As Radhika Balakrishnan, executive director for Rutgers’ Center for Women’s Global Leadership, pointed out on Thursday’s All In, the financial sector is doing better than ever under austerity.
“What we’re seeing is the financialization of the economy,” she said. “The economy is run by finance capital. It is not manufacturing, not working class unionized jobs that actually give people money to be able to buy things, but it’s finance capital. And profit is at an all-time high.”
This suggests another, even greater, factor driving austerity: Finance capital is not only insulated from the consequences, but stands to reap massive rewards. In Europe, for example, the ECB is using austerity to pressure the Greek government into removing labor market controls and break the country’s labor unions. They also demanded that the country institute a six-day work week. Such “reforms” open the door for international companies to provide low-wage, precarious jobs to the Greek people and extract substantial profits from their labor.
In the United States, austerity has resulted in mass public sector firings, to the detriment of public sector unions. The public sector is, of course, the last real citadel for organized labor in the United States, and by launching a prolonged assault on that citadel, the American right has successfully chipped away at what remains of the country’s organized left wing. In the place of public services and public employment, state and local governments have been forced to turn to private investment. No more so has this process been more extreme than in Michigan, where non-elected Emergency Managers have launched an orgy of privatization, sometimes going so far as to put entire school districts in private hands.
From the perspective of the financial industry and major private investors, austerity has in fact been a rousing success.
I’ve long thought that the goal of the austerity movement isn’t balancing budgets or reducing deficits, but giving the wealthy and powerful an ongoing excuse to practice disaster capitalism. I think I may be right.