Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Spain model?

In a number of ways Spain can be considered the Obama Administration's economic model. Suffering, like the U.S., from a severe hangover in the housing industry, the country's economic approach includes "green jobs", high-speed rail (Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood even visited the country for a first-hand look) and of course universal health care. Heck, even the new "cash for clunkers" program is paralled in Spain by a subsidy program that gives €2,000 for the purchase of new cars and the government has spent billions on infrastructure and school projects to boost the economy.

By the logic espoused by people like Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman and any number of politicians the country should be spectacularly positioned to tackle the new challenges of the 21st century. Except, as this article in Der Spiegel notes, that isn't the case at all:
As the country faces the worst recession since the Spanish Civil War ended 70 years ago, first-time jobseekers are being hit especially hard. No other country in Europe has as many young people out of work: almost 37 percent of people under 25 and a quarter of those under 30. Sociologists have already created a name for this group -- "generación ni-ni," the neither-nor generation. The term meant to describe young people who are neither studying nor working and don't have something in their lives that they can get excited about. It's a true zero generation -- zero jobs, zero prospects. A recent survey of Spaniards between the ages of 18 and 34 showed that 54 percent of those polled view themselves as neither-nors.
Take Eva Reina López, for example. She's 20; her father's an electrician and a widower. Reina did everything right. After getting her secondary school degree, she no longer wanted to be a burden on her father, who had raised her alone since she was six. So, instead of enrolling at one of Madrid's universities -- which had been her father's dream for her -- Reina followed her boyfriend to a small city in León Province nestled in the mountains of northwestern Spain. And there -- in her mother's hometown and where Spain's socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero began his political career -- Reina learned how to weld. After six months of training at a company called Coiper, which manufactures towers for wind turbines, she secured an employment contract for six more months. The government in Madrid is promoting wind power as Spain's great industry of the future.

In January, it was all over. Coiper can no longer find buyers for its products. The government froze subsidies for sustainable-energy ventures after the economic crisis hit, which has caused wind-farm construction to stagnate.

...For the moment, most unemployed people in Spain are relying on their families for support. But there are still nearly a million households without a single regular income, and 600,000 people are already dependent on charity.

...The wind turbines let Reina down, even though Prime Minister Zapatero continues to preach "less oil and more renewable industry, less brick and more computers" as his country's new growth model. But the International Monetary Fund predicts a very slow recovery for Spain.
Read the whole thing. I'm afraid that we're taking the first steps down the path that leads to a similar destination.

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