The New York Times Claims that Opposing EU Austerity Leads to Anti-Semitism

By William K. Black

I have written a series of columns describing the New York Times’ horrific coverage of austerity and the Great Recessions and Great Depressions that it has gratuitously inflicted on the people of the eurozone.  I thought I was safe from such coverage, however, reading a NYT column entitled “Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of the Shadows.”  Silly me.

It turns out that opposition to austerity is a key cause of Anti-Semitism – at least in the imagination of NYT reporters.

“With Europe still shaking from a populist backlash against fiscal austerity, some Jews speak of feeling politically isolated, without an ideological home.”

That sentence is odd on multiple dimensions.  First, there is the question of what is “shaking” Europe.  The NYT thinks it is opposition to austerity – not austerity – that is “shaking” Europe.  That reverses reality.  The troika’s infliction of austerity forced the Eurozone back into a gratuitous Second Great Recession and much of periphery into a gratuitous Second Great Depression.  It has now pushed Italy into a third recession and the eurozone as a whole into “stagnation” – eight years after the bubbles burst and six years after the most acute phase of the financial crisis.  Eurozone austerity is one of the great crimes against humanity.

Second, given the journalist’s stated logic, the economic devastation inflicted by austerity and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s accompanying war on workers’ wages in the periphery is among the most important causes of Anti-Semitism.  This means, logically, that the “populist backlash against fiscal austerity” is the potential solution that would greatly reduce Anti-Semitism.

“To many residents, the demonstration, which was organized by outsiders on social media, was an indictment not of Sarcelles, but of France. Youth unemployment is soaring, especially in immigrant havens like Sarcelles, and many French-born children and grandchildren of immigrants have become alienated from French society.

‘They have a real hatred against the state,’ said Bassi Konaté, a city social worker, who added that many of the protesters came from poorer districts nearby. ‘A big proportion of these people feel neglected. A lot of these people don’t know anything about Gaza. But they want to confront the police.’”

The NYT journalist (recently transferred to the EU beat from his long posting in Asia) never asks why “youth unemployment is soaring” – eight years after the bubble burst and six years after the most acute phase of the financial crisis.  Absent the troika’s demands for austerity, youth unemployment throughout the eurozone would have fallen – and it would have done so at least five years ago and be fully recovered years ago.  Why would young people feel “neglected” when France’s conservative leaders inflicted austerity on the Nation and caused “soaring” unemployment?  Why would young people “have real hatred against the state” when Hollande was elected on a promise of ending the economic malpractice of austerity and refusing to enlist in Merkel’s war on workers’ wages – and then betrayed his promises and the Nation by purging his government of anyone who insisted on honoring those promises?  How strange the young people of France must be to have these irrational responses to economic stupidity, brutal class war, lies, and cowardice by their national leaders.

Third, why is the “backlash” against the disastrous infliction of austerity limited to “populist[s]?”  Austerity as a response to a Great Recession constitutes economic malpractice that is as self-destructive as bleeding a patient.  Merkel’s demand that the EU engage in a war against workers’ wages constitutes economic malpractice and class warfare.  Logically, the opposition to such economic malpractice should create a broad coalition.  It is shameful and terribly destructive that this has not happened in the eurozone because of the troika’s cruel exploitation of the leverage provided it by the crisis to launch its class warfare in the form of its blitzkrieg against workers’ wages.  Merkel leads the Schwerpunkt of this modern day Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (the German code name for the operation that produced what we call the “Battle of the Bulge”).  Brussels is now a full member of the German-led troika rather than simply supplying the Belgian battleground in the Ardennes.  The right and the ultra-right dominate the EU parliament and many EU “left” leaders (Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and François Hollande) are neo-liberal allies of Merkel on these economic issues.  None of these leaders of the neo-liberal “left” has ever mustered the guts to respond “Nuts!” to a German demand for surrender.  Fortunately, General McAuliffe and the “Screaming Eagles” were made of sterner stuff.

