Tax reform

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By RENATO JANINE RIBEIRO*

Tax reform was mainly an agenda for businessmen, not workers or the left.

I saw comments about the alleged neoliberal nature of the tax reform. I am not an economist, but working in political theory, I know something about neoliberalism. I don't see it in tax reform.

This one, from what I've read, is fairly neutral about income distribution. We cannot therefore say that it is progressive. Yes, she is progressive, in two points at least: the taxation of jets and yachts; the payment of cashback in certain purchases (basic basket?) by the poorest (which by the way is better than exempting the basket, which is also bought by non-poor people).

Obviously, the market preferred to change the consumption tax before changing the income tax or creating one on large fortunes. Which makes this tax reform not a properly progressive project.

What the tax reform brings, from everything I've read, is administrative simplification. That's fine, of course. It will reduce administration costs. If this is going to create millions of jobs, I don't believe it. It will create yes, but not so many. But my point is: none of that makes this reform neoliberal. Neutral, only moderately progressive, does not mean neoliberal. Just that.

Now, that tax reform was mainly an agenda for businessmen, not workers or the left, it is true. Once again, a progressive government finds itself in the situation of doing what those who voted and even financed the other side want. But why?

I see two reasons:

(i) The firepower of capital and its media. They create an agenda. The Brazil risk agenda, the difficulties of undertaking etc. and such. They charge. And when they do (for example, Dilma Rousseff lowering interest rates and containing energy prices), they are not thanked. On the contrary. They're like that Disney dragon that devours sponge cake nonstop.

(ii) The ineptitude of our bourgeoisie. She is not class conscious in the sense of thinking about what her true interest is, which always includes the long term. It's immediate. He thinks that messing with workers and the environment makes more profit. The case of Lojas Americanas is illustrative. But at the same time, ideologically our people have been so warned against “cummunism”, as Henfil joked, that it turns out to be solidly pro-capitalism.

A left that proposes some kind of socialism dies on the high seas, it doesn't even reach the beach. And that is why the trend, in the 1960s as in the Lula administrations, on the left is to try to clarify this bourgeoisie and, in addition, to create material conditions for it to fulfill its role. Enter the national market, a decent relationship with work, respect for biomes. But she is thedroite la plus bete du monde”, to quote Guy Mollet about the French right. And by acting like this, the left runs risks, because the stupidity of that right makes it run to the lap of the extreme right and the coup whenever it feels not pampered. That is, precisely because it is inept in terms of a national project, it comes to that.

I want to talk more about the national project. Tarso Genro was the one who spoke most about him. I'm participating in the Interconselhos Forum in which the government listens to social movements to design a project for Brazil. Economy totally absent from the demands, although the Ministry of Planning is here, listening. Social movements ask for money for fair policies, but have a strong aversion to what they call capitalism.

But I remember that in FHC's time, despite its democratic merits, the project idea was dubbed as Getulist, backward, and was bet on the market. This would define everything. I don't know if having shipyards again is good or bad, but the arguments against them (and against the Brazilian chip factory, CEITEC, which Jair Bolsonaro tried to destroy and Lula is recreating) are very complex.

When you try to get out of it, you take the lead from the media and economists of capital. I am not an economist, as you know, but I know how to recognize political rhetoric, and it is exactly that: that of jouissance in the condition of subalterns (a small nod to Lacan, here).

*Renato Janine Ribeiro is a retired full professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Machiavelli, democracy and Brazil (Freedom Station).


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