Spanish socialists pour into the streets to protest
With unemployment at a staggering 23% - half the young people in Spain can't find a job - one would think that even socialists, who ran up the largest deficits in Spanish history, would acknowledge that change was necessary.
Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Spain Sunday against reforms to the labor market they fear will destroy workers' rights and spending cuts they say are destroying the welfare state.
Organizers, including the two largest unions Comisiones Obreras and UGT, said as many as half a million people joined the protest in 57 towns and cities, although Spanish police gave no official estimate.
In Madrid, one of the largest protests since the economic crisis began almost five years ago filled the wide boulevards from the Atocha train station up to the central Sol square with loud but peaceful marchers of all ages.
"Contracts are getting worse every year. They say they want to invest in the future while cutting research budgets. They're not looking to the future but to the next election with cuts dictated from Brussels," university researcher Nacho Foche, 27, said.
Spain's new conservative government began its four-year term in December with tax hikes and spending cuts worth around 15 billion euros ($19.74 billion) and must cut another around 40 billion to meet tough deficit targets set by the EU.
It has also passed reforms in the financial sector, which force banks to recognize property sector losses, and the labor market, which grant companies greater hiring and firing power, in an effort to appease nervous markets.
Spanish companies are forced to give laid off workers 45 days in severance pay, which puts a massive crimp in their ability to compete during a recession. Other reforms seek to strip some onerous work rules from labor contracts.
The problem is best summed up by a teacher: "Before we were privileged, but now we're having trouble even paying our gas bills."
That is probably an exaggeration. But what has to be changed in Spain is this expectation of "privilege" that is ruining the economy and causing their massive debt that threatens to bring down the European economy if it is not dealt with.