If this year was only about one thing, it was money–particularly how many people felt there wasn’t enough going around. Talking heads were constantly discussing “austerity measures” that European leaders imposed as a response to the international financial crisis. G20 countries, including the U.S., struggled to make good on “austerity pledges” by slashing deficits and spending. Germans prepared for “austerity votes,” while citizens of Greece, the year’s poster child for financial woes, held “anti-austerity” strikes. Austerity, in the 2012 sense, was shorthand for self-imposed financial discipline, but also for undue severity (which pretty much sums up both sides in any argument about budget cuts). The term inevitably became an election buzzword, too. “Are Obama and Romney Competing For the Austerity Prize?” read one headline in May, as candidates touted their ability to make tough decisions. Critics meanwhile referred to Romney’s budget plan, embracing some of Paul Ryan’s cuts, as a “program of fiscal austerity.” In short, though the campaigns may have been raking in cash in 2012, for many it was an austere year.
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