Catholic Church Finally Decides That Austerity is Bad
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El Mundo fears a slow-fermenting ‘crisis of the regime’, with almost every institution — including the monarchy — in disrepute. It likens the mood to “pre-revolutionary” France in the late 1780s.
The Archbishop, speaking in the austere episcopal palace of Spain’s ancient capital, said the current crisis is doing far more damage than the recession in the mid-1990s when unemployment briefly spiked above 24pc. On that occasion peseta devaluations let Spain regain competitiveness and recover gradually despite austerity cuts.
This time the country seems trapped in slump. The long-term jobless rate is much higher. Unemployment benefits taper off after six months, and stop after two years. There are almost two million households where no family member has a job.
Catholic leaders are pushing for change in an effort spearheaded by the “firebrand” cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich. Criticism from the church may be harder to brush off than that of politicians.
Nevertheless, so far, the objections are carefully worded and mild in comparison to the level of distress. In advanced economies, except for pet issues like abortion, the Catholic Church has steered clear of politics. It’s not clear that mere finger wagging would do, and this Church lacks the appetite to encourage protests. But its leaders do have media access. Given that there is now a rift among Eurozone leaders as to whether it is necessary to ease up on budget-trimming and focus more on growth, they might be able to provide more visceral images and stories of the long-term costs of putting budget targets over vulnerable social orders. But orthodox economic views are so deeply entrenched that having Catholic leaders speak out is likely to be too little, too late. And sadly, they seem to be the only prominent figures who can invoke the language of morality and justice against a cruel and destructive economic calculus.