Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Locked Dumpsters in Girona: the Spectre of Poverty in Western Europe

Spanish citizens in Madrid protesting austerity measures. 
With 42 days until the 2012 election and just 8 days until the first presidential debate on October 3rd, both candidates are clearly seizing any media opportunity to sell their respective messages to the American people.

Even if it's a real stretch.

Case in point: Romney VP candidate Paul Ryan's lame effort to turn the widespread populist anger over the NFL replacement ref's blown call fiasco at the end of last night's Seattle v Green Bay game into an anti-Obama moment.

If you've got 52 seconds and don't mind a crappy political joke, give it a watch. Watch the crowd's reaction too, the joke lands like a sack of wet mice even though the self-satisfied smug expression on Ryan's face makes it clear he thinks he just dropped one of the funniest lines since Bill Clinton eviscerated the GOP during his speech at the DNC. He also appears to briefly pause, look down at a podium and actually read that sad excuse of a joke off of a piece of paper.  

Speaking of bad calls I watched the Seahawks/Packers game last night and as a former professional football player it was clearly an interception. Was it a clear error on the part of officials trying to interpret a tough call? Sure, but it had absolutely nothing to do with President Obama's budget advisers as Ryan struggled to suggest during his campaign appearance earlier today.

In light of today's UN meetings, topics like Iran's nuclear ambitions, sanctions against Iran, the possibility of the Syrian conflict spreading further into Iraq and the global Muslim outrage over the now-infamous video posted on Youtube that slandered Islam have dominated much of the recent media coverage - and the campaign's respective policy stances. 

But lately I haven't really seen the candidates weigh in on the growing economic problems over in Europe; problems also affecting millions of Americans as well. Suzanne Daley's eye-opening piece in Monday's New York Times put the spotlight on the growing numbers of Spanish citizens facing the reality of hunger as austerity measures slash salaries, government benefits, pensions and of course jobs.

Formerly-middle class people in Spain who used to have jobs are now being forced to search through dumpsters for food. Paralleling former members of America's middle class who now find themselves living in their cars as reported by Rolling Stone back in June. It's gotten so bad city officials in the Spanish city of Girona have resorted to putting padlocks on the dumpsters to prevent people from getting infections.

A truly sad indicator of the millions of people around the globe increasingly being pushed to the brink of survival. How much can they take though? As the BBC reports, today thousands of Spanish protesters are rallying around the capital in Madrid to protest the severity of the austerity measures. What's in store for the Spanish economy when 50% of its young people are unemployed?

It'd be interesting to see both presidential candidates share their ideas on what that means and how it will affect the next four years. Obama explored those themes with eloquence during his DNC speech but I'm not sure hungry Spanish citizens are on the agenda of the Romney campaign given his limited capacity to grasp the economic realities of the majority of the nation still trying to extricate themselves from the Great Recession.

Romney's campaign (to say nothing about his archaic views on the"47%") says a lot about the evolving cultural makeup of this nation and the growing gap between the privileged and the shrinking middle class. Given his inability to connect and recent polls in swing states, it's not looking good for him. How bad is it for Mittens?

Consider a just-released Zogby poll that shows Obama leading his opponent by a seven-point margin....among NASCAR fans. 42 days and we'll know the answer.   

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