Monday, January 3, 2011

President Dilma vs. President Obama

Making our way into 2011 I feel a huge gulf between US politics and Brazilian politics. 

My hopes for a strong policy turnaround in the United States have faded.  The obstructionism demonstrated by the obstinate, purely partisan and ethically challenged Republicans, combined with the run-from-their-shadow, strategy-less and forever politically calculating Democrats in Congress have made reading the morning news nearly intolerable.  I do, in fact, feel demoralized. 

Now here comes the emboldened Republicans with their whacko so-called Tea Partiers sure to begin anew with the fear mongering to repeal some of the little progress made.  Get ready for show trials on the taxpayers’ dime.

On the other hand Brazil has just sworn in its first female President who speaks in bold terms about assisting the poor, protecting the environment, and improving national services such as healthcare, education and domestic security. Nowhere in President Dilma’s inaugural address did she hint at tax cuts for the rich, executing wars, corporate welfare disguised as research and development assistance, or phony economic trickle down policies dressed up as  job creators.  Read her entire remarks here.

In fact, Dilma went out of her way to say that taking care of Brazil’s social commitments is expensive and the burden will be felt moving forward. (Duh!)

“It is [economic] growth, together with strong social programs, that will enable us to vanquish inequality in income and in regional development.”

“This involves high costs for the whole of society, but it also means that everyone is guaranteed a pension and universal health and education services.”

She reminded the titans of business that the national petroleum company, Petrobras, will remain guided by federal policies.  There was no talk of the wizardry of the private sector or the “logic” of lining the pockets of the rich so they can create jobs for the rest of us.

“The prime agent of [a modern policy of investing in research and innovation] was and is Petrobras, the historical symbol of Brazilian sovereignty in the production of energy and of petroleum.  My government will have the responsibility of transforming the enormous wealth from the Pre-Salt layer into a long-term savings account.”

Right on down the list Dilma spoke out for the neediest Brazilians.  There was no walking back campaign promises or gratuitously tossing conciliatory bone after bone to the opposition.

I did a few word searches on Dilma’s speech.  The results demonstrate the distance between what passes for liberal rhetoric in the USA and here in Brazil:

Woman – spoken 10 times
Poverty – spoken 9 times
Social – spoken 11 times
Health – spoken 9 times
Education – spoken 6 times
Commitment – spoken 7 times
Tax Cut – spoken zero times

I know, I know – this is just a speech.  Let’s see how it goes.  But you know what – I’ll bet a good sum that Dilma outperforms Obama in the toughness, fighting, and commitment categories.  Just sayin’.  (Sorry President Obama, I know you have done a lot, but nobody disappoints like a friend and ally.)

Eight years ago all my well-heeled Brazilian friends were decrying Lula’s election and warning that Brazil would go to hell in a hand basket due to his socialist policies.  (Cue the scary music.)

How did that work out?  (Text taken from here.)

Since his election in 2002 the middle class has grown by 29 million people (more than the population of Texas) creating a powerful new domestic consumer market. Another 20 million people — as many as in New York State— were pulled from poverty. The country that received a record $30 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund as it neared economic collapse in 2002 now lends money to the IMF, making up to $5 billion available for loans to other nations.

The value of Brazil's currency has more than doubled against the U.S. dollar. Inequality has been reduced, as the income of the poorest 10 percent of the population has grown five times faster than that of the richest 10 percent (emphasis added). Inflation has been tamed, unemployment is at a record low and illiteracy has dropped. By the time Brazil hosts the Olympics, it is forecast to be the globe's fifth-largest economy, surpassing Italy, Britain and France.

President Lula left office with an 87% approval rating.

Conventional wisdom is that President Dilma will in large part continue the policies established by President Lula, with some tweaking around the edges.

Give me Brazilian “socialist” presidents over US “liberal” ones any day.  While I lament the opportunities lost by President Obama I see in Dilma the fighter we have longed for.  It is my hope that Brazil will continue to economically outperform most countries in the world so that stubborn (and often intellectually dishonest) conservatives have an opportunity to see Social Democratic economic policies triumph.  (Not that they would ever acknowledge this reality.)


Gil and Ray said...

Amen, Brother,

I get sick to my stomach to watch these freaking idiots talking about voting against the Health Care Bill.
Even knowing it is just a symbolic vote, that is not what we pay them to do.
Don't even get me started with the IDIOT Republicans!! I can feel my blood pressure going up.


Rachel said...

Great article! I have been feeling out of the loop because I'm up here and you just looped me back in!

Really enjoyed this post. Excellent writing, not that I'm surprised :)

Chris said...

Two things I try to not discuss with friends are politics and religion. Sometimes I can't help myself...

After the war-mongering Bush, I had hopes for Obama that he'd keep to his word and pull the troops out of the sandbox. That hasn't exactly happened. He's just another puppet being controlled by the banksters and robber barons, same for Republicans. My new hope lies with Ron Paul. The only person in Washington that seems to have his head screwed on straight with regards to sound economic policies, anti-war non-interventionist foreign policy and the overall "get the damn government out of my life and let me live in peace" attitude makes for a winner and a REAL President in my book. Whew! That was a mouthful. I have high hopes for my new adopted country here in Brazil with Dilma. Let's see how it works out. Boa sorte, Brasil!

I'll step off my soap box now...