Fourth, the journalist appears to have chosen the word “populist” for its negative connotations, which can include anti-intellectual and appealing to the “prejudices” of “ordinary people.”  The implication is that their “backlash” against austerity must be the product of bad economics.  This reverses reality.  While austerity and reducing workers’ wages is bad for the nation and terrible for workers, it can be an excellent strategy for the ultra-wealthy.

Fifth, the journalist uses the same word (“insidious”) that Roger Cohen used to decry what he claimed was the Scots’ disgust with the City of London’s financial giants’ frauds that caused the financial crisis and other huge abuses of customers.  The journalist   “there is also concern about what some see as an insidious ‘softer’ anti-Jewish bias….”  As I explained in a recent column, Cohen did not explain why he claims that the Scots’ disgust with the City of London is “insidious.”  If he is claiming that the Scots’ aversion to fraudulent bank elites constitutes Anti-Semitism he should be explicit and support his claim.

Sixth, the pro-austerity forces in the EU have prominent bigots that the NYT ignores or even praises, so why is the NYT singling out anti-austerity forces as purportedly stirring Anti-Semitism while praising the pro-austerity bigots?  One of the most prominent proponents of austerity was the CEO of Switzerland’s oldest private bank, Herr Hummler.  I devoted a column to his blatant racism in works he sent to over 75,000 elite recipients in Europe.  Hummler was treated as one of Europe’s most distinguished financial officials and observers.  Alas, in addition to his racism he ran a bank that was a criminal enterprise according to the Department of Justice.

The even more prominent austerian is Herr Henkel, who ran the German equivalent of the (combined) Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.   Henkel is also openly racist, and a supporter of other prominent German bigots, as I have explained in prior columns.

Americans, of course, are not unique in being susceptible to the bigotry.  Consider the policy advice that Mr. Henkel gives in the German context.

Dr Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the executive board and head of the [German Central] bank’s risk control operations, told Europe’s culture magazine Lettre International that Turks with low IQs and poor child-rearing practices were “conquering Germany” by breeding two or three times as fast.

“A large number of Arabs and Turks in this city, whose number has grown through bad policies, have no productive function other than as fruit and vegetable vendors,” he said.

“Forty per cent of all births occur in the underclasses. Our educated population is becoming stupider from generation to generation. What’s more, they cultivate an aggressive and atavistic mentality. It’s a scandal that Turkish boys won’t listen to female teachers because that is what their culture tells them”, he said.

“I’d rather have East European Jews with an IQ that is 15pc higher than the German population,” he said

Henkel promptly wrote to offer his absolute support for Sarrazin’s bigotry, using a title that stressed that he supported these statements unconditionally (Ich unterstütze Sarrazin ohne Wenn und Aber” – I support Sarrazin without any “if” or “but”).  

Henkel also claimed that the global financial crisis occurred because Democrats ended “red-lining” – the openly racist practice of refusing to make loans to blacks to purchase homes in areas that had been all-white.  Henkel was, at the time he made these statements, Bank of America’s lead advisor on its European operations – a position that he continued to hold despite my blowing the whistle on his racism to Bank of America and the public.  He only resigned the position when he became a leader of the new ultra-right German party that is rabidly pro-austerity.  The NYT, in an article that passes all understanding, recently wrote that Henkel’s leadership role in the new party demonstrated that it was a party deserving of great respect.

If the NYT wants to write about open EU bigots and racists – ones with strong ties to pro-austerity forces in the EU and the U.S. – Henkel is the perfect candidate for the profile.  But that would be inconvenient to the NYT’s standard EU memes – austerity and crushing workers’ wages are vital “reforms” essential to cure the mess that the “insidious” EU left has created.  Imagine what the NYT writers would have done with a leftist EU leader who said that he agreed unequivocally with leftist German central banker who believed that Turks were so inferior and posed such a danger of polluting the purity of true Germans that it would be better to have “Jews” than Turks move to Germany.

Seventh, it is the EU’s pro-austerity leaders of the right who are infamous (or, like Sarrazin and Henkel, applauded) for their constant bigotry towards the peoples of the EU periphery.  They openly and loudly treat southern Europeans as inferior.  The people of the periphery hear and read these jibes incessantly.  German troops acted monstrously in most of the periphery (as did their fascist allies in Spain).  Now German politicians deride the descendants of those victims in the EU periphery on a weekly basis and demand that Greece sell its islands to wealthy Germans.  Merkel is creating the conditions that could threaten the continued existence of the EU and that create the potential (though still unlikely) of renewed civil wars in Greece and Spain.

