Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Of Ten Cents and 14 Billion Dollars

Why the fuss over a ten cent bus fare hike?

Consider that while the government cannot find money to avoid a ten cent bus fare hike, significantly raising the cost of living for the poor and working class of São Paulo, they have no problem finding 14 billion Dollars to spend on the World Cup.

And it is not just the sheer magnitude of that number but the combination of graft, corruption, incompetence and so on ensures that this is probably about twice what they needed to spend.  Add to that they fact that the World Cup is going to me a upper middle to upper class event.  Most tickets are far too expensive for the working class.

And while Brazil's growth has been fantastic over the last decade, Brazil still has woefully inadequate public education and health infrastructure.  As I mentioned previously Brazil still lags far far behind Argentina in education metrics and Argentina has been a basket case for the last 20 years while Brazil is a BRIC!  They can and should do better.  

So it is not just the ten cents in itself (which is significant), but the symbolism of the ten cent fare hike amidst all of the other decisions by the government about where to spend money.  Added to that is a high tax rate that, with ridiculously high leakage in the form of graft and corruption, yields a unacceptably low return in the form of basic public services and infrastructure.  

The serious demonstrators have a lot of legitimate points.  You should also understand that the current violence and destruction that you see on TV are a small fringe of young men and boys who delight in taking this opportunity to smash stuff up (including, conveniently, shop windows after which they can take stuff).  I'll leave it to the sociologists to decide whether this rage and destructive urge is the obvious artifact of a desperately unequal society that has a lot of young men without much hope of a life without financial struggle.  Regardless, wanton destruction is ridiculous and only serves to delegitimize the greater struggle.  Sadly.

The image above is from Avenida Paulista, three blocks from my apartment, and the center for the more peaceful protests.  I would have no problem taking my kids there to join in (save for the fact that they are fast asleep long before they arrive). 

1 comment:

Jeff Alworth said...

Good report. I'm glad to finally get the lowdown from a man on the street.