Spain needs to rescue herself from those who have led to disaster
Juan Lopez Torres
Since the crisis began, its true culprits have managed to evade their responsibilities and make those who are suffering from it also feel as they are the guilty ones and pay without question for the plates that others have smashed.
Spanish banks were primarily responsible for what happened in our economy, for financing an irrational housing bubble and a business class (if you can call it that) that has done nothing but deliver blow after blow in debt, administrative favours, precarious employment and tax fraud.
Banks have been the mechanism used to evade taxes and to hide billions of euros in tax havens, obtaining the highest profits in the world, based on deception and a thousand different scams that have ruined thousands of families who now shout themselves hoarse in court to help ease their grief, without the government doing anything to support them. Spanish banks artificially indebted households and companies to make a quick buck and got in debt themselves at the same time, thus leading to a genuine private debt problem facing Spain right now. Spanish banks used their control over the media to have us believe that their situation was healthy and that they had no solvency problems.
And thanks to their political power originating from the Franco years, and now translated into political parties that have been slaves to the billionaire loans granted to the banks without any obligation to pay them back, the banks had measures adopted to get them out of the pit in which they left the financial system via their entry into the [property] market occupied by the savings banks (Cajas). But at the cost of a continuing failure to fund businesses and consumers and plunging the Spanish economy into a real depression.
Banks have obtained the highest profit of any sector in our economy but they have done this by ruining thousands of companies, destroying millions of jobs and facilitating tax evasion and political corruption. Now, their situation is unsustainable and they are trying to make others pay.
The top officials at the Bank of Spain have been complicit in this disaster. Pontificating about the need to lower wages and break down the already weak welfare structures, they turned a blind eye to increased indebtedness and the progressive loss of bank solvency, not just in the savings banks. They didn’t listen even to their own inspectors when they reported what was happening before the crisis broke, when they had started to see what was coming.
The leaders of the major political parties are also responsible for what has happened – although in varying degrees, for even the more radical of them left until the last moment in Bankia and other Cajas their representatives who were allied to those who have caused the disaster, or who were under investigation. They all fuelled a growth and management model, especially in the municipalities and autonomous regions, that was linked to obtaining real estate capital gains, or who had millions in debts with the banks that they never finished paying back. And yet the Court of Auditors and other judicial bodies have not taken any decisive action to avoid the corruption that surrounds them.
True, there are honest politicians and parties are always needed, but that does not stop us denouncing their leaders for a policy of widespread waste in government, and widespread corruption, while demanding reduced investments needed for essential public services without which their is not even the minimum quality of life or even democracy.
And to these culprits should be added some large employers, and other authorities, magistrates or the Head of State, who have failed to rise to the occasion and act with integrity when huge sacrifices are asked of the population.
Now, what if all these problems have been caused by multiplication of reprehensible personal behaviour? No. This has happened to such a disastrous degree because what has failed is our institutional armour, our political system and, specifically, our own Constitution, which is not functioning to ensure that we citizens enjoy our rights, or to prevent the outrages that embarrass the vast majority of us. We have rights that we cannot exercise in practice, obligations that we are not fulfilling, courts that do not investigate nor judge, criminals who are not prosecuted, even guilty people who do not serve their sentences.
For months, Spain has been attacked by speculators, and is under the greatest threat that it has suffered in recent decades, but the commitment of the government is bailing out the banks; it refuses to investigate who caused the breakage for which the Spanish have to pay, and it is dedicated to divide and discredit the Spaniards themselves and their own institutions. Millions of Spanish look with amazement at the unlimited money for banks that is not available for public services they need, and the King is going to make the fortunes of the heads of companies that are most responsible for defrauding the money from the national coffers, destroyed the most jobs and are the most guilty for having triggered such a singularly acute crisis that we are living through against a backdrop of international financial turmoil.
And while all this happens, the most powerful media groups dedicate themselves to spreading garbage, silencing the voices and critical debates, criminalising the anger and allowing political parties in government to do the opposite they tell citizens they will do when they stand for election.
Of course, Spain needs a bailout! But not in the form of loans that go directly to the banks and which are paid for by the citizens, as they are currently negotiating. No. What Spain needs is to rescue herself from those who have led to disaster: creating a Truth Commission to identify responsibilities, and promoting a new social and political majority capable of securing in elections the departure from parliament of the ‘yes men’ and compromised politicians who have caused today’s situation. And from this, we can really open up a democratic debate about our institutions, on how best to organize our state, our economy and our society to avoid a recurrence of the excesses and atrocities which have placed us on the brink and which are rightly filling decent people with rage and indignation, regardless of their ideology or beliefs.
Juan Lopez Torres is a writer, member of Attac Espana and Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Seville
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