Simmering Just Below The Surface

For years we’ve been reading about Brazil as a budding economic powerhouse, an emerging alternative voice on the world stage, and a future force in global politics.  When Brazil was awarded the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, those events seemed like an opportunity to cement Brazil’s new, prominent role.

Brazil’s good press, however, always seemed at odds with the country’s great disparities in income and its grinding poverty.  Recently some of our friends visited Brazil and were shaken by the terrible living conditions of the poor, the aggressive begging, and an outright street theft in which a necklace was snatched from a neck by urchins who sprinted away and were quickly lost in the ever-present crowds.  It’s safe to say that they aren’t recommending it as a tourist destination.

Now some of those economic and class tensions have bubbled to the surface and are shaking Brazil’s political leadership to the core.  Brazil has been rocked by huge demonstrations that show no signs of ending.  They started as a protest about bus fare increases in Sao Paolo but quickly expanded to become a nationwide movement that is protesting political corruption, poor health care and education, and the money being poured into venues for soccer matches and the Olympics rather than being used to help the poor, among other topics of concern.

Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, has held emergency meetings with her Cabinet to address the issues raised by the protests.  She promises to develop a new plan for public transportation, to earmark oil revenues for education, and to hire thousands of doctors from overseas to improve Brazil’s health system.  The protesters no doubt are wondering why it took huge public protests to get the government to focus on these issues — and whether they can trust the government to follow through on its promises if the protests end.

3 thoughts on “Simmering Just Below The Surface

    • I don’t think that’s a fair reflection of my views, to be honest. I do favor cutting federal spending, and I would note that not every bit of federal spending goes for food, shelter, and medicine for the needy. Pretending that people who think the federal government spends too much are greedy, heartless jerks who want to stick it to the poor is just a convenient excuse to avoid making hard decisions about our spending problem.

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      • The federal government spends entirely too much, as do many state and local governments. It’s not a simple matter of keeping taxes down but a more complex problem of return on investment, lowering service delivery costs, and remaining competitive in the world market, without compromising the citizens of this country. The financial challenge is epic.
        You’re right WB, no one is ready to make the hard choices. Hard choices are fine in the abstract but when they become personal it is more difficult to stand fast.
        I wonder how much we could save in Medicare costs if we did not offer ICU and life support as part of end-of-life care. I’m not advocating killing Grandma, I’m advocating common sense. Those people receiving public assistance would feel a lot better about their situations if they could work in exchange for the help they receive because they would no longer be on the dole. Government is enormous, bloated with middle management, but where would the unemployed government workers find employment if we laid them off?
        The problem we have is much larger than Republican or Democrat, larger than liberal or conservative. It requires cooperation.
        We can work together or we can starve together.

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