Friday, November 27, 2009

What a Left-Wing Presidency Looks Like

Hat tip to the Open Left blog for first alerting me to this item.

The American right wing’s accusations of President Barack Obama and his policies as Socialist has always baffled me. Because Obama has demonstrated through his Cabinet appointments, attempts at bipartisanship with obstructionist Republicans, and actual policies that he is no Socialist – nor even a leftist. He is very much a traditional American Democrat with strong free-marketer, corporate leanings.

For a portrait of what a strong, Left-leaning presidency of a large country and major economy might look like it would be much better to set one’s sights overseas towards someone like President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

From Spiegel Online:

Brazil's President Lula: 'Father of the Poor' Has Triggered Economic Miracle

His supporters liken him to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who dammed the Tennessee River in the 1930s to provide electricity to the region and who launched the New Deal, a massive investment program to overcome the Great Depression. But critics see the undertaking as a massive money pit…

Now he is both the darling of bankers and the idol of the poor. With the so-called worker-president at its helm, Brazil is attracting investors from around the world. Jim O'Neill, the chief economist at Goldman Sachs, invented the acronym BRIC, for the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and predicted a bright future for the South American giant. But his colleagues derided him. China and India certainly had prospects, but Brazil? For decades, the country was seen as a shackled giant, plagued by never-ending crises and inflation…

The country has repaid its foreign debt, and it has even become a lender to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government has accumulated more than $200 billion in reserves, and the Real is considered one of the world's strongest currencies. International experts foresee a decade of prosperity and growth for the country. Lula predicts that Brazil will be one of the five biggest economies on Earth by 2016, the year Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympic Games. It will host the soccer World Cup in 2014…

All of Brazil is basking in the fame of its president who, less than seven years after coming into office, now enjoys an approval rating above 80 percent. The opposition has all but disappeared and the national congress has become submissive. Lula runs the country like a patriarch, so much so that his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, is already accusing him of "authoritarianism" and warning that Brazil is on the road to state capitalism.

There is a kernel of truth to Cardoso's claims. Lula has never had any confidence in the market's ability to heal itself, and he sees the state as the framer of a new social order. He loves impressive projects and nationalistic gestures. He is a pragmatist, but he despises speculators. "White people with blue eyes" brought the world to the brink of financial ruin, he said recently. He meant bankers.

The financial crisis has only confirmed Lula's skepticism toward capitalism. Lula believes that Brazil coped with the crisis more effectively than other countries because the government took corrective action early on. According to Lula, fighting poverty and the equitable distribution of income cannot be left up to the market.

Full article at Spiegel Online.

This is my response to American free-market worshipping conservatives whenever they invoke “Socialism” in their accusations of the Obama administration. If they want to see what a leftist does once he has attained power they shouldn’t look to Obama. They should, instead, look at Lula and see what he has done for Brazil. And to see that perhaps a little bit of Socialism -- and I mean Socialism for real instead of pretend boogeyman Socialism that the American right likes to invoke -- would do the USA a lot of good.

Lula’s Brazilian success story is what real reform looks like and a portrait what real reformers do. It is what pushing through and delivering on a populist agenda looks like without compromising on one’s beliefs and commitment to ordinary people as one’s primary constituency. Lula is an example of how an unabashed leftist skeptical of capitalism and its potential to spread wealth evenly among the population rules as President. His success is a shining example of the power of government and the economy harnessed for the interests of ordinary people primarily rather than speculators and bankers.


Robert M said...

things run in cycles. The government will soon be under thegun to protect some interest there. If they can let it go because it doesn't make any sense the government will be fantastic

Liberal Arts Dude said...

Hi Robert

Lula has been president of Brazil since 2003 and will be so until 2011. It looks like if the cycle of being under the gun to protect some interest was going to happen it would have already happened. He's an interesting case and and example I wanted to bring up that (leftist) populism can have positive consequences when it is practiced without compromise and watering it down for corporate interests. And a leftist can prove to be an adept and popular leader of a capitalist country in the world stage.