Sunday, November 07, 2004

Now that the hoo-haw over the elections has died down a bit, there's been a good bit of reasonableness and common sense in the Spanish press. Yes, there have been some Jane Smileyish outbursts, but there also seems to be a general understanding that Bush won fair and square and we're just going to have to deal with it. There's even been some progre-bashing in the Vangua, of all places. Here's Alfredo Abián's signed editorial on page 2.

"Most international observers, especailly the Europeans, are undergoing intensive treatment with Prozac in order to be able to digest the triumph of Republican populism in the eclections of November 2. Although the anti-Bush structure has proven to be ephemeral, the 'party line' on the defeat is following a script that is as sophomoric as the ineffable Michael Moore's documentaries. According to them, the Republicans have woven their victory thanks to an astral confluence of high finance with farmers who collect guns, gum-chewers, ignorant cowboys who consume mass quantities of beer and country music, eaters of enormous Texas beefsteaks, Puritans of all sorts, and radical evangelists on a Christian crusade. With these sermons, supposedly progressive and easily exploited by the Republicans, a resentment has developed among various layers of American society against the arrogance with which they feel treated by some East Coast limousine liberals or the self-proclaimed progressive Europe. the problem is that the concept of liberalism is so weak and lacking in solid references that in the United States it has come to exclude industrial workers and ordinary religious families, worried about attacks on their values. Probably more than one person voted for Bush because he feels misunderstood and scorned both in his own country and on this side of the Atlantic."

Here's Xavier Sala i Martín, economics prof at Columbia.

"I observed that many European media of communication were not objective and gave more credibility to Michael Moore's clownishness...than other more impartial analyses. Just so we understand: a Moore 'documentary' about George W. Bush is about as objective as one by Zaplana about Esquerra Republicana. Now that the elections are over, it's time to distill the propaganda out of the truth...

Bush's economic policy, as I have written repeatedly, has not been good: the increase in public spending has been excessive, the steel tariffs were a bad idea, and the agricultural subsidies that hurt the poor countries so much went up again. But this doesn't mean that the catastrophes being predicted this week are true.

(GDP growth in 2004 was 3.8%, in 2003 it was 4.2%, and in 2002 it was 2.3%--not too shabby. Bush's tax cuts gave an equal break percentagewise to wealthy and working classes alike. The 1% most wealthy pay 34% of taxes, the 5% most wealthy pay 53% of the taxes, and the 50% most wealthy pay 96% of them.)

They've shown us images of American beggars while commenting that in that country there are 35 million poor people. Very unfortunate images because the definition of poor in the United States is someone who earns less than $18,000 a year and the majority of those 35 million are not only not beggars, but own houses, cars, televisions, and computers...The budget deficit is 4.5% of GDP. That's high but not very different from France (4.1%) or Germany (3.8%).

Looking into the future, the truth is that the second term will be better than the first; as he does not have to run for reelection, Bush will no longer fall into protectionist temptations and will be able to limit subsidies without fear of losing votes in rural states. Also, the existence of the deficit will permit no more additional fiscal partying. And it does not look like there is a bubble in the stock market like that of 2001.

To sum up, they painted us a pessimistic picture and, fortunately, they exaggerated; although Bush has not been a good economic manager, things in the locomotive of the world aren't all that bad. And they will be much better for all of us when the communications media give up their addiction to drawing such a deformed and negative version of the United States."

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