Spain in the times of Coronavirus, Part II

Spain in the times of Coronavirus, Part II

a reconstruction fund & some nationalism

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how excited I was about Spain´s management of the crisis, including the passage of a historic UBI and its top class healthcare system.

Of course, everything is rose-colored if you compare it to the US, where even if you do get tested and treated for coronavirus you may end up with a $1 million hospital bill.

So European countries have emergency furloughs, public healthcare, and now even a UBI.

¨But how are they gonna pay for that?¨

Well, if the EU were one state it could just print $4 trillion and give it to banks and billionaires, like the US did back in March.

Personally I always look forward to economic crises in the hopes that capitalism will finally end this time. The protests in the US are promising, but they won´t amount to much without organization both politically and of alternative structures – and the time is ripe for both.

In reality, crises usually mean wealth transfers to the top 1% and a pathetic stimulus or ´bailout´ for the rest of us. Unlike the US, which can run up endless debt due to the sovereignty of its currency and the primacy of the dollar, European countries have to pay it back to the European Central Bank – or at least, that´s what happened last time. My dad, Yanis Varoufakis and I have all been moaning about how Southern European countries like Spain were going to have to leave the euro (or pay with crushing austerity).

But in Europe there´s still some semblance of democracy, and this morning the EU reached a new deal.

Instead of issuing straight debt, over half (€390 billion) of the €750 billion will be direct aid or grants, while €360 billion will be loans to be paid back over thirty years at low interest rates from 2027. Unlike last time, the debt burden will be financed by ¨eurobonds¨ and shared by the entire Eurozone, instead of falling disproportionately on countries like Spain, Greece, and Italy. Granted, €750 billion probably falls far short of what´s needed, but at least it´s structured more fairly.

Of the total, €140 billion will go to Spain.

Vicepresidente Pablo Iglesias elaborates in a thread (in English!).

As the Spanish government has stipulated in previous allocations, the economic recovery funds will target businesses in two areas: sustainability and digitalization.

Not everything is rosy, and it´s only the beginning. Not even two months after quarantine was lifted, there are over 200 new outbreaks throughout Spain. While most of them are being contained, the biggest one is now in Barcelona where there is a ¨voluntary quarantine¨ – and there could be more mandatory quarantines ahead.

I can only speak anecdotally of the economic situation, but most people won´t have received their UBI checks yet (it could take up to three months for them to come through). I´m seeing more people pushing shopping carts full of metal – an economic activity that used to be limited to young, African males, its demographic has expanded to include young South American women. The other day a man with a little Spanish flag on his mask told one of them to go back to their country. (Or was he talking to me?) The economic downturn is starting to hit, and VOX´s nationalist propaganda is at work, even in Catalonia.

I don´t want to get too excited about Spain´s social democratic government, but so far you´re not doing too badly, Europe – and compared to the unfettered capitalist garbage that is the US I´ll take social democracy every day of the week.

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