POLAND POLARIZED

First Things | 9/21/2016 | Filip Mazurczak
moemajor (Posted by) Level 3
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In the recent Polish election, the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) received 43.59 percent of the vote, giving it a parliamentary majority. In total, socially conservative parties amassed nearly 60 percent of the vote. This win suggests that Polish society remains largely traditional and continues to reject the neoliberal economic policies of previous governments. However, it is as painfully polarized as ever.

In the left-liberal media, “Law and Justice” collocates with authoritarianism, nationalism, Euroscepticism, and religious fundamentalism. Ironically, though, the party’s economic policies are closer to the democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than to the laissez-faire approach of the GOP.

Leszek - Balcerowicz - Minister - Finance - Poland

Leszek Balcerowicz, minister of finance in the 1990s, is credited with making Poland’s transition to a market economy a success. Balcerowicz’s policies slashed the hyperinflation of the early 1990s, and Poland’s GDP has consistently grown each year since 1992. However, this narrative of economic success has overlooked the fact that many Poles’ living standards declined after 1989. Balcerowicz’s reforms included cutting welfare spending and privatizing state enterprises. The Polish working class particularly suffered, as numerous mines, factories, and shipyards were closed. Unemployment peaked at 20 percent in 2002, and once Poland joined the European Union two years later, more than two million Poles emigrated.

Law and Justice, however, has increased social spending. The most popular benefit is the “500 Plus” program, under which families receive 500 zlotys (about $125) per child each month. The program has reduced child poverty and boosted Poland’s fertility rate: According to Eurostat, it has increased from 1.32 in 2015 to 1.48 two years later. This is far from the replacement level of 2.1, but after years of decline, Poland’s fertility rate is finally headed in the right direction.

Law - Justice - Policy - Myopic - Instance

Law and Justice’s economic policy has sometimes been myopic. For instance, the government has lowered the retirement...
(Excerpt) Read more at: First Things
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