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Italy’s Crisis And The Berlusconi Saga

With Anthony Brooks in for Tom Ashbrook.

Italy’s crisis and the end of the  Berlusconi era. We’ll have the latest from Rome and the global markets.

 

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, right, enters his car at the end of a meeting with his allies in the Italian Senate in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. (AP)

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, right, enters his car at the end of a meeting with his allies in the Italian Senate in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. (AP)

Silvio Berlusconi dominated Italian politics for a generation with a cult of personality that rivaled Mussolini’s. His TV stations, publishing houses and newspapers turned customers into political supporters and made government an extension of his business. He pledged to modernize Italy’s corrupt politics, but was ensnared in one corruption case after another.

There were also the showgirls, wild parties and charges of sex with prostitutes. But what finally brought him down wasn’t bunga bunga it was the bottom line of Euro-zone economics.

This Hour, On Point: arrivederci Berlusconi

-Anthony Brooks

Guests

Sylvia Poggioli, senior European correspondent for NPR’s foreign desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy.

Beppe Severgnini, Italian journalist, author and columnist. He writes the daily “Italians” column for Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper. Author of: “Mamma mia! Berlusconi’s Italy Explained for Posterity and Friends Abroad.”

James Walston, Professor of International Relations at the American University of Rome, and an expert on Italian politics.

From The Reading List

The New Yorker In 2008, during his fourth campaign to become Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi released a video in which a beautiful blond woman, standing in a grocery store beside a pile of bananas, sings, “There’s a big dream that lives in all of us.” A throng of women belt out the chorus together under a cloudless sky: “Meno male che Silvio c’è”— “Thank God there’s Silvio.”

Slate How was it that Silvio Berlusconi—Mr. B. for short—was voted into power (1994), voted in again (2001), and voted back in (2008)? The hammerings he took in the administrative elections and referendum (2011) hint at change, but the question remains: Why does a majority of Italians support and/or put up with him?

The New York Times In the aftermath of a budget vote on Tuesday that made clear he no longer had a majority behind him, Mr. Berlusconi declared that he would resign as soon as Parliament passed a slate of economic reforms demanded by the European Union. That does not mean, however, that Mr. Berlusconi won’t retain a considerable part of his power and continue to affect Italian political life.

 

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  • Yar

    I keep reading and hearing that this is the  “end of the Berlusconi era”, how can it be the end when the bills are still left to be paid?  The end of the Berlusconi party, only the beginning of the Berlusconi hangover for Italy.  We may feel some of that hangover on this side of the pond as well.

  • CORY.

    There isn’t really anything here specific to Italy.  It is just another domino of western civilization starting to topple.  The error was the citizenry believing that civilization had reached a level of enlightenment where the old could retire, the sick could have medicine, and the weak could still manage to find their way through life.  We are beginning to awake to the reality that little has changed since Manchester, England and Lowell, Mass.  The bearded scientist who got it right was not Karl Marx, it was Charles Darwin.  The weak, the elderly, and the otherwise “unproductive” have much to fear… 

    • Mia

      So what’s your point? We’re animals now and we shouldn’t take care of the most vulnerable in our societies? I doubt Darwin would have agreed to the application of his theories this way.

  • Gregg

    The failure of the welfare state and Keynesian economics is predictable. Here is an article from 15 years ago.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/12/weekinreview/the-state-of-welfare-in-italy-where-every-day-is-mother-s-day.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    • Anonymous

      It’s pretty sad when one has to use an article about Italy’s benefits fro women and maternity leave as a way to make a point. The benefit for the child and the mother far out weigh the cost in my view.
      Italy’s fiscal problems are not caused by it’s welfare state alone, it’s corruption and the fact that the government does not collect taxes.
      Italy and Greece have this in common, both governments have allowed tax evasion to become a national past time. I would also add that I think that Italy also has a very arcane and dysfunctional government on all levels. One thing that should be noted that Italy is the 7th largest economy in the world, and should not be taken lightly. Italy is not Greece.    

      • Mia

        It’s funny how the weak are always blamed. Italy is crumbling because of mothers and children. What about tax evasion by people who can afford fancy accountants and hide their money in fiscal paradises? Wasn’t there supposed to be a crack-down on fiscal paradises as part of the war on terrorism?

    • CORY.

      Correct you may be, Gregg of many “G’s”.  The difference between us is this reality makes me sad while it brings you joy.

      • Modavations

        You guys are Handwringers ,who go from one invented crisis, to the next.The children,what about the poor children!!!!

        • Anonymous

          and you sir are worse than a cad.

    • Anonymous

      I’m sorry, where does Keynesian economics demand that sort of welfare state?  Isn’t the crux of Keynesian economics that an unfettered market does’t always lead to the most efficient or best outcome, and that it is right and proper for governments to intervene in the markets at times?  Where in that is a requirement for overgenerous welfare benefits as long term policy?

