Analyzing the Brazilian economy is a difficult and complex task; the current indicators register results ranging from excellent to mediocre and worrisome, depending on the variable observed. For example, the nation has advanced into modernity in a few sectors, while at the same time, in recent years, new forms of dependency from the center of capitalism deepened. Further complexities arise when, beyond the economy, one takes into consideration not only the results of so-called “inclusion” policies and the popularity of President Dilma Rousseff (popularly referred to as “Dilma”), but also the number of strikes and public displays of disenchantment that are emerging in every corner of the country.… To summarize some of the conclusions: since the government of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”), the Brazilian economy has widened its internal market through policies that have raised the minimal wage, transferred income to the poorest within the nation, increased the availability of credit to the low and middle segments of the population, and reduced taxation (mainly on manufactured goods in the essential consumption basket). Such widening of the market, with a low impact on imports, would in theory ensure the maintenance of a certain level of growth, regardless of the international dynamics, and, indeed, it has helped Brazil reach a positive economic performance during the worst of the recent global economic crisis and its aftermath.… Nonetheless, when the impacts of the global recession deepened with the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, these macroeconomic policies did not yield the same effect, at most achieving modest growth.
These articles were written five months before the first round of presidential elections in Brazil, on October 1, 2006. The second round, on October 29, saw Lula reelected with 58.3 million votes (60.78 percent of all valid votes), beating Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate for the Partido Social Democrata Brasileiro (PSDB), the party of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula’s predecessor in office. Lula won this second four-year mandate after a campaign revolving around ethical issues and allegations of corruption against government officials and high-ranking members of his Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT)—allegations from opposition parties, right and left. The campaign included the pathetic episode of PT officials trying to buy information on candidates from the PSDB in the State of São Paulo (economically and politically speaking, one of the most important states in the union, with a strong oppositional streak), and a concerted nationwide media campaign for Alckmin on a scale never before seen in Brazil
The Lula government’s concept of social protection is not to be found in any official document or in any paper from his Workers’ Party (PT) or his electoral platforms. This is why it is so difficult for the public at large, unfamiliar with the principles of social policy, to understand the meaning of his proposals and actual policies. In trying to explain this concept, we will discuss the government’s reform of the social security system, underlining its impact on the state apparatus. We will analyze the core of its social policy as represented by the Programa Bolsa Família (Family Basket Program) and describe the way the economic cabinet designs social policy. From this start, we make the point that Lula’s public policy puts on hold previous advances in the field of social rights, tries to create a private health care system, and erects welfare networks not founded upon rights. This last factor is crucial for the creation of a new base of support for the government, one not structured around social, union, and political workers’ organizations