As the global economic crisis continues to worsen, austerity has become the consensus of the ruling elite. The combination of brutal cuts, exploitative privatizations, and the assault on organized labor has led millions into the streets of Europe, demanding an end to the attack by the financiers. However, in the United States, we face the prospect of an insidious “grand bargain” between Obama and the Republicans, one that will usher in a wave of cuts to social services that will surely cost lives and lay the groundwork for the destruction of critical social programs. It is against this backdrop that we ask the question: Why is it always working people, the poor, the elderly, and other disadvantaged groups who are forced to pay for the excesses of the ruling class? Why must we pay for them?
Dr. Jeffrey Sommers is an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book The Contradictions of Austerity: The Socio-Economic Costs of the Neoliberal Baltic Model (2013). His research in political economy has recently brought him to Latvia and other parts of Eastern Europe where he has studied austerity and its impact on society. A strong critic of neoliberal capitalism, Dr. Sommers discusses the need for growth and credit creation as central to any economic recovery. He also explains how austerity fits into the larger historical context of the financial ruling class and their exploitation of the working class and the poor.