Proving you can buy votes

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The progress on Brazil’s poverty & inequality has been tremendous, but it is clear that the government has bought the result. They have given the minimum needed to move out of extreme poverty. This short term impact will end in 10 years at the latest. Then what? If the economy doesn’t turn around to support Brazil’s population, they will be back to where they started. In the meantime, the votes keep coming in.

One of her detractors, a farm equipment salesman, complains that shoddy infrastructure and high labor costs are strangling business. “If she did as much to help create wealth as she does to distribute it, this country would be doing better.” This same concept to improving poverty and inequality, not hand out programs, is what is also needed in the United States.

from Bloomberg Businessweek,

Brazil’s President has prioritized social programs over the economy. 22 million Brazilians have emerged from extreme poverty during President Dilma Rousseff’s three years in office.

While investors fret about Brazil’s widening budget deficit, there’s little question that Rousseff’s expansion of social programs has shored up support among her political base. “Everything is getting more expensive, but certainly I’m doing better than two or three years ago,” says Luzia Souza. “Unless a new, much better candidate comes along, I’ll vote for Dilma again.”

Rousseff is tantalizingly close to making good on her 2010 campaign pledge to eradicate extreme poverty. The government’s most recent population survey, due early in 2014, is expected to show that the share of the population with incomes lower than 70 reais a month, the Social Development Ministry’s definition of extreme poverty, has fallen below 3 percent—a level the World Bank considers equivalent to eradication.

Since taking office on Jan. 1, 2011, Rousseff has broadened many of the social programs created by her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and added new ones. She has increased spending on professional training, child care, and low-cost loans. More than 6,000 doctors, most of them Cuban, have been deployed to bolster health services in the countryside and other underserved areas. A public housing drive that has built 1.4 million homes since 2009 has an additional 1.6 million under construction.

The centerpiece of the government’s war on poverty is Bolsa Familia, a 10-year-old program that gives poor families a cash payment of at least 70 reais per month if they keep their children healthy and in school. Under Rousseff, the number of households enrolled in Bolsa Familia has grown by 1 million, to 13.8 million—equal to about one-quarter of the Brazilian population.

Thanks to efforts such as these, Brazil was the only country in the group known as the BRICS, which also includes Russia, India, China, and South Africa, to achieve a reduction in inequality in the decade through 2009.

Those gains have come at a cost. Lula, and now Rousseff, made “a very deliberate policy choice” to focus on inequality rather than tackling Brazil’s complex tax code, poor infrastructure, and other obstacles to economic growth …

The president’s strategy may pay off in October. Rousseff’s approval rating was 52 percent among those who earned less than 1,356 reais per month and zero among those with more than 33,900 reais in monthly income, according to a late November survey by Datafolha, a São Paulo polling firm. The poll also showed that if the presidential election had been held then, Rousseff would have won 42 percent of the vote, compared with 26 percent for her closest rival,

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