The three best things that the EU could do to reduce bigotry and the loss of social cohesion are economic.  Replace austerity with stimulus, end the war on workers’ wages, and provide a job guarantee for everyone able and willing to work.  Each of these actions would aid the economy in achieving rapid growth.  Again, the NYT’s reporters that cover the EU urgently need to read Paul Krugman and my colleagues.  The reporters are still aiding and abetting the quacks that want to flog the workers and demand until morale improves in the periphery.

9 responses to “The New York Times Claims that Opposing EU Austerity Leads to Anti-Semitism

  1. Steven Greenberg

    When pondering who in the world will ever stand up to the oligarchs bringing down the world economy, I realized that the most likely people to take on the challenge is the Muslims and people who are fundamentalists in Islam – or at least that is the way they talk and act.

    As an ethnic Jew, it is not a comforting thought to believe that the people who are most likely to take effective action against the oligarchs are people who won’t think positively about me even though I agree with them on this issue (and some other issues, but not on religious or cultural intolerance or fundamentalism).

    If I were an oligarchic Jew, the thought would give me even more pause. In the Nazi era, great wealth didn’t do a Jew much good. Being from the 99%, I do not appreciate the 1% who want to hoard all the wealth. If they are also Jewish, I don’t appreciate their insensitivity to what will happen to me when their greed blows up in my face.

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  3. Keep up the good work, Dr. Black.

    As this article below says
    What the Global Status Quo Optimizes: Protecting Elites and the Clerisy Class That Serves Them

    “The Status Quo around the world–from France to China to the U.S.–is optimized to protect its Elites and the sprawling Upper-Caste of academics, managers, think-tank toadies, technocrats, apparatchiks, functionaries, factotums, lackeys and apologists who serve the Elites, and are well-paid for enforcing the Status Quo on the disenfranchized castes below.”

    The NYT is just one more part of this status quo in our feudal society. At least the NYT still tolerates Krugman’s blog. I hope that Krugman is able to keep his job there. It’s important to have someone publishing in the NYT who is, so far, allowed to tell the truth about austerity economics. I would like one day for NYT to offers to publish the New Economic Perspctives blog also and/or to publish a blog by Dr. Black regularly.

    When/if that happens, we will know we are making some progress away from our current feudal system and toward a more egalitarian and democratic system.

  4. I completely agree with you, Dr. Black, on your economic analysis regarding the pro-austerity vs. anti-austerity battle raging in Europe. But, respectfully, I think you may have missed an important point in the NYT article. The author was attempting to explain a link between whatever position he supports and rising anti-Semitism on the European continent.
    It’s not that complicated. It is easily explained. Regardless of current economic conditions, Jew-hatred is always present. In times of prosperity, it is there – always just below the surface. In times of austerity, it rises to the surface. And Jews are always blamed for whatever is wrong. Even when the Jews are not involved, they are always the culprits of choice.
    Anti-Semitism is a choice. It’s a choice to blame all your troubles on a convenient scapegoat. And it’s easier to continue the patterns of the past then it is to change. And for the growing Muslim population in Europe, anti-Semitism is a religious dictate. For Muslims, Jew-hatred is not a choice. It is doctrine. That’s why Jews – at least those with any sense and the means to do so – are leaving Europe. The writing is on the wall. Europe is no longer safe. The voluntary migration that began in the 1970’s is now a river.
    You wrote about Sarrazin’s bigotry. He is a bigot, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Allow me to explain: During World War II, the Germans decided to rid the European continent of it’s Jews and the rest of European went along with them (with few exceptions). After the war, Europe opened their gates to massive immigration from Muslims countries in what can only be described as a giant act of contrition. In this, Europe attempted to redeem themselves in the eyes of the world by showing how tolerant and multi-cultural they had become. And now, Sarrazin recognizes this as a mistake. He wishes to go back in time, to undo the crimes and mistakes of the past. He wants his Jews back. Sorry, too late!
    I fear that it may be too late for Europe. I do not think they have the determination or the strength to save themselves. And the same thing is beginning to happen in the US.
    Am I paranoid? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that someone isn’t really trying to get me. And that’s why, even here in the US, I am mentally and financially, sitting on my suitcases.

