanish left today. The authors point to the importance of employment policy (and especially a job guarantee) for pulling Spain out of the crisis, the necessity of a “left exit” (lexit) from the euro, and the relevance of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in transcending conventional balanced-budget thinking.
William O. Saas is an assistant professor of rhetoric at Louisiana State University. His work has appeared in symplokē and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.
Jorge Amar is a Spanish economist, president of Asociación por el Pleno Empleo y la Estabilidad de Precios, or Full Employment and Price Stability Association), and a doctoral candidate in applied economics at the Universidad Valencia. Recently, Amar served as economic advisor for Spain’s Unidad Popular party.
David Glotzer is a valuation analyst at Solidifi, and freelance writer whose background is in Economics and Mathematics. His writings have appeared in CounterPunch, Investig’Action, Strategic Culture Foundation, and Young Progressive Voices.
Scott Ferguson is an assistant professor of humanities and cultural studies at the University of South Florida. He is also a Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His essays have appeared in CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and Flassbeck Economics International.
They are beautiful sights, the public squares of Madrid—open spaces, lush gardens, and sparkling fountains, all surrounded by striking architecture dating from the city’s days as seat of a colonial empire. These ornate public spaces now serve as makeshift residences for a growing number of Spanish dispossessed. After nearly a decade of austerity, depression, chronic unemployment, and perpetual political submission to the dictates of the Troika (the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission), thousands displaced from work and home are left with little choice but to seek refuge in the few parcels of public infrastructure that remain available to them.
Improvisation is the name of the game for members of the new Spanish precariat. At Madrid’s main square, the Plaza Mayor, newly homeless citizens (some highly educated) rise early for work busking or selling scrap metal. Throughout the country, members of the growing reserve army of ninis—or “neither nors,” the quarter of the young Spanish who are neither in school, nor employed, nor in training programs—forage for food to take home to their squatted apartments. Los irrecuperables (“unrecoverables”), the more than half of long-term unemployed Spanish over age 50, are meanwhile forced to figure out how to subsist on severely reduced pensions and the charity of their fellows.
The homeless, ninis, and irrecuperables are not alone in their plight. Indeed, stability and security elude even the employed afortunados in austerian Spain. Recent labor law reforms, first passed by the center-left (and resolutely neoliberal) Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and then expanded by the conservative People’s Party (PP), have eroded workers’ rights and enabled employers to seize an even larger share of national income. Wages and benefits are taking a beating, too. Total worker compensation fell from about €523 million in 2007 to less than €510 million in 2015. Even as unemployment has risen, total spending on unemployment benefits has fallen more than 25%. Temporary work is replacing traditional employment, with the average length of contract falling from 77 days in 2008 to 57 by 2014. (Formal contracts between employer and employee are legally required in Spain.) Part-time work constitutes one third of all labor contracts. Finally, the percentage of unpaid overtime rose from less than 40% in 2008 to over 55% in 2015—a sum equal to the lost income of approximately 87,000 full-time jobs.
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