September 19, 2006

Hungary for the Truth

Hatched by Dafydd

Blah, blah, cut through all the nonsense. Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany (say that three times fast) was caught on tape copping to members of parliament that he and his coalition have lied to Hungarian voters for four years straight. They lied about the state of the budget and the economy, and they did it to get reelected:

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany defied opposition pressure to quit on Tuesday after anti-government riots he called "the longest and darkest night of the republic."

The worst riots in Hungary since the end of communism followed the leak of a tape on Sunday in which Gyurcsany said he and his Socialist party had lied for four years about Hungary's budget in order to win a general election in April.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Budapest late on Monday, attacking the state television building in clashes which left 150 injured.

They got themselves reelected (barely) back in April. But the tape just surfaced Sunday... inconveniently in the midst of a riot over a completely different subject: the "austerity measures" which Hungary has adopted on orders from the European Union (EU):

Protests had already been planned this week over tough austerity measures imposed following the Socialists' victory in last April's election, which have seen the government's popularity plummet.

The measures, imposed under pressure from Brussels, include higher taxes and benefit cuts, are aimed at reducing Hungary's large public deficit.

But our correspondent says the leaked revelations were, for some of the protesters, the straw that broke the camel's back.

Bottom line: the EU (pronounced "eeeuww!") is like the Butcher in Lewis Carroll's "the Hunting of the Snark":

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea--but, that one being "Snark,"
The good Bellman engaged him at once.

The financial mavins in Brussels (well, actually the European Central Bank is in Frankfurt, Germany; but who's counting?) see disasterous economies across the continent... and they have "just one idea" for fixing them:

  1. Dramatically cut benefits (good idea)
  2. Dramatically raise taxes (terrible idea that completely undoes idea 1 above)

The double-whammy of benefit cuts (so the huge unemployed underclass has no money to spend) and cranking taxes up on a hydraulic jack (so those few actually earning money don't get to keep any of it) sends economies into a death spiral... or as aviators would say, a flat inverted spin. (In a flat inverted spin, an airplane has the aerodynamics of a dropped brick, which pretty much describes most European economies as well.)

So for four years, Hungary has been struggling to obey the diktat from "Brussels" (I'm not going to get into that geographical argument again), while not actually crippling the economy to the point where the whole country -- parking lots, deserted industries, and the combined valuable blood chemicals of all the citizens -- is worth less than the price of a middling-sized three-bedroom home in Brentwood, California.

Had Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ("I have said it twice: That alone should encourage the crew") actually gotten on the state-run TV station (before the rioters burned and looted it) and told the truth, the next sounds he would have heard would be ten million Hungarians saying "boil the tar, pluck a goose, and for God's sake, somebody find me a rail!" -- or Hungarian words to like effect.

So guess what? He lied. He told the populace that God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.

He's a Socialist. That's one of their best things.

So what are Hungary's prospects for the future? Not good, but looking somewhat brighter. Reuters:

The protests came two weeks ahead of local elections on October 1 and follow a slump in the ruling Socialist Party's popularity to 25 percent in polls from 40 percent at the election.

The Beeb agrees:

Local elections are scheduled in two weeks' time. The Socialists and their liberal coalition allies are trailing Fidesz in the polls. [Fidesz "is a large centre-right conservative and Christian Democratic political party in Hungary; as of 2006, it is the largest opposition party."]

Here is some more from Wikipedia:

Fidesz gained power in 1998 under leader and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who governed Hungary in coalition with the smaller Hungarian Democratic Forum and the Independent Smallholders' Party.

It lost the 2002 elections to the Hungarian Socialist Party, by 41.07% to the Socialists' 42.05%.

I wonder if the Socialists lied in 2002, too? In any event, after four years of admitted lying, the April, 2006 election was nearly as close as 2002; the Socialists won by 43.21% to Fidesz's 42.03%. (In the second round, Fidesz actually beat the Socialists 46.65% to 46.62%; but they couldn't catch up on seats.)

With the catastrophic plunge in the fortunes of the Socialists since April, the EU austerity package, the riots, and now the revelation of callous, deliberate, almost jubilant lying, I believe if there were new elections anytime soon, the Socialists would be ousted. But the PM is hanging on, supported by the Alliance of Free Democrats, who have 18 seats. The local elections will sting, but they can't alter the makeup of the parliament.

The moral here is threefold:

  • People dislike being told that their economic problems are less important than feeding a huge government maw with 31.6% of the gross domestic product (by contrast, the United States budget comprises only 17% of GDP, and even that's too big);
  • People really dislike being lied to about basic, critical facts -- like how well the government is handling the economy;
  • Socialism sucks.

But we already knew that, didn't we?

Hungary's first step, which Fidesz should start explaining to the Hungarian people, is to move the country back towards American-style capitalism and away from failed European socialism. Hungary will never climb out of its hole until it stops thinking of government as the people's first resort and starts thinking of it as the last resort.

I don't know if this will go down well; but they probably have plenty of time to educate the voters. If Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ("I have said it thrice: What i tell you three times is true") has his way, the next national election won't be until everyone currently alive in Hungary dies of old age.

Let's hope that Fidesz doesn't simply decide to lie and tell everyone they'll slash taxes and double the choco ration!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 19, 2006, at the time of 4:51 AM

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The following hissed in response by: DonD

Mr. Dafydd,

This comment isn't for publishing, but I would like to know if you would make your site available for PDAs in the future?

PS - Enjoy reading your articles, so keep them coming!

The above hissed in response by: DonD [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2006 6:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

"Does" in the second to last sentence should be "dies".

I've never understood the concept of paying people not to work, using the taxes from people who do work.

I blame WWI and Sweden for all this. At the end of WWII Sweden was one of the few European economies that was not essentially destroyed. They could therefore offer terrific benefits to their people without paying much of a price - they had one of the few fully functioning economies. Over the last 50 years everyone (even the Soviets)wanted to be Sweden. People in Europe grew up wanting to be Sweden.

Unfortunately the effects of such a system are insidious, and take time to fully come to fruition. Now not even Sweden can be Sweden.

I wonder when Europe will enact a welfare reform system similar to the U.S.?

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2006 8:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: Vigilante

Imagine! Last night I had the strangest dream!

The above hissed in response by: Vigilante [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2006 8:38 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Big D:

Thanks, I made the correction. I actually edited that post two or three times, line by line, as is my wont... and it still slipped past. Yeesh!


As much as I love S&G, and as much as the melody and harmony of that song beats anything the Beatles ever composed, I have to say its lyrics are every bit as fatuous as "Imagine."

Double yeesh. I blame the time: everybody was too young and thought airplanes got airborne by good wishes and skyhooks.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 19, 2006 1:47 PM

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