  5. Interesting comments from every one today in reply to another great post from Bill Black, and I agree that it is ridiculous for Times Reporters to contend that opposition to austerity is activating anti-semitism rather than austerity itself. That view does reverse causation.

    I’d add a bit about the links from austerity to populism to anti-semitism. Austerity is giving rise to populist reactions among people with differing political outlooks. Left, Center, and Right populisms are all activated by it. Historically, right and center populism have been associated with anti-semitism, and they are today. Populism in the Ukraine, for example, is clearly anti-semitic, and right wing and centrist populist movements in France and Germany are also anti-semitic as well as anti-muslim. But left populism has not been associated with anti-semitism in the past.

    Now, however, due to the evolution of the Arab-Israel conflict, and Israel’s very violent and punitive attacks on Gaza, left populism is becoming associated with opposition to Israel’s actions, which, in turn, is being interpreted as by many, and may evolve to, more generalized anti-semitic attitudes in left European populism. So, I think Hannah makes a good point. These are dangerous times for European Jews. And the danger is coming from austerity and, perhaps, all parts of the populist spectrum.

    Nevertheless, I think the solution for these problems is concerted action against austerity by populists. This won’t end anti-semitism. It will always be there. But it will result in something closer to full employment and in weakening the Center and Right populist parties in Europe to which the anti-semites gravitate. If, in addition, important things can be done to change an angry populism into a more active and participatory system of democratic control, then perhaps a new Europe and a new Middle East, as well as a new America can arise from the present mess. See here and here.

    • Anti-austerity will only work if it is combined with the fight against inequality. You can have the fiscal stimulus that has worked in the past, but it will not be as effective as in the past when the benefits of the stimulus get sucked out of the economy by the oligarchs.

      It is important to remember this and to say this, because when the fiscal stimulus fails to work as well as it did in the past, this will be used as proof that we were wrong in our prescription for what was needed. It must be clear from the beginning and it must be repeated often that inequality itself is a drag on the economy no matter how much stimulus is done.

      • Anti- austerity is not stimulus. It is devising a program that will maintain full employment all the time regardless of variations in the busIness cycle. In other words, it involves at least the Job Guarantee, at a living wage will full fringe benefits, if not other automatic stabilizers like payroll tax holidays, and State revenue sharing (in the EU national revenue sharing). That kind of anti-austerity, along with taxation to level playing fields, and wage and price controls for cost-push inflation is the kind of anti-austerity program I’d favor. I’d also supplement that with free education programs, debt jubilees for student debt, and enhanced Medicare for All. These programs, over time, will have a profound effect in reducing inequality!

        • Thanks for that clarification. That was my main point, we have to make it clear for even the uninitiated what we mean by anti-austerity.

  6. Mike Riddell (@mikeriddell62)

    Whatever it is the politicians do or don’t do is irrelevant.

    The same applies to business.

    Whatever actions they take or don’t take are completely and utterly irrelevant unless people feel as though those actions make a difference to their own lives or the lives of those around them.

    The implications of this are profound.

    Their investment strategy is failing, and failing fast.

    Until ‘making a difference’ is codified, standardised and personalised we can expect more of the same.

    Luckily there are communities in the north of England that are intent on working with politicians and business people to help them improve the way they invest so that when they do it makes a difference that is felt at the level of community.

    So the one and only thing thing that the EU will have to do to reduce bigotry and improve social cohesion is produce more community. When seen as a whole, community matches under- or un-employed resources with the community’s unmet needs.

    Nothing need be wasted. Everything must be valued.

    All of our geo-political issues boil down to one thing and one thing alone – resource.

    Community is the panacea that will bring us to our senses, and cure our souls.