Monday, December 18, 2006

Even this cynic is stunned....

Recent events in Brazil have offered an unbe-fucking-lievably stupid example of how Americans are not the only ones who are rightfully cynical when it comes to politics.This past weekend, the Brazilian deputados (the equivalent of representatives in the House of Representatives in the U.S.) decided that they deserved a pay raise from roughly 12,000 reais (or about 5,600 dollars) A MONTH in pay to 24,000 (11,200 dollars) A MONTH. This is in a country where the MINIMUM WAGE is 350 reais a month (about 165 dollars a month), or 1,960 dollars a year.

Thus, Brazilian deputies decided they deserved 132,000 dollars a year for their "hard work," thus making 67.3 times more than the minimum wage in Brazil. (Keep in mind, many congressman in the states make 150,000-200,000 a year with a much higher cost of living). Thus, put simply, for somebody who makes minimum wage (and MILLIONS of Brazil's 180 million-plus population makes less than minimum wage, or has to work more than one job just to get minimum wage) would have to work FIVE YEARS AND 11 MONTHS to make what a deputy makes in ONE MONTH.

For obvious reasons, the outrage here has been enormous (and has amazed even this jaded American). For once, the press is acting accordingly. While watching tonight's news, each time before commercial break they showed an interview with the "person on the street" saying how long they would have to work at their present job to make the Deputados's monthly salary (the numbers ranged from one year and 5 months to 5 years).

To be fair to (some) deputados, this measure didn't pass unanimously, and there are already calls for Lula to refuse such measures. However, even if they ultimately make "only" 12,000 reais a month, the deputados have doubtlessly given a new, vulgar, unbelievable face to personal greed in political systems worldwide.

UPDATE: The outrage has gone beyond discourse. Today, in Bahia (one of, if not the, poorest states in Brazil), a woman stabbed one of the deputies who decided he deserved a pay-raise in the back. She was arrested, and he will recover. She will definitely face jailtime (especially since she suffers the double-penalty here of being poor AND black), but thus far, public reaction has been rather subdued (as in, "well, that's a bit extreme, but still....can you blame her?")