Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Latin America speech

In anticipation of his upcoming trip, President Bush gave a speech on Latin America. He compared it to Kennedy’s speech that introduced the Alliance for Progress 46 years ago. The theme then was that we needed to address poverty as a way to counter communist advances. The theme now is to address poverty as a way to counter Hugo Chávez.

Thus, the speech discussed programs for education, transparency, health care, housing, debt relief, and micro loans. Any attention paid to these critical issues is certainly welcome. It is worthwhile to focus attention on them.

As an alternative to the alluring message of Hugo Chávez, however, the speech falls short. A key missing piece can be found in the following quote:

They've enhanced and undertaken fiscal policies that bring stability.

Yet, despite the advances, tens of millions in our hemisphere remain stuck in poverty, and shut off from the promises of the new century. My message to those trabajadores y campesinos is, you have a friend in the United States of America. We care about your plight. (Applause.)

I think to offer a real alternative vision you must explain why those “trabajadores y campesinos” remain stuck in poverty. In those fiscal policies, they see personal ruin. When they hear free trade, they see the U.S. protecting major crops. When they think of debt relief, they picture the international institutions that compelled structural adjustment. They like aid, but they also see it as the crumbs offered when the overall structure appears to be tilted permanently against them. If the U.S. government wants people to believe that Hugo Chávez is wrong about the pitfalls of global capitalism, it needs to be clearer.


Anonymous,  6:00 PM  

Actually, I'd argue that much of the problem also lies in the excessively leftist governments in much of the region. One of the reasons why Brazil and the US have no free trade agreement is because the Brazilians stick tariffs on all sorts of products where they have no competitive advantage, from televisions to computers and even automobiles. (The US has very little competitive advantage left in these sectors either, but we also have virtually no tariffs on these items anymore.) So, negotiating a free trade agreement with Brazil becomes impossible with all of those barriers. Blaming it all on the US farm lobby is not entirely fair.

Mexico's GDP per capita has grown since NAFTA was signed. Whether or not the wealth gets distributed evenly within Mexico is not really the responsibility of the US. There is a bigger pie to split up, so free trade has helped Mexico in the aggregate. Of course, as with any free trade agreement, there are subsets within each country who end up worse off.

The USA is an easy target, especially with the clown we have in the White House, but it's tough to compete with Chavez buying support with his oil money to like-minded leftists (Correa, Kirchner, Ortega, etc). Support for Chavez will eventually have its price. Ask any reasonable business person from any of these countries as to whether they see Venezuela or the US as a more important economic partner for their country.

Greg Weeks 8:12 AM  

Miguel, you’d be a hoot as a speech writer for a U.S. president:

“Amigos, reasonable business people know that it is ludicrous to complain about the current economic situation. Yes, I know we promised that structural adjustment and free trade would make your lives better, but you need to think of your own life as the necessary downside of the aggregate benefit. We’re your friend, we want to live together in peace, so don’t listen to leftists because wealthy investors realize they’re not the wave of the future. So please, stop all this rioting, protesting, and whining, and get with the program. You can trust us, we’ve never steered you wrong before, have we?”

Anonymous,  12:24 PM  

Well done, senor profesor, but I'd still argue that it is big business that creates sustainable jobs, not big government. That formula works in the US, Latin America, and anywhere else in the world. If our free trade policies create larger corporations in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, then the policies are successful.

As far as my speechwriting future, I'll stick to the occasional blog post for now.

Greg Weeks 1:07 PM  

I think it is more useful not to think of either big government or big business as the ultimate answer.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP