PEOPLE across a broad swath of Philippine society became fans of Janet Yellen, the Fed Chair and said to be the most powerful public official in the world, when she used her first House appearance to talk about the plight of the unfortunate in the US. Used to our hectoring, pompous technocrats who wish that the poor were better dead than alive, Yellen was seen as a person of both gravitas and humanity.
Since then, many have been reading her public statements to see whether that initial commiseration with America’s underclass was a deep personal and professional conviction – and not just an outlier of a statement.
On March 31, she spoke before a community reinvestment group in Chicago. Instead of stating macro trends and reiterating the Greenspan jargon not understood by ordinary Americans, she spoke about real people from Chicago, “Dorine, Jermaine and Vicki,”whose jobs – and lives – were shattered by the recession.
“I have described the experiences of Dorine, Jermaine and Vicki because they tell us important things that the employment rate alone cannot. They are a reminder that there are real people behind the statistics, struggling to get by and eager for the opportunity to build better lives.”
Take note of that phrase “there are real people behind the statistics.” Yellen has clearly set out to do her Fed job in the context of rates various rates – employment, inflation and interest – and how these rates impact on the lives of ordinary people.
Have you heard Mr. Aquino, Mr. Tetangco, Mr. Purisima or Mr. Almendras talk about real lives and real people and their heart-rending sufferings? And how government can help rebuild their shattered lives?
Mr. Balisacan, whose expertise is anti-poverty, talks occasionally about poverty and how to beat it but his prose is so turgid and dry that you can’t find slivers of humanity and compassion in these.
Mr. Aquino‘s spiel’s are sentences that you can auto-write – fresh off a dictating machine.
They do not diverge much from the themes of fighting corruption and maintaining integrity. And how great the two platforms have been into building a new country. Mr. Aquino avoids talking about real lives, as the sad realities at ground level would reveal hopeless and desperate lives that his proclaimed growth levels and reforms have not – and would never — reach.
He probably thinks that the expression of empathy, the real and sincere thing, would drag down his cherished GDP numbers. And diminish his stature as the country’s leader.
Mr. Tetangco has a few grand themes, interest rates, inflation and monetary stability. And how the themes impact on the major players in the national economy. There are no human lives involved in his discussion of rates and stability. The poor in his native Apalit – the Apalit portion of the viaduct is now a teeming slum colony below – would have to continue reproducing from 300 to 450 years to produce one achiever. But in the world where he now lives and circulates, unfortunate lives are not part of the equation.
Mr. Tetangco’s words do not differ much from Aquino-speak. Has he tried viewing his BSP job through the prism of unfortunate human lives? Never.
Mr. Purisima always talks in the context of the raters. How would Fitch, Standard and Poor and Moody rate us? The three discredited rating agencies are the central characters in Mr. Purisima’s job mandate. Seeking the approval of the raters, this is the truth, is no longer an important matter for governments and treasury departments elsewhere.
Just as Mr. Aquino is stuck in his growth-at-all-cost gear, Mr. Purisima’s gear is stuck at C, or creditworthiness.
Mr. Almendras was the perfect apparatchik described by George Orwell in his masterpiece “Politics and the English Language.” That fancy speak and bloviating around in jargons is the usual refuge of hollow bureaucrats. On how to energize the doomed economies of the poor provinces, Mr. Almendras, spoke of things such as “spatial development.” You knew perfectly from his gobbledygook that he was referring to some orthodox approach to state investments rather than the compelling need to lift the lives of those trapped in these doomed areas.
Why is Yellen, the most powerful official on Planet Earth, speaking about shattered human lives that need nurturing with consistency and compassion? And, in contrast, our leaders have been harping on growth, stability and creditworthiness without putting human lives into the growth and stability equation?
Ms. Yellen is perfectly aware that laying down the environment for an economy in which people have decent jobs (and decent lives) is a major Fed mandate. She knows that most of the jobless seeking unemployment benefits are not lazies and moochers but people down on their luck who need some help to get by and be back on their feet.
This equips her to do her Fed job via empowering Dorine, Jermaine and Vicki – lives shattered by the recession.
Our leaders dance the technical jig. They view leadership from the perch of pure technocracy. That if you do the honest things and achieve the desired numbers and statistics, there is nothing left to be done.
The problem with this kind of leadership is that it has been rendered irrelevant by current events. There are new realities, such as the failure of surging growth rates to lift millions of impoverished lives. And that there are losers who should be helped.
The losers will forever be losers unless our leaders come down to earth from their technocratic perch. And come to feel the pain of their people. On this Easter Sunday our leaders should reflect on and digest this and resolve to make decisions that will give the poor 50% or more of our people a sense of new and better life.