In a meeting with President Aquino a few weeks back, US magazine publisher Steve Forbes, who ran twice to get the Republican Party’s presidential nomination and failed, said to our president: The US needs you. Meaning the US needs a leader in the mold and with the policy mind-set of President Aquino.
That was a sincere statement from Forbes. He meant that in his view, the US needs a leader with the policies of Mr. Aquino. He found in Mr. Aquino a kindred spirit, whose core policies Forbes will fully embrace even for the US setting.
What did Mr. Forbes find out about the Philippine economy under Mr. Aquino that he liked so much and gushed about? Easily, these:
•Under Mr. Aquino, 60 percent of GDP went straight to Top 1 percent and Mr. Forbes likes nothing better than an economic system of upward redistribution.
•Under Mr. Aquino, a balanced-budget is sacred and even the meager tokens to the vulnerable should not be sacrificed if those tokens would lead to a deviation from the balanced-budget orthodoxy. Remember the Magna Carta for the Poor, a token law which took Mr. Aquino ages to sign despite its small, cosmetic offerings to the poor? Mr. Forbes’ presidential quest was driven by hard-core conservative issues that included a balanced budget.
•Sustained growth rates and credit upgrades, never mind if the two have not dented the massive poverty in the country.
•Mr. Aquino’s fixation with free market policies and supply-side economics
•The PPP infrastructure strategy, which rewards the big corporations more than anything else , and in which modernizing the country’s fraying infra is a subsidiary agenda.
•Files upon files of photos that showed a smiling and energized Mr. Aquino with plutocrats and oligarchs. There was hardly a show of elation in his very rare encounters with ordinary Filipinos.
There is something else from Forbes’s personal realm. Mr. Aquino has been the most prodigious creator of dollar billionaires, whose names and ranking among the global wealthy are yearly listed in Forbes magazine. Remember that Forbes has been the magazine of “lists.” Primarily, the “ list” of the world’s wealthiest people. Under Mr. Aquino, many Filipino dollar billionaires are now in the category of “those-who-can-buy-a-small country rich.”
As Forbes met with President Aquino, he had this uppermost in mind. What is there not to like about this supply-side, all-business president who cares – exclusively – about the rich and the powerful just like myself and my ilk.
Because most Filipinos have no idea of who Mr. Forbes is, and what made President Aquino spend precious presidential time with him, it is worth explaining who this man is, beyond the known fact that he publishes the “magazine of lists” with the lists mostly about the world richest and the most powerful.
In the progressive circles in the US, Mr. Forces belonged to yesterday. He believes in supply-side, small government, balanced budgets, flat tax mostly to benefit the rich, never mind the Social Darwinism that would be the brutal results of these policies. Like Mr. Aquino and Mr. Roxas, their governing moment was during the days of heartless technocracy, when the Washington Consensus, now largely debunked, was the rage of leaders and governments.
Economist Paul Krugman, now recognized as the most powerful voice in US liberal circles. has called the Republican Party leaders who still push for these debunked beliefs as “crazies and crackpots.” Mr. Forbes is still stuck in hard core economic orthodoxy despite the fast-changing tone of the global conversation on massive economic inequality that now plagues the globe and Pope Francis’s debunking of supply side and markets running amok.
While inequality has been described as the “defining issue of our time,” Mr. Forbes and his ideological brethrens have been largely agnostic on inequality and poverty issues just like Mr. Aquino, whose claimed effort in fostering “inclusive growth “ is either Orwellian or phony.
Like Mr. Aquino, Mr. Forbes is more concerned about generating and nurturing more dollar billionaires than lifting the lives of the vulnerable. The good news is there has been a dramatic shift in the global conversation about economic injustice and the consensus is to take bold political efforts to rein in the injustice. The sway of policy crackpots such as Mr. Forbes, fortunately, may soon be over.
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A reaction to Wednesday’s column on the plunder charge filed against former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella and wife Evelyn by ZeroTolerance.Org., an anti-corruption watchdog. Here were the main points:
• The charges are baseless.
• ZeroTolerance.Org raised up old issues.
• The NGO is not an impartial entity
The good thing is the case is with the Ombudsman, the proper arbiter on whether a plunder case filed has merit or not.