I have been irritated with the Economist for some time now, for their kid gloves treatment of Bush (their criticisms of Bush are always so half-hearted), and their support of the Iraq war. The Foxification of this once great newspaper continues apace. The cover story in the most recent Economist, which I have now gotten around to reading, talks about Lula (president of Brazil) and Hugo Chavez, whom I'm sure everybody knows.
Lula is coming up for re-election. He looks likely to win, and the Economist suggests in its story that his re-election would be undeserved. No doubt this is part of the reason Lula is paired with Chavez in the story; Chavez is, of course, an authoritarian loon who has not particularly succeeded in doing any good for any of his people despite the massive oil revenues of recent years. Since Chavez is leftist in his rhetoric, and Lula is certainly a leftist, the Economist apparently wishes to portray them as a pair of leftist loons.
So, what's Lula's record as president of Brazil? Under his leadership, according to the Economist's own report, Brazil has experienced moderate economic growth, kept debt under control, kept inflation under control, increased tax revenues, and implemented a wide variety of anti-poverty programs the effect of which has been to increase the incomes of the poorest Brazilians dramatically, thus significantly lowering inequality in Brazil.
What, that doesn't sound like a horrible record to you? You think maybe the world needs more leftist loons if that's an example of what they do? Well, that's what I would have thought as well. But apparently this gets Lula only a few points balanced against the huge strikes against him.
What are his horrible flaws? Well, apparently the increased tax revenues are actually bad. Even though the economy has been growing despite them. Taxes are inherently evil, don't you know. Also, Lula, like every president Brazil has ever had, has failed to completely clear away the vast tangle of corruption which Brazil has accumulated over the centuries. One might think that the only way tax revenues could be going up dramatically would be if corruption is being at least slightly reduced, so that tax cheating has become harder, but those are dots the Economist prefers not to connect.
There have been corruption scandals in his government, admittedly, but none of them appear to implicate Lula personally, and given the general success of Lula's record, one can't help but wonder if what's changed is that corruption is being exposed more often rather than that it has become more severe. Still, the corruption is a serious problem, and if the Economist had said that despite his generally good record, Lula has not done enough to reign in corruption, I would not have complained about their article. Instead, they said that a second term was undeserved.
Sadly, the only possible explanation for this I can divine is that the Economist thinks the most important thing for a government to accomplish is to make the rich richer. This Lula has singularly failed to do; moderate economic growth plus dramatic poverty reduction of course means hardly any increase in wealth for the rich. They did not used to be so nakedly aristocratic in their biases. Though I do not have a good alternative source of solid international news, I think I may be letting my subscription lapse.