It’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if Lula
and Bush swapped jobs.
Wealthy oligarchs, who reach high office
through nepotism are supposed to be South American.
bizarre twist, global bankers love Lula and despair of Bush.
It’s surprising that no one has noticed this, but it looks as if there has been a terrible mix-up involving American presidents.
For some time there have been suggestions that U. S. President George Bush
doesn’t know what he is doing. The
answer is simple: he’s supposed to be the president of Brazil.
Meanwhile, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silvaor Lula, as the new president of Brazil is knownshould be president of the
United States. The mix-up is obvious, when you consider the facts.
Wealthy oligarchs, who reach high office through nepotism, promoting friends of their family into government while
presiding over corporate sleaze, and running up vast debts by making tax giveaways to their rich, rightwing supportersthat’s
the sort of behaviour that South American presidents are renowned for.
Meanwhile, policies of stern fiscal prudence, applauded by the international financial markets, coupled with tough
welfare reform, is what is expected from leaders of the United States.
But in a bizarre geo-political twist, these stereotypes have been turned on their heads. While the President of South
America’s most important country couldn’t be more different as a person than the President of North America’s most important
country, it’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if the two men swapped jobs.
The irony is that during the 2000 U. S. presidential election, the difference between Bush and Democrat candidate Al
Gore was so slim that the pair were mocked as "Gush and Bore".
Coming from a conservative background and party, Bush was supposed to stick to the status quo of balanced
budgets and a strong U. S. currency inherited from the Clinton administration. Few analystsif anythought Bush’s narrow
victory would make any difference to the way the U. S. economy was run.
Lula’s election was far less auspicious, preceded by dire warnings of economic meltdownalthough no one
accused the populist former union leader as being indistinguishable from José Serra, his technocrat opponent.
A one-time trade union radical from Brazil’s huge working class, who had run for the Brazilian presidency four times,
Lula’s election was treated with dismay. He was said to be a firebrand leftwinger who would destroy the stability that Brazil has
enjoyed since the pragmatismo policies of the previous administration, headed by Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Yet since his election, Lula’s policies have met with praise from the bankers that rule the financial markets. Brazil was
dragged down by Argentina’s economic implosion last year, but since Lula’s victory, Brazil’s currency, the real, has made a
remarkable recovery on world markets. At the same time, the interest rate on Brazilian government debt has halved since before
Lula’s election in November, as bankers have started regarding the country as a lower risk.
While Bush talked a good game about "leaving no child behind" as president, Lula has made social welfare reform
his centrepiece, to help balance his government’s budget and lower interest rates.
Policy is moving in the opposite direction under Bush. The U. S. dollar has sunk to its weakest levels since his
election, while the economy continues to splutter alongdespite the U. S. central bank pumping out cheap money at a rapid rate.
Bush’s answer to the weak economy has been to reach back to the discredited "trickle down" supply-side policies of
Ronald Reagan, and hand out huge tax cuts to the wealthyexactly the sort of policies that his own father, George Bush the
elder, memorably described as "voodoo economics".
Throughout his election campaign in 2000, Bush regularly pledged to balance the government’s budget. Instead, in
the words of economist Paul Krugman, the U. S. government "faces the prospect of large deficits as far as the eye can see".
Bush is offering tax cuts that will cost over $600bn, with more than half the benefits going to the wealthy, those
making more than $200,000 a year. Of that sum, $150bn is to go to the very wealthythose making more than $1m a year.
But the most obvious reason that George Bush should swap Washington for Brasília is that it suits him better. Bush
spends so much time trying to deny his blue-blood, Ivy League-educated background, by posing as a man of the
peopleslipping off to work on his Texas ranch, wearing cowboy hats, driving a pick-up.
Lula, on the other hand, grew up in abject poverty near São Paulo, selling peanuts and working as a shoeshine boy.
He is a real man of the peopleand in an ideal world would be in the White House.
Of course it also means Brazil ends up with George Bush. But then Jorge Arbusto, as he would be known, might
quite enjoy life up the rugged Amazon. Whether the people of Brazil want him is another matter.
Copyright: Guardian Newspapers Ltd 2003. The original article can be accessed here:
Richard Adams writes for British daily The
Guardian. You can write him at
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