Just a couple of months ago, commentators were complaining that Jair Bolsonaro was not doing much with his presidency. The Brazilian president, recovering from a surgery related to the knife wound he sustained during last year’s campaign, seemed a bit off, even though his overhaul of the government was already underway. Speculations about the incompetence of Bolsonaro’s team, and their inability to see past ideology to push the country forward, were common.
Since April, though, the material basis of these ideological premises has become increasingly obvious. The government has gone full steam ahead on matters the Bolsonaros and their close political nucleus can agree on, which means that everywhere you look, you find social rights and public goods under attack. It was never about incompetence, but about doing away with as much as possible as fast as possible. They just needed some time to get adjusted.
All in for Pension Reform
The Bolsonaro government’s priority project is, of course, pension reform. Reforming the Brazilian pension system, which is currently designed around a solidarity approach, is one of the reasons the capitalist class orchestrated a parliamentary coup against former Workers’ Party (PT) president Dilma Rousseff, elevating her neoliberal vice president Michel Temer in her place. It’s also the reason they later promoted Bolsonaro’s extreme-right candidacy, even though he had no solid economic credentials. His shot at winning depended on taking the PT’s historical leader Lula out of the picture. The judge responsible for that task, Sergio Moro, is now Bolsonaro’s justice minister.
Millions of reais are being invested in convincing the population that pension reform is necessary. One argument is that without it, the economic crisis will deepen even further. This same rationale was provided for the budget ceiling implemented under Temer. The results of the budget ceiling are most apparent in the crippling disinvestment from health care and public education. The government’s austerity measures are essential to allocate remaining funds to service the public debt and its high interest rates — at the pleasure of the financial market.