The Associated Press is reporting that voters in France went to the polls Sunday, and in clear repudiation of the austerity measures implemented by the by the current government, ousted sitting President Nicholas SarKozy and handed the reins of power to leftist Francois Hollande. Hollande is the first socialist to ascend to the presidency since Francois Mitterrand held the office from 1981-1995. Hollande favors an increase in government stimulus and a change in the tax structure that could see the wealthiest in France pay as much as 75% of their income in taxes. His policies stand in stark contrast to the austerity measures favored by the incumbent, Sarkozy.
Sarkozy, who along with Germany’s Andrea Merkel spearheaded the movement to drastically reduce government spending and services throughout Europe, is the latest victim of a tsunami of voter anger over spending cuts that has ousted governments and leaders in the past couple of years.
Voters in Greece, Serbia, Germany and Italy sent similar messages to their prospective governments in Sunday elections.
This overwhelming repudiation of austerity measures that is sweeping Europe raises the question…Why, when faced with the very real prospect of the bankruptcy of their respective economies are voters stubbornly refusing to implement cost cutting measures to save themselves?
Former National Security Advisor to President Carter, and one of the foremost authorities on international affairs, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, offered this enlightened explanation. Doctor Brzezinski said that an authoritarian government or a royal government can implement austerity measures with impunity from repercussions from its citizenry. But if a democratic government wishes to implement austerity measures it will only be successful if it can clearly demonstrate that the measures are fair to everyone. For when austerity measures are considered, the first question asked by the citizenry is whose life will become the most “austere”.
The European election results should send a clear message to our politicians here at home. Those who would suggest that the burden of economic recovery be borne on the shoulders of the middle class while the wealthiest among us continue to live unaffected lives might want to consider Dr. Brzezinski’s analysis. For only through fairness will austerity measures become acceptable to the American voter.