In politics, you have to know how to choose your enemies well. There are some that are given to you, sometimes within your own party. Others you have to select depending on the circumstances. Pedro Sánchez has it clear. It is no longer worth talking about "Putin's war" or denouncing the intransigence of the right-wing opposition. The response of the companies that will have to pay the special tax to banks, electricity and oil companies allowed him to point out some of his directors at the last press conference before the holidays. Don't you like what something? Look at those who are pissed off at me.
"I have listened to some bank leaders, to Mrs. Botín (president of Banco Santander), to Mr. Galán (president of Iberdrola). In short, I think that if they protest, it is that we are going in the right direction," he said on Friday in Moncloa. For something the Popular Party took two days to decide whether to oppose these taxes and with what arguments. The question that Sánchez asks the citizens is obvious. Who do you want to be with? with us or with those who are lining up with the increase of energy prices and the rise in interest rates?
Machiavellian, but practical. Comrade Pedro Sánchez showed the way to the masses waiting for them to respond with determination to the alternative. "Helping your shoulders isn't a slogan, it's an obligation," he explained, going on to target those who are cashing in by taking advantage of the burst in the energy market. He didn't mean to be subtle, which is why he referred to "those sectors and companies that are particularly benefiting from this economic situation." Bad for practically everyone, excellent for them.
"The suffering of many fellow middle-class and working-class citizens who are suffering from cuts in their pockets cannot be the joy of a few," he insisted afterwards. Okay, president, it's clear.
The strategy will be more defined when it is confirmed on Monday what measures the Government will approve to impose or recommend energy savings. Some of them have already been known. They will be decisions that are possibly unpopular or difficult to implement if they do not change the behavior of people in those areas, for example the home, where the Government cannot put the spoon. It will be the only way to use effectively that word that governments love during a crisis: sacrifices.
"If America is in a recession, it's a very strange one," The Wall Street Journal headlined in early July. The data released this week indicates that the US economy has suffered declines in GDP for two consecutive quarters, which is the standard definition of a recession. But the government has not yet has decided that this is the case (actually it is an independent group of eight economists who has the last word), because it contradicts other indicators, the most important of which is employment.
More often than not, a recession is preceded by progressive job losses, massive layoffs, company bankruptcies and a clear decline in private economic activity. "That's not what we're looking at right now," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. The US economy created 380,000 monthly jobs in the last quarter, above expectations. The unemployment rate is at 3.7%, practically at the level of the figure prior to the pandemic.
The Spanish economy is facing a not very different dilemma. The growth forecast is at 4%, although it is very possible that it will drop in the second half. After a first quarter of mediocre growth –0.2%–, the rise of 1.1% in the second shows a clear recovery. The unemployment rate is at the lowest point since 2008. However, everything can change in a few months due to the war in Ukraine and its impact on energy prices.
Nobody is in a position to guarantee what will happen after the summer, much less when the winter arrives. The IMF, the European Commission and the OECD make their forecasts, but a group of monkeys furiously banging on keyboards could have a similar success rate. They call it uncertainty in the headlines.
What is very real is the increase in inflation, 10.8% more in the interannual CPI. People don't need the IMF (or the monkeys) to tell them. You're already experiencing it every day you shop. Sánchez defended that it is "the main concern of the global economy" and also of his government. For this reason, Cuca Gamarra, of the PP, called it "the blow of reality of the government's policy."
Sánchez commented that if it were not for the measures adopted by the Government, inflation could have already risen to 15%. It's the kind of forecast from the past that's hard to refute. To know what would have happened.
The president wanted to give the dramatic blow of appearing at the press conference without a tie. All the senior (male) officials sitting in the front rows weren't wearing it either. In recent weeks we have seen politicians talk about the need to take action against climate change. They all wore ties in the middle of a 40-degree heat wave, effectively forcing the air conditioning in an official building to be at a temperature that wouldn't bother a polar bear.
"I have asked the ministers and ministers, and I would also like all public officials and the private sector, if they have not already done so, that, when it is not necessary, they do not wear a tie, because that way we will also be dealing with savings energy", announced Sánchez, who also referred to the icy level of the air conditioning in shopping malls.
The season of the no tie is inaugurated and it will be difficult for us to see ministers keep that atavistic garment of masculine power in these sunny months. What is pending is not to change the wardrobe, but to apply structural measures that allow companies to maintain their productive activity while consuming less energy and for households to reduce their electricity bill, which they are already trying to do.
Meanwhile, Pedro Sánchez will insist on the list of his enemies with the same intensity with which Arya Stark recited it. We'll see how far he goes and what he's willing to do with them – he may not use the same methods as Arya – although he's already given us some hints.