      And what part of Keynesian economics argued to repeal Glass Steagall and allow banks to gamble with our money?  How is it Keynesian that bankers get massive bonuses, even when they bring down the company (or the economy) through their risky decisions?

      • Modavations

        Mayor Bloomberg said,don’t blame the banks.Blame Fannie and Freddie.As usual,govt.isn’t the solution ,it’s the problem.All of Europe,other then Socialst Greece,shuns Keynes.When Putin was asked what he thought of the “5 yr.plan”,he said Nyet and moved to a 13% flat tax.

        • CORY.

          You are absolutely right.  We should probably emulate Chinese free-market statism.  It’s the best model out there right now, right?

          • Modavations

            We are,it’s called Solyndra

        • Anonymous

          Your using the Russia as an example of good economic policy?

          • Modavations

            Keynesian economics is the “5 year plan”

          • Anonymous

            So much ignorance.  And deceit.  The 2 hallmarks of so-called conservatism.

        • mary elizabeth

          Why do you keep repeating untrue  statements -that Fannnie and Freddie are to be blamed for the sub-prime crisis?  Economists, too numerous to mention have disproven this.  Just google it and the list will come up.  F and F  are responsible for 8-15%.
          Societal and economic problems cannot be solved when citizens rely on or deliberately peddle  false information.   The truth matters. And there is too little of it
          in some media reporting.
           A deregulated system allowed rampant greed,  using our money, to endanger  the economic  fate of our nation.  
          What is your point, Modavations?  What is your agenda? 
          I usually skip you comments and  must remember to so in the future.
           

          • Modavations

            The banks were forced by Janet Reno,to make uncollateralized loans.It all started with the Boston Bank,by the way

          • Anonymous

            So. Ill-informed BS.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t bother trying to make sense with this troll.
            He thinks he’s funny and but the reality is this person is more interested in adolescent pranks.

            As John Adams once said, “facts are stubborn things.”

  • CORY.

    The sad thing is that when the disaffected masses lash out, they’re unlikely to do much damage to those who are most responsible for our fate.  They are isolated and well protected to weather civil unrest.

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to miss his antics.  I’m tempted to vote for Herman Cain to keep the world similarly entertained.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    Who cares about Italy. A country who spoiled themselves with early retirements, lavish long paid vacations,lavish greed and the list goes on.

    Bail them out!!!! The European Union is so stupid enough to support greedy Italians and I guess this economic turmoil will continue to demise the economy of Europe.

    $1.7 Trillion economy is non-bailable. The Italian poor never tasted any of these extravagant spending. Why should they pay for the greed of other Italians.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      The Fashion and Car industries in Italy will never get affected a totally different world. Those Italians who will suffer are those who already lost their jobs.

    • Modavations

      There are no poor guys in Italy.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        really? you such a liar. once in awhile you should look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself. Why am I such a liar?

        • Anonymous

          He gets off on posting these little ditties. When we respond to him he gets off on it.  

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

            I should leave him alone.

          • Anonymous

            We all should. He is annoying like a fly, but eventually he will go away. 

  • Modavations

    The Unions killed Italy.They haven’t picked up the trash in Naples in months.I’ve got an uncle in Bologna,who retired as a teacher at 53.He got a pension and was able to work another govt.gig,at the same time.Speaking of Unions,SEIU janitors are striking(or threatening to)Harvard.They have persuaded the wait staff of “OWS Harvard”,to walk.Room service(tent service)has been suspended.There will be a catered buffet.

    • Anonymous

      so.

    • nj

      Moda-troll is especially incoherent and uncharacteristically early today. Still the same incompetent writing skills, though. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    All I am concerned about right now is whether or not this whole debt crisis flare up will affect the trip to Italy my fiance and I have planned for our honeymoon.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      You won’t get affected just enjoy your trip.

    • Modavations

      Italy is primo.Don’t miss the neglected town ,of Bologna.You can get a great room for $75.00-$100.00.Take the effecient train(it ain’t Amtrak)to Venice 1hr.45 minutes,Verona about the same and Florence,45 minutes.I could live in Italy.The only problem is that all of Europe’s T.V.,su-ks.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        you are such a TV addict.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Venice is still pretty and the town where Ferrari is made.

  • TFRX

    I’m trying to dissect how much of his power was from his cult of personality and how much was from owning his own TV stations, publishing houses and newspapers which turned customers into
    political supporters and made government an extension of his business
    .

    I’d love to own a sports team and have the officials and broadcasters beholden to my side, too.

    • Modavations

      Immelt gave Obama,NBC,CNBC and MSNBC.There was a day when this would be a Conflict of interest.Stephanopolous hosts what???CBS and ABC have always been propaganda arms of the Dems.

      • TFRX

        Yep, the same Universal who got rid of Keith Olbermann, while giving Joltin’ Joe 3 hours every day, and can’t seem to find a reason to fire Crazy Ol’ Racist Uncle Pat.

