Millions of people have grown accustomed to living off handouts of one kind or another
In the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe and even some coastal areas of the United States, all decent humanitarians agree that were it not for “austerity,” everybody would be better off. They take it for granted that there is plenty of money out there but greedy plutocrats and their political lackeys, individuals who are foolish enough to let themselves be persuaded that it would be folly to spend more than they think is available, want to hog it all.
Most Argentine politicos take a similar view. That is one reason why so many, led by Sergio Massa, a slippery customer if ever there was one, plus a bevy of diehard Kirchnerites such as Axel Kiciloff, gleefully ganged up a few days ago against Mauricio Macri in order to show him who is boss. Most made out they were convinced that income tax is inherently evil and therefore should be abolished entirely but, being sensible folk, they said they understood that high earners would just have to keep paying it until Macri finally allows the economy to start perking up.
After spending a couple of days gloating over what they took to be a great parliamentary victory over a woefully unimaginative reactionary foe, some social warriors decided they had gone a bit too far. Enticing as the reform package they had cobbled together on the spur of the moment may have looked to them, they realised that the numbers simply did not add up. Should it become law, Macri’s government would have to choose between plugging a massive hole in public finances by — among other things — depriving some of the country’s poorest provinces of money they desperately need, or resigning itself to seeing inflation go through the roof, as it well could unless spending is reined in. For Kirchnerites and leftists, who would very much like to see Macri take a ride to nowhere in a helicopter after escaping angry mobs howling for his blood, such an outcome would be desirable. For most other people, it would be yet another disaster.
There are two Argentinas. One is the land flowing in milk and honey of the populist establishment in which even minor politicians few have ever heard of are entitled to live in a style their European counterparts surely envy and have no qualms would when it comes to behaving accordingly. The other is a country in which about a third of the population is destitute and at best semi-literate, many millions just manage to scrape by on incomes that in the still-developed world would put them well below the poverty line and a shrinking minority does well enough. Changing this unhappy situation would be hard........