August 17, 2004

Hugo Largo Holds Chez Guevara

During yesterday's CNN European feed, they had two kinds of people commenting on the Venezuelan election and its implications, because they have two kinds of shows: news summary and business summary. They also have weather summary, but appparently there was some inclement weather elsewhere which had to be covered, despite being in an oil non-rich location.

The business summary guys said this: that Chavez's victory was good for oil prices in the short run, because he promised to keep the juice flowing United Statesward (Venezuela, the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world, sends two-thirds of its tea to Texas et al.) We knew this already because oil prices dropped at the news, and would have dropped more if the Russian government would stop fucking with the fine folks at Yukos. However, noted a series of money guys, the large proto-dictator's survival of this recall election boded poorly in the long run, because his spending on social programs -- education and medical care, that is -- was too high, and was artificially supported by inflated oil prices; should they come down, the furious social expenditures would precipitate an economic crisis.

The news summary guys said this: that Chavez had polarized the nation and, in effect, bought the election by throwing an unprecedented amount of cash at the poor over the last year, in the form of education, medical care, and training of educators, doctors, and nurses. This produced his victory in the short term, but wasn't a practical long-term strategy because it isn't sustainable -- and when the opposition could come up with a candidate who both has no ties to the pre-Chavez era of runaway corruption, and appeals to the lower classes because he's not a super-rich technocrat, they might eventually oust Chavez.

You will note that the business reporters and the news analysts said the exact same thing. I suppose the weather analysts, had they not been touring southern Florida, would have chimed in: Chavez really made the sun rise a lot over the last few months, essentially paying it to rise with government money, but the money will run out and one day it will just stay dark, which will be bad, so it would be better if we could transition to a new regime which is committed to sustainable sunrises, albeit, we fear, limited to the upper classes. We are very sorry, there is just not enough money in the world for consistent sunrises for the poor.

No one ever suggested that education and health care for poor people might be, you know, good, other than as a strategical ploy.

Perhaps no one mentioned this because it begs the exact question, Why is "money" constituted in such a way that it's unreasonable to expect the sun to rise on the wretched of the earth? Shouldn't we make fundamental changes in how "money" works? No, I know, communism, very bad.

But there's a more immediate curiosity that has to be suppressed: why doesn't the current pres of the richest country in the history of the world endeavor to buy the election this way? There's a lot of casual talk about buying the election, about advertising and soft money and billionaire wives. But why doesn't the president do something so simple that even a backward commie paratrooper can figure it out? I mean, there have to be more poor people than rich people, right? I think a meteorologist told me this. So why doesn't the guy throw a lot of money at social programs for the poor? Kerry wouldn't know what hit him.

Alas, poor people in the States can't be bought -- they have too much integrity, and will vote for whoever speaks in the least grammatically complex sentences, even if that person spends much of his non-vacation time buying the votes of the wealthy. Another way to formulate the immediate, tragic question: how come poor Venezuelans can figure out who is buying their votes, and sell them for stuff that's very very useful to them, while Americans cannot? Could it be that, in the United States, nothing particularly useful is on offer from either party; that neither candidate is prepared to make the sun rise even once on national health care, on gay marriage, on education, in the Eastern windows of the little houses and apartment buildings, on the shacks and cardboard boxes where the poor live?

Posted by jane at August 17, 2004 07:25 AM | TrackBack
Comments know which way the wind blows.

Posted by: Sasha Frere-Jones at August 17, 2004 06:33 PM

Go get'm boy!

Posted by: caefu at August 18, 2004 01:35 PM
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