For Europe, it was a summer of discontent. Reeling from the effects of the Great Recession, a host of European Union economies adopted austerity as the watchword of the day. As Greece teetered toward bankruptcy in May, tens of thousands marched in Athens and other cities to protest government plans to cut back on public-sector spending. Many felt they were being punished for the misdeeds of politicians, while Europeans further west grumbled about having to bail out Greece to the tune of almost $150 billion. Throughout Europe, there's a sense that a long-standing social contract forged in the wake of World War II is under threat. In France, cities and towns were paralyzed for weeks by strikes as young and old raged against a plan to increase the retirement age by two years. The new Conservative-led government in London announced in October a startling $128 billion budget cut whittling away at everything from military spending to affordable-housing projects that was met with great consternation by a gloomy public.
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