Besides the Iran-US nuclear negotiations, Germany enjoyed center-stage in 2015 and Chancellor Angela Merkel was person of the year for a number of mass media journals. Although Germany has been at the center of downward socioeconomic mobilization across Europe, something the will continue in 2016, the neoliberals are delighted because the richest Europeans continue to concentrate wealth under monetarist policies that choke off growth. Germany’s leverage stems from its massive economic power within the EU and clearly as the dominant country it has the ability to stabilize or destabilize as it wishes. At the same time, Germany feels the pressure from the US and China, pressure it resents as we have seen over the disagreements on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. In its quest for global power status, Germany wants a freer hand in the EU that it considers its back yard, just like the US considers the Caribbean and Central America its back yard. With France politically and economically weak, the major obstacle to Germany is the persistence of anti-EU sentiment coming out of the UK. It is possible that the UK will have an even larger economy than Germany at some point before 2024, and this is something that Germans take into account when they position themselves for hegemony today. In short, the German-UK power struggle is important today, though hardly fierce enough for these two economic rivals to go to war as they did in 1914.
Greece was one of the biggest stories in 2015, but only because Germany made it so. Not just the mainstream media throughout the world, but the social media has been covering the drama unfolding in Greece, a drama that actually started in early 2010 when the creditors decided to make borrowing expensive for the Greek government. In May 2010, Greece opted for IMF-style austerity and massive cuts in public spending and public sector jobs, combined with higher indirect taxes, measures the EU and IMF promised would lower the public debt and stimulate higher growth rates on a sustainable basis. Promises notwithstanding, the result has been one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, negative GDP growth, accompanied by much higher debt.
In 2015 was whether the German-IMF led dogmatic neoliberals prevail or whether the reformers who believe that the German-imposed patron-client integration model in the EU is forcing Greece and the periphery members into neo-colonial status. Germany failed to conquer Europe by going to wars twice in the 20th century, but it is now trying to achieve the same result through the route of economic hegemony. However, it has very powerful allies in multinational banks and corporations of the entire Western World and this is why it is so powerful against those trying to maintain a bit of their national sovereignty in order to present the illusion of democracy to their citizens.
Beyond the very tragic issue of millions suffering lower living standards, and beyond the very real prospect of their continued suffering for a number of years under such conditions, there is the fear that other countries could also meet with a similar fate as Greece. The question for EU leaders must be to what degree is Greece and for matter all of the periphery (southern and eastern European countries) sovereign and to what degree do citizens have a voice in the illusion of a democratic process that really belongs to the banks and multinational corporations that the state represents?
Finally, Germany took the world’s spotlight because of one the largest corruption and fraud scandals in our time. The Volkswagen emissions scandal was only the tip of the iceberg and the very clear manifestation of the level of corruption in the private-public sector. It is not that VW was promoting itself as the “eco-friendly” corporation, but that it enjoyed the backing of its government that went along with the scandal until it broke. However, this is hardly the biggest scandal considering that Deutsche Bank which has a long history of corruption along with Siemens, have also been immersed in corruption, again with government complicity. Despite all of these corporate scandals linked to the Merkel government that at the very least failed to prevent them and at worst had a complicit role in them, the corporate media presented Merkel as the political hero of 2015! This is not to imply that corporate corruption that is estimated at more than $100 billion is limited to Germany, because it is actually an integral part of capitalism as many books and articles have shown. (c. h. Ferguson, Predator Nation, 2013; M. J. Lynch, Corporate Crime, Corporate Violence, 2015)
- Total Number of Incidents 51,538
- Number of Deaths1 13,094
- Number of Injuries1 26,420
- Number of Children (age 0-11) Killed/Injured1 678
- Number of Teens (age 12-17) Killed/Injured1 2,623
- Mass Shooting2 329
- Officer Involved Incident2 4,292
- Home Invasion2 2,265
- Defensive Use2 1,234
- Accidental Shooting2 1,876