        Go away until you have something intelligent to add.

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    So this guy managed to stay in power from 1994 until just yesterday? Hey Italy, ever hear of term limits?

    • Anonymous

      It’s a parliamentary system. Margret Thatcher was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990.

  • Casey Carbonneau

    How could Italians stand Berlusconi is like asking how the British could stand Tony Blair, or how the Americans could stand George W. Bush. It’s like my grandfather used to say, “Some pieces of crap float to the bottom, some float to the top.”

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      We were able to vote for Bush twice and we able to stand his failure.

    • Zing

      so which are you?

  • Modavations

    Italy has one of the highest BPSI ratios in the cosmos!!!

    • Anonymous

      No! I guess those Klingon’s don’t have anything to worry about.

  • Anonymous

    I’m tired of the South taking more than its share of the taxes paid by the North in this country too.

    • Heaviest Cat

      right John and the South is the core of redneck nation.

  • Luciano

    Will the new PM work to keep FIAT in Italy? What will his attitude with economic & financial powers be? Luciano

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Fiat is own by Ford.

  • Carletti

    This was an outstanding program! Intelligent and informative, one of the best reports/commentaries I have heard about Italy.
    Thank you.

  • Modavations

    Io sono Italiano.Mi famiglia vive in Bologna.Ho comprato Argenti in Vincenza per molti anni.Here’s the story.Like Belgium(who hasn’t had a govt.for 18months and most citizens enjoy),there is the north and south.The north is Laissez faire, run by Bossi(Northern League)and is modern.The south is run by left,and is the usual ,economic basket case.

    • Rutagengwa

      se tu sei italiano io sono il papa! esibisci una ignoranza totale del paese. Sei il solito idiota che vive di pregiudizi

  • Modavations

    There are no socialist countries in Europe ,other then Greece.Even Spain and Portugal, have run the rats out.The Scandanavian Countries are coalition left-right govts.).It’s easy to be Socialist ,when your population is 15million and homogenous.

  • Modavations

    5 years ago,at 10:00PMish ,they had game shows where the Vanna Whites’ ,spun the wheel,topless!!!!

  • Modavations

    Prodi was the last Socialist leader.He had a law passed saying any transaction over $100.00,had to be done by check.They threw him out after 6 months.

  • Modavations

    The Unions  are also killing our country.Even FDR, said Nyet to Public Employee Unions.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      how come he send US Army in Chicago to protect the Union getting beat up by Police and Goons.

      • Modavations

        Private Unions yes,public unions no.

    • Anonymous

      No the extremist right is doing a good job of that along with wall street and the big banks who seem to think that the American people are there for their personal gain. Which is not what I thought banks were for, but hey that’s just me.

  • Heaviest Cat

    Berlusconi e fotutto Italia. e coliogne

    • Modavations

      So immature.Why don’t you tell the forum in English.You’re the type that brings a magic marker into the “mens room” and scrawls innanities.Sei Fottuto amico

    • http://twitter.com/aleph78 Luca G.

      I think you might have wanted to say ‘Berlusconi ha fottuto l’Italia; è un coglione’ …

  • Plushkin

    is Caruso unwell?
    worried,
      Plushkin.

  • nana

    The most egregious consequence of Berlusconi regime is not even the economic conditions in which he leaves Italy, but the moral and ethical legacy of “videocracy”. Ruling by fame, having all moral flaws excused by the power of mediatic exposure has molded a generation of wannabe “famosi”.

  • http://twitter.com/aleph78 Luca G.

    As an Italian, what I fear is what will come next.
    I too well remember the fall of the so-called First Republic, the end of the Penta-Partito and DC who ruled Italy for 50 years after the war; in the early 90s, we were looking at the future hoping for a new Italian Renaissance, instead what we got was 20 years of Berlusconi and Forza Italia.
    Berlusconi was/is the face to the powers hidden behind the curtains: Mafia, P2, and so on. I hope for the best but …

    A good article in English is WaPo Applebaum’s http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-berlusconis-reign-should-be-a-lesson-to-revolutionaries-everywhere/2011/11/13/gIQA71ZAJN_story.html?hpid=z5

  • http://twitter.com/tomstee Tom Tresser

    Tom & Karen -

    This is a segment pitch. I’m an activist and educator in Chicago who has been fighting privatization and defending the commons. I’m working to establish a public bank in Illinois along the lines of the Bank of North Dakota (over 90 years old). It’s a great way for a state (or a county or city) to take control of their own money and make it work for the people, not against them. Would you be interested in doing a story on why and how citizens here have been fighting insider deals like the parking meter scam and other bad deals for citizens that essentially transfers the assets of the many into the pockets of the few…
    tom@tresser.comhttp://www.illinoispublicbanking.org

    • Youretheparasite

      As I recall, Chicago got a $1B rainy-day fund from the parking meter sale and then it rained, apparently a billion dollars worth and poof goes the fund. 

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