Big media or big terrorism?

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By LEDA MARIA PAULANI*

The reaction to Lula's speech at the meeting with deputies in Brasilia is a striking example of the shameful role played by the large corporate media.

I cannot locate in my writings when I first spoke of economic terrorism. But I've been talking about this for a long time, at least a couple of decades. In these first days of transition from the misgovernment of Jair Bolsonaro to the future Lula government, economic terrorism took on clothes and colors comparable to those of the bands of hallucinated zombies that still remain in front of the barracks.

Terrorism consists of brandishing threats of chaos and horror at the slightest sign that something will be done, by the hands of the State, to alleviate, however small, the ills produced day by day by a blind system that turns its back on the corpses that it piles up along the way. They threaten with horror, as if horror wasn't having the country 33 million people starving, having a legion of children and adolescents with malnutrition - which reached its highest level in seven years in September, having more than 200 thousand people roaming the streets without a roof to shelter them.

It is obvious that real macroeconomic constraints may exist, such as those arising from a country having external liabilities that its foreign exchange generation is not capable of sustaining (as in the case of Argentina, for example). But this is not, by far, the case in Brazil. There is zero risk today, unless there is a worldwide hecatomb, in a default external to our economy. We have more than 300 billion dollars in reserves and our exports are doing well, thank you. Ah, but the gross debt/GDP ratio cannot grow indefinitely, the terrorists proclaim: Brazil's is around 75%, Japan's is over 200% – and it's been a long time! Only if a bunch of lunatics landed at the Ministry of Economy and decided to play at confiscating savings, for there to be a problem in that area.

Any minimally informed and minimally reasonable economist knows all this, who does not suffer from delirium tremens when hearing the term “public spending”. There are some, however, who suffer from this evil and freak out! Not all of them, maybe not even most of them, but they exist. Do they represent clearly configured interests? Yes, but that's not the point here. The point here is: how is it possible that a few economists of a certain renown and linked to a few institutions are capable of producing such terror? The answer is simple: they have an incredibly broad and strong sounding board – the press.

The reaction to Lula's speech at the meeting with deputies in Brasilia is one of the most glaring examples of this shameful role played above all by the big corporate media. The headlines predicted the apocalypse. One of the most scandalous was the Valor Econômico: “Dollar soars and stock market melts, after Lula talks about spending”, in a clearly exaggerated interpretation of what happened with these two variables. It wasn't just the headlines, by the way. The editorials joined in unison with the so-called “market”, in somber calls: “it was a bad start”, opined the Sheet, “Lula needs to step down from the platform”, demanded the Estadão, to mention only two of the most important newspapers. And the one-note samba was, of course, fiscal responsibility, decried, according to the editorials, by the president-elect.

I will stop here in the editorial of Sheet of November 11, the day after Lula's speech that generated so much revolt. The choice is not due to any preference, but to the fact that such journal is much more insistent than, for example, the Estadão or The globe, in its posture of a “responsible”, “modern” press, which not only gives voice to all parties in whatever the conflict may be, but also aligns with the best democratic principles.

Let's look at the first sentence of the text: “In just two weeks since the end of the elections, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) has managed to overthrow most of the hopes that his government will adopt a rational and socially responsible economic policy”. Translation: criticizing the spending cap is irrational! This type of argument throws any challenge to this tax rule into the limbo of denialism and anti-scientificism, which, it should be said, does not exist in this form anywhere else in the world. Worse still, it confers the same fate on any theoretical positions that question the exact meaning of the term “fiscal responsibility”, postures that, by the way, are on the rise internationally, such as the Modern Money Theory.

The text says that Lula has not yet presented any plan of action, except for a PEC capable of freeing up “unprecedented spending”. reproducing in total the supposedly scientific argument wielded by market leaders, the editorial also says that, “if they put their talk into practice, the draining of the Treasury coffers will not take long to feed inflation (...) interest (...) and public debt”. In short: pure terror.

And the distinguished public is not informed that, since the ceiling was implemented, in the government of Michel Temer, the net debt/GDP ratio has risen from 38 to 58%, that is, the existence of a fiscal rule, even as radical and stupid as for ours, it is no guarantee of a drop in debt as a proportion of GDP. If the product does not grow, even if the debt falls due to the sacrifice of millions of people, the ratio can continue to rise. Likewise, inflation rose precisely during the period the ceiling was in force, due to external constraints and supply shocks caused by the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. Once again, the existence of a fiscal rule harming a large part of the population due to the restrictions it brings to the full operation of public policies does not constitute a guarantee of the absence of inflationary problems.

And it is to this kind of specious argument that we owe the motto, repeated a few times throughout the text, according to which “fiscal responsibility is social responsibility”. With that, they want to furnish with palatable garments the defense of a policy that directly affects the lowest strata, while seeking to preserve the financial wealth of a few. And it terrifies you! In the wake of the dismal results already mentioned, the editorial also adds the collapse of growth, the escalation of unemployment and the increase in misery and hunger, in case Lula's “talk” comes to fruition.

In a posture that is even insulting towards a citizen who had more than 60 million votes, the editorial of the “democratic” newspaper states that Lula is uneducated, that he talks nonsense and that he grumbles against the market. What education gives a newspaper like Sheet who doesn't admit to being called far-right Jair Bolsonaro? How did the press and the market treat the genocide? Just to remind you, he pierced the spending ceiling several times – the last time, in defiance of the Constitution, to shamefully create benefits in an election year, and he failed to pay precatorios (almost a cardinal sin for neoliberal canons), and that to not mention the ignominy of the secret budget, the biggest corruption scandal this country has ever had and carried out by the so-called incorruptible.

At the time, neither the market nor the press were heard, I'm not saying shouting, nobody could be heard raising their voices. The two partners ironed the entire time. After all, it was necessary to preserve the ultraliberal Paulo Guedes, who was doing the job right and defended the “correct macroeconomic principles”.

In a recent program on Globonews, the commentator Octávio Guedes said, in a burst of sincerity, and to some astonishment of the other commentators present, that the market is Bolsonarist. Anyone who has read the article up to this point will agree that he is absolutely right. But the market did not just pass the cloth to Jair Bolsonaro. It always relied on the invaluable help of the mainstream media, TV specialist programs, the big newspapers. We all know that behaviors like that of Octávio Guedes are the exception rather than the rule. He certainly escaped the channel's general guidelines for live programs and must not have pleased the Marines one bit.

It is true that the alternative media, which multiplied with the advent of the internet, saved the crop a little, but it is no less true that the little bit of great journalism that existed was once and for all compromised with the rise of neoliberalism and neofascism, in a communion strange only in appearance. If we must gradually get rid of Bolsonarist terrorism, the opposite must happen with economic terrorism. It will grow again and it would not be so successful without the help of its usual partner… a media at the service of Brazil, for the few.

*Leda Maria Paulani is a senior professor at FEA-USP. Author, among other books, of Modernity and economic discourse (Boitempo). [https://amzn.to/3x7mw3t]

Originally published on GGN newspaper.

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