Austerity Hits Europe’s Disabled

While EU member states have been playing one-upmanship on budget cuts, trying to beat each other to the toughest reductions in entitlements, the European Union itself has been forced to execute its first-ever round of concerted budget cuts. The members of the EU parliament, who for three years now have been endorsing harsh austerity policies in individual member states, now have to abide by the same warped economic principles that they have been subjecting others to.

The austerity chickens are coming home to roost:

EU politicians will next month be directly confronted with the effects of their budget-slashing policies when disabled people from all over Europe gather in Brussels to voice their anger at having their allowances and services cut. Around 500 people are expected to make use of the “European Parliament of Disabled People” – an event last held almost ten years ago – on 5 December to tell EU leaders the obligation to protect disability rights remains despite the economic crisis.

This is a perfect illustration of how idiotic, frankly, it is to make large segments of mankind directly dependent on government for their very livelihood. The EU has made a promise to millions of disabled Europeans to provide for their needs in one form or another. At any point in time that promise has a specific value in euros, a value that is determined by the needs that the EU promises to meet. When the EU made that promise its decision makers – Eurocrats and Members of the European Parliament – did not even think once about what would happen if they one day woke up and realized they did not have enough cash to honor their promises.

The EU Observer again:

Jannis Vardakastanis, European Disability Forum president, said the disability movement is not simply “doing nothing and waiting for the worst to come.” “We have been protesting. We have been fighting in many countries,” he said at the recent launch of a study compiling evidence of the effects of austerity measures in the EU. The survey showed a rise in poverty levels among disabled people, cuts in basic services and a return to negative stereotyping across several countries. Vardakastanis cited his native Greece – bailed out twice by international lenders and obliged to implement swathes of austerity measures in return – to underline the importance of taking a stand: “I can tell you that because of the fight and the struggle of the Greek disability movement, the disabilities allowances of 200,000 disabled people have been fully protected from any cuts.”

So they have cut something else instead, like spending on hospital supplies, subsidies for pharmaceutical products and benefits for the unemployed.

It is notable that this organization for the disabled in Europe is not pursuing private solutions to the problems that the EU and national welfare states have promised to solve. There is an important reason for this. Once government barges in to a new area of our lives, with big and bold promises to take care of us, it wipes out all private alternatives. Whether by law or by means of its sheer strength, government cleans the table of competition, proclaiming itself as the supreme source of benevolence and the sole provider of compassion.

Behold the welfare state.

The only problem for the do-gooders behind the welfare state is Thatcher’s Theorem: eventually they run out of other people’s money. QED.

Unfortunately, as the EU Observer reports, the campaigners for Europe’s disabled are doubling down on being dependent on government:

An issue that Vardakastanis mentioned several times is fear of a return to viewing institutions as a solution to dealing with disabled people while cutting down on costs – a trend mentioned in the study. “It is difficult to make our dreams our reality but we will never accept to be put back in institutions,” he said, adding: “We are going to fight make our dreams a reality even in a period of crisis.”

The Eurocrats in charge of making promises with taxpayers’ money are just as dumbfounded over the effects of austerity:

Referring to the impact of austerity measures of people with disabilities, Jose Leandro, an adviser on socio-economic issues to EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: “This issue is completely absent from political discourse on the crisis.”  “It is also absent in many cases from the minds of policy-makers who design the measures that are being implemented to fight the crisis,” he added.

Of course it is absent! Austerity policies are not designed to keep government’s spending promises – they are designed to look like they are keeping those promises. There is a world of difference between the two.

Europe’s disabled deserve the same freedom and opportunity as non-disabled citizens. It should be clear by now that government cannot provide that freedom, and is an entirely unreliable source of opportunity. Only a free society will do that.