The new (old) face of austerity


Italy announced new austerity measures today in response to the current debt crisis. Pensions will take a hard hit: the retirement age is rising to 62 for women and 66 for men. The Corriere della Sera declared a “farewell to old age”; a headline announced “at least 42 or 41 years of work” before retirement. The prime minister, Mario Monti, gave up his salary in a symbolic gesture to “save Italy.” But the image of the day, for most news sources, was Elsa Fornero, the Minister of Labor and Welfare, who broke down trying to pronounce the word “sacrifices.” Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who writes a blog for La Repubblica, wasn’t impressed. He called them crocodile tears, and saw the move – both the cuts and the tears – as consistent with Fornero’s and the government’s intentions to preserve existing inequities in personal wealth, from the cradle to the grave.

Later today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris to continue discussions of the eurozone – and before la Fornero’s tears are dry, the Italian austerity measures will be old news.

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