BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - A nationwide strike has paralyzed Argentina's economy, shutting down air, train and bus traffic while also closing businesses, public schools and ports. That has interrupted all non-emergency hospital attention, left garbage in emptied streets and complicated many other aspects of life in the South American nation.

Union chiefs want higher pay, lower taxes and more control over health care contributions they allegedly used as slush funds.

All Argentines are struggling with 30 per cent inflation, but the money for pay raises has to come from somewhere. Many worry that the government of Cristina Fernandez is squeezing the middle class by raising taxes and fees and cutting subsidies to appease the powerful.

Maria Eugenia Diez is a middle-class housewife who says she's sympathetic to the striking workers' salary woes but is deeply worried that Argentina's economy is falling apart.