EU Uses Crisis to Grab More Power

As Europe’s troubled welfare states are sinking even deeper into unemployment, zero growth, industrial poverty; as an entire continent slowly transforms itself from the home of prosperity into an economic wasteland; their political leaders show over and over again that they are entirely inept at saving the continent. Today we get yet more evidence of this from an article in the EU Observer:

The European Commission has proposed strengthening the social side of its eurozone governance amid fears the EU is in several member states becoming a byword for austerity and joblessness. In an ideas paper published Wednesday (2 October), social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor said a scoreboard should be established to keep track of unemployment and social data in member states.

This data already exists. It is generously available, especially to anyone who bothers to check the Eurostat website.

This would help “detect trends” in joblessness, people at risk of poverty, young people in neither training or education, inequality, and household income at an early stage.

Again, those trends are readily available at Eurostat. Unemployment data is there in large quantities, annually or quarterly, seasonally adjusted for trends or not adjusted for the immediate “raw” image. As for the other numbers, most of it can be found under the “social inclusion” tab or again under labor market data.

And then, of course, we get to the magic word “inequality”, a sacred word in leftist dictionaries. It is used to motivate virtually everything the welfare state does, but expands beyond direct income redistribution. “Inequality” motivates steeply punitive marginal income taxes; it motivates preferential treatment for people with certain racial and ethnic backgrounds; it is used to excuse government incursions into the labor market, into education, health care… practically every aspect of our lives.

Every common-sense minded person knows that “inequality” is a fantasy, a made-up concept with no real anchor in reality. More on that later, in another article; for now, let us get back to the EU Observer and their report on what the EU commissioner for social affairs is up to:

The scoreboard is to be integrated into the EU’s budgetary cycle – the European semester – so that national policy recommendations made by Brussels would take this data into account. “This should serve as an analytical tool, allowing for the better and earlier identification of major employment and social problems,” says the commission.

Really? How long did it take Brussels to detect that Greece was plunging into a depression chasm? How long did it take them to detect that Spain was following right on Greece’s footsteps? How long did it take the Eurocrats to realize that 20 EU member states have a youth unemployment 20 percent or higher? Regular readers of this blog have known all this for a long time. How hard can it be for the very well paid flunkies in the hallways of the EU headquarters to supply the EU Commissioners with the same data that I report here?

The EU Observer again:

The key indicators would focus on “employment and social trends that can severely undermine employment, social cohesion and human capital.” However, member states will not be forced to changed the policies in these areas if the scoreboard – due to be established in November – shows up failings. There will be “no automatic consequences” from the scoreboard results but it should help policy-makers to “focus better,” said Laszlo. He acknowledged that “many would like to see more [ambition]” but pointed to the “limitation” of the EU treaties where social and employment policy is in the hands of member states.

This sounds exactly like a set-up for a future EU power grab. If member states do not reduce income “inequality” and if their scores on other fronts under this new proposal do not improve as the Eurocrats want, then it is only a matter of time before the EU takes charge of a chunk of the welfare state. This of course means taxation as well as entitlement spending, elevating what is already a dysfunctional, ailing, unsalvageable social and economic system to a new, even more irresponsible level of government.

There is actually a give-away in the EU Observer article to this effect:

Laszlo’s paper also says the commission … will also present plans in 2014 on simplifying the granting of unemployment benefits for those looking for work in another member state. The paper comes as the eurozone faces record unemployment rates as it continues to focus on austerity measures as a way out of the economic crisis. The latest figures, for August 2013, show 19.2 million people are without jobs in the eurozone. Of these, 3.5 million (24 percent) are young people. The figures are starkest in Greece, where 63 percent of young people have no work.

So the only tangible consequence of this new initiative is an EU initiative to make it easier for people on unemployment to move across member-state borders. That is all fine and dandy in and by itself, but when put in the context of the next sentence in the article, this initiative is exposed for what it is: the Eurozone, says the article, “continues to focus on austerity measures as a way out of the economic crisis”. But as everyone with a common sense knows by now (and readers of this blog have known for two years) the austerity policies forced upon Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus and to a lesser degree France have only made matters worse. These countries are farther away today from full employment than they were when the austerity campaign started.

We simply have to assume that the Eurocrats in Brussels are aware of this. (If they aren’t, then Europe is in very, very deep trouble…) Given this, the statement by EU social affairs commissioner Laszlo reinforces the impression that this is just another power grab by Brussels. He knows that austerity is making Europe weaker and poorer, yet his proposal is not designed to force a change in poverty-increasing policies. All he wants to do is put some already-existing data in a new report.

If he was really concerned about reducing poverty and unemployment, he would give this new scoreboard some real influence. He would say that when a country scores too poorly, it has to reverse all its policies and move in the opposite direction. But this is not happening – and so for a reason. The commissioner knows that the only way he can reverse Europe’s slide into industrial poverty is by taking on austerity.

And that, he won’t do. Therefore, the only tangible outcome of this will be a centralization of entitlement programs, starting as mentioned with more EU control over unemployment benefits. But more EU control over Europe’s dying welfare state will not rejuvenate that behemoth. All it will do is create a false impression of the EU doing something for “the poor”.