You, you and me

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‘Between us, we can sort it out’ is my translation of the publicity campaign ‘Esto lo arreglamos entre todos,’ an attempt to haul the staggering Spanish economy out of the recession and place it firmly on the road to recovery through positive thinking and actions at grassroots level. Basically, if we all do our bit, Spain will recover, as nothing can resist the power of the people.

The first thing I thought when I heard about this viral publicity campaign was, can we really change this situation on a microeconomic level, from the bottom upwards? It sounds wonderful and empowering, but even if we all do our bit, will it actually work? I couldn’t help but recall the VAT decrease in the UK during 2009 from 17.5% to 15%, which was a government idea to stimulating consumer spending. It wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t the magic potion which revived the economy. In fact, in my experience, it did more at the end of 2009 when people realised that prices were going to increase (I remember a study in which the authors said that when prices fall people don’t buy, instead they wait for them to fall further –consequently the knowledge of a price increase is a bigger incentive.) In contrast, the tax on bankers’ bonuses was a bigger success than expected.

Secondly, the campaign has turned into something of a scandal as apparently the organisation behind the campaign is funded by big business, and apparently receives funds from the treasury, although I have found no concrete evidence about this.If you read the campaign website it sounds idyllically independent, an operation dreamed up by a husband and wife team. What better advert for the campaign than an everyday couple trying to change the world by themselves? Suddenly, when you understand the  backing, it becomes a cynical attempt to try and shift the responsibility for repairing the economic damage to the people. Trying to do it secretly, in this bottom-up independent way, is an absolutely appalling thing to do.

You and you and I. We’re going to save the Spanish economy. Is it really our responsibility? Is it our fault? This campaign is an implicit indictment of the system (both political and economic) and it’s inability, or rather unwillingness, to propel Spain out of the recession. What can the everyday person do if the banks refuse to give credit? What is needed is decisive action from the government to restructure the economy, stimulate employment and create a fairer system for all (I suggest starting with a crackdown on corruption.) I work in a local language academy. If unemployment is the key problem in the Spanish economy what can I do to solve the problem? I don’t provide posts for other people to work. I spend my money and do my bit but what is needed is more than just thinking positively; there needs to be decisive action by both the government and big business. The everyday person on the street is being asked to solve a problem not of their making. Does that mean if we don’t come out of the recession quickly it will be the fault of the people for not thinking positively enough?

‘La crisis que la paguen los ricos’ screams the graffiti around Oviedo, but it seems that every man and woman on the street is being forced to accept responsibility for the problems and to haul the country out of this mess. I’m sorry but this can only ‘be sorted out’ by a few, and unfortunately they don’t want to.

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