We Argentines Like to Be Lied to

After the total failure of Macri's "0 Poverty," we now have Fernandez's "Argentina Against Hunger."

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Presidential campaigns have become slogan competitions rather than opportunities for serious public policy proposals (PanAm Post photo montage).

 

There is always a common denominator in the final stretch of the presidential elections in Argentina. The introduction of the slogan-promise that will be made flesh among voters and then, logically, will be left in the void. This has been going on for a long time and has worsened since the return of democracy. In 1989, Carlos Saul Menem asked people to follow him because he was not going to disappoint them and promised a “productive revolution.” No one knew what that revolution was about, but in those days it was the only thing everyone was talking about.

This is not the sole responsibility of the political class. The electorate demands some lies to delude themselves even though it is evident that we will not achieve the desired objectives. At least, not in the way it is proposed. The paradigmatic case is that of Malvinas. The issue of the sovereignty of the islands comes up in the debates, and all the candidates talk about fighting until the sky-blue and white once again soars instead of the British flag in the South. No one would vote for a candidate who says that the islands will remain under English control, of course. While it is clear that nothing will change in the new political process, we all want to hear the sacred mantra.

In the final stretch of the 2015 presidential campaign, Mauricio Macri made a promise that not only remained unfulfilled but became a devastating memory. After assuring that Kirchnerist subsidies would be maintained (or even increased), a candidate like Macri with an attitude of social commitment said the following four years ago: “I propose zero poverty in Argentina.” The audience responded with a standing ovation.

When it became clear that many people would be poor by the end of Macri’s term in office, the president walked back and said that he was talking about a trend, a way forward, a long-term goal. Then he uttered another slogan that buried him even deeper. He asked that his tenure be judged by the decline in the poverty index, but that is not possible either. The latest official statistics indicate that 35% of Argentina’s population is poor. That is to say, six points more than at the beginning of his administration.

From “0 Poverty” to “Argentina against hunger”

Unfortunately, we have learned absolutely nothing from the sale of colored mirrors. After the total (and predictable) failure of the macrist plan, now comes another obstinate slogan of Alberto Fernandez: “Argentina against hunger.” With the same face of grief and commitment of Macri a few years ago, although with better rhetorical resources, Alberto proposed on Monday to fight an “epic battle” against hunger. He said he doesn’t care where the soldiers come from to fight, their ideas, or their beliefs. He is confident this can be accomplished only with the “union” of Argentines.

Once again, society and the media bite the bait, and the plan of “Argentina Against Hunger” appears on the front pages of newspapers, television news, and becomes the center of public debate. We should be debating something else: the impossibility of achieving these results via the proposed tools.

Just as it was evident that Macri would not create a country without poor people with “universal income,” it is obvious that Alberto will also fail in his epic battle against hunger. How do we know? Simple. The proposals include a series of useless and counterproductive measures: “gondola laws” with price regulation, state agencies to assist the needy, creation of a government monitoring “observatory,” and so on.

If Alberto Fernandez wants to “fight” against hunger in Argentina, he has a country with a huge potential to succeed in his goal. But instead of seeking a solution through direct state action, he should work to free up the productive capacity of a country that could quickly solve these problems. Reducing the size of the state, eliminating a large amount of absurd taxes and regulations, and opening up to international trade are ways to achieve Macri and Fernandez’s noble objectives. So long as they insist on the same old proposals, the result will be the same: Argentina will have more poor people by 2023. Hopefully, the country will learn from Fernandez’s failure and won’t fall for a new, empty, well-intentioned, and childish slogan.

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