Kai Ryssdal: If you’ve been following the European debt saga this week, you’ll know Spain’s a mess. A $125 billion bailout this past weekend that looks like it’s not going to be enough. Interest rates on Spanish bonds are getting distressingly high. It’s enough, honestly, to drive a man to drink.
Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is making the rounds of European bars this week. Trying to get some sense of how the debt crisis is playing at the local pub. Or today, a tapas bar in Madrid.
Stephen Beard: Docamar’s is a popular bar in Madrid serving classic tapas dishes — grilled tripe and snails, and pig’s ear. Given the mess the country’s in, that latter delicacy could be topical. But the bar’s speciality is patatas bravas or “angry potatoes.” Potatoes fried and steeped in a hot spicy sauce washed down with beer.
Angry potatoes could be topical, too. That sums up the mood among the diners and staff here. The boss, Raul Cabrira, says he knows whom to blame for Spain’s woes.
Raul Cabrira: My opinion is that the governments in Spain didn’t have the good directions.
Beard: They didn’t have the right policies?
Cabrira: The right policies.
Raul says previous governments fostered the real estate boom because it kept voters happy and brought in revenue. It was shortsighted, he says, or in the Spanish phrase…
Cabrira: Bread for today, hungry for tomorrow.
Spain is suffering lean times today: There’s a deep recession, the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone, and big cuts in welfare programs. Charity worker Este Infante sees the consequences on the streets of Madrid.
Este Infante: You can find more people asking money in the street.
Beard: You see more people begging in the street?
Infante: Old people. Old people with white hair asking for money! For me it’s like, what’s happening here?
The crisis has hit many of the people in this bar — with 50 percent of the young unemployed that’s inevitable. But even those without jobs feel thwarted.
Juan Enrique Pradas, a railroad engineer, says he too is a victim of the continuing credit crunch.
Juan Enrique Pradas: I wanted to start a new business and there was no way to do that. No one wanted to lend any money. It was very difficult, so I had to give up and start working for someone else again.
Pradas says all Spaniards are to blame for the boom and bust, for living beyond their means. He certainly doesn’t think the euro caused the crisis or that Spain should reconsider its membership.
Pradas: Just joining the European Union and then joining the euro — if you see the difference in Spain from 20 years ago up to now, it’s a completely different country. Economically, it doesn’t matter if the crisis is very strong now. It’s much better than 20 years ago — much, much better.
Most Spaniards are still committed to the euro, but their enthusiasm is waning. Three years ago 80 percent thought it was good for Spain. Today, that figure is down to 55 percent.
Telecom worker Ernesto Garcia says the debt crisis hasn’t changed his life much, but he’s growing more skeptical about the euro. He’s critical of Germany’s role in the crisis.
Ernesto Garcia: I think Germany has exploited the present economic situation. I think it’s pulled off more recently than it did in 1939. And this time without firing a single shot. It has more power over Europe now than it’s ever had.
Beard: Would you prefer if Spain left the eurozone?
Garcia: Yes, yes.
At the Docamar tapas bar in Madrid, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
Ryssdal: If you find yourself walking into a bar this week, take a minute and do us a favor. Tell us the price of a pint — there’s a map here that you can post it on. Or tweet us at MarketplaceAPM with the hastag #econpubcrawl
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.