The mindless march to barbarism

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By PLINIO DE ARRUDA SAMPAIO JR.*

Congress is legitimizing the straitjacket of fiscal austerity and offering institutional ballast for the continuity of the neoliberal model

The public debate around the Precatorios PEC, which releases an extra R$93 billion for the federal government budget in 2022, makes explicit the total disconnection of the so-called “political class” with the fundamental problems of the Brazilian people. Instead of questioning the absolute unfeasibility of the Spending Ceiling as a governing principle of fiscal policy and alerting to the urgency of its immediate repeal, critics of PEC 23, on the right and left of the order, are concerned only and exclusively with secondary aspects , conjunctural and moral aspects of a casuistic measure that seeks, under impossible conditions, to give an indefinite survival to the freezing of public spending.

The superficial outcry against the Precatorios PEC – “opens loopholes in the Spending Ceiling Law”, “hurts acquired rights”, “creates uncertainties in investors”, “it is an electoral expedient that gives Bolsonaro breath”, “turbonates the business in the National Congress”, “poorly distributes released resources” and is functional for everything to remain the same. Without questioning the absurdity of the constitutionalization of a fiscal regime that denies acquired rights, blocks any possibility of countercyclical measures against unemployment and criminalizes public policies, the straitjacket of fiscal austerity is legitimized and, contrary to what it is necessary to face the concrete problems of the population, it provides institutional ballast for the indefinite continuity of the neoliberal model.

Promulgated by the illegitimate Temer government, at the end of 2016, shortly after the trauma of the parliamentary coup, Constitutional Amendment No.o. 95 – the EC of Death – decreed the real freezing of primary spending by the federal government for twenty years. Twenty years of systematic reduction in the State's per capita expenditure on public policies!

The law was presented as a means of balancing public accounts. Balela. Expenditure on payment of public debt interest was not subject to any type of restriction. It is, in fact, a radical change in the organization of Brazilian society. The strategic objective is to drastically reduce the role of the State as a provider of public policies. The new legislation is only of interest to those who enjoy themselves with speculation in the public debt ring and with the big business generated by the privatization of public services. By stripping the 1988 Constitution of any financial basis for the realization of its democratic promises, the Spending Ceiling Law eliminates any possibility of a less savage capitalism in the future.

The dimension of violence against everyone who depends on public policies – the overwhelming majority of the Brazilian people – is evident in the original intention of the Temer government. The purpose of the New Fiscal Regime was explained by the Secretary of the National Treasury, Mansueto Almeida, in a presentation given in mid-2018. Expenses) to 2026% of GDP with the new law.[I]

Despite the precariousness of public services, the lamentable state of the country's economic, social and cultural infrastructure, the presence of an unprecedented civilizing crisis, the estimate of a population increase between 2001 and 2026 of 24% (43 million people), as well as the need for massive investments to face the complex challenges that loom on the horizon, the Spending Ceiling Law enacted in the dead of night, with the enthusiastic support of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, intended to lower the proportion of primary expenditures in relation to GDP in 2026 to the level of the beginning of the millennium. In other words, the implicit project behind yellow-green reactionaryism is the definitive dismantling of the mock national state.

Under the unforgivable risk of a crime of responsibility, the disastrous consequences of the Spending Ceiling Law on national life cannot be hidden from the population. A recent study by the Independent Fiscal Institute, a body linked to the Federal Senate, estimates (in its baseline scenario) that between 2022 and 2026, the period that corresponds to the term of the next president, the Spending Ceiling Law will require a contraction of the Union's primary expenditures , discounting expenditures with the General Social Security System, from 9,3% to 8% of GDP.[ii]

Despite Brazil going through the biggest economic, social and health crisis in its history, the Spending Ceiling Law intends, in the short space of eight years (2018 to 2026), to reduce the effective spending capacity of the federal government by 25%, in relation to GDP, with public policies. Anyone who, out of political cowardice and electoral convenience, avoids the topic is an accomplice. Within the framework of the New Fiscal Regime, the new President of the Republic, no matter who he is, to avoid deposition, either by the conspiracy on the floor above or by the revolt on the floor below, will have to govern with scissors in one hand and the club in the other.

The bourgeoisie broke all moral links with the subordinate classes. The social violence implicit in the Spending Ceiling Law, imposed as a fait accompli on society without its consent, is daunting. It needs to be barred. It is the challenge of our time. Without its repeal, Brazilian society will continue to sink into the swamp of neocolonial reversal. The fantasies of the electoral programs do not fit into the budget of the Roof of Death. Substituting the maximum dose of poison for the minimum will not stop the senseless march towards barbarism.

The hope for better days passes through the dismantling of all the institutions that sustain the neoliberal State, starting with fiscal asphyxiation. Overcoming the claustrophobic environment in which we live implies a substantial change in the correlation of forces. It is the entire framework of the current social pact that needs to be redefined. In the absence of a strong mobilization of workers, Brazilian society will remain trapped in the macabre logic of profit at any cost that drives the galloping advance of barbarism.

* Plinio de Arruda Sampaio Jr. He is a retired professor at Unicamp's Institute of Economics and editor of the website Contrapoder. Author, among other books, of Between nation and barbarism – dilemmas of dependent capitalism (Voices).

 

Notes


[I] https://www12.senado.leg.br/ifi/pdf/mansueto-almeida-secretario-do-tesouro-nacional.

[ii] See: Independent Fiscal Institute, Fiscal Monitoring Report, n. 58, 17 Nov. 2021. In: https://www2.senado.leg.br/bdsf/bitstream/handle/id/594056/RAF58_NOV2021.pdf.

The federal government's primary expenditure minus expenditure on the General Social Security System, that is, transfers to INSS beneficiaries, basically represents the entire effective expenditure of the Union on public policies. In addition to primary expenses, the federal government has financial expenses with the payment of the public debt. Regarding the latter, the Spending Cap Law does not impose any restrictions.

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