Saturday, January 01, 2011

What Barack Obama could learn from Lula da Silva

For the last eight years, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil has been an unapologetic champion for the poor and working class.  The result?

By expanding cash-transfer programs for the poor, subsidizing housing loans and raising the minimum wage, his government pulled more than 20 million people out of poverty. The middle class has grown by 29 million people since 2002.

The country, which received a record $30 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund when it was close to economic collapse in 2002, now lends money to the I.M.F.

And what happens when you show leadership by consistently standing up for your base?

Mr. da Silva, the 65-year-old former metalworker with a fourth-grade education, leaves office with an approval rating of more than an 80 percent.

It's sort of obvious to the point of being ridiculous -- if you stand up and represent the interests of 80% of the public, then you'll have 80% approval ratings.  In some ways it demonstrates the insanity of the U.S. political system.  In DC, Democratic elected officials actually believe that they have to regularly piss on their base in order to be taken seriously (and it seems that President Obama has come to believe that he has to be Wall Street's bitch in order to get re-elected).  And then they wonder why they have such low approval ratings. 

Obama could have 80 percent approval ratings right now too if he would stand up for the people who voted for him by:
  • bailing out homeowners in the same way that he rescued the banks;
  • supporting Medicare for All instead of mandates to purchase private insurance; and
  • taxing the rich to pay for (human and physical) infrastructure to grow the economy for everyone.  
It's simple, simple simple -- stand up for your base and they will stand up for you. 

Note: quotes are from NY Times: "Brazil's New Leader Begins in the Shadow of Predecessor" by Alexei Barrionuevo, December 31, 2010.

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