An example of why I don't consider Cristina Kirchner's to be a progressive government, and why the Kirchnerist mantra about their income redistribution goal is a big lie, and why I think it's OK if the middle- and upper-class heavier consumers are charged more for utilities: an article on Crítica Digital, titled Los mosqueteros de la redistribución ("The Musketeers of Redistribution" — Minister of Federal Planning and Infrastucture Julio De Vido, Secretary of Transportation Ricardo Jaime, and Secretary of Domestic Commerce Guillermo Moreno). I translate freely:
"This year, one million families with incomes in excess of AR$6,000 per month will receive a state subsidy of AR$750/month in the form of cheap power, domestic natural gas and fuel. This is the equivalent of five social plans [welfare payments] of AR$150/month, which are still received by little less than one million household heads under the extreme poverty line."The minimum wage has been recently raised to AR$1,200, from an earlier figure of AR$980 established in July 2007.
"We have already written about the sales boom of natural gas-powered heaters for swimming pools, of the rage in 1,000-watt searchlights for the gardens of the most exclusive closed neighbourhoods, or the growth of the market of high-end diesel cars. Since nothing is free in economics, these subsidized prices are paid by the state, which this year will give away nearly AR$20 billion to compensate energy companies."For comparison, the federal state collected taxes for about 17 billion in March and 24 billion in July, so this is like giving away a whole month of taxpayers' money. You could argue the subsidies go to the taxpayers, only they're not the same taxpayers. Most of those billions come from the IVA (our VAT), which is 21% over most goods and services (including food), so the poor pay a disproportionate amount of it, because everybody needs food, and most of what the poor buy is food. A smaller amount comes from a profit tax that leaves ample room for evasion, and that the government doesn't even try to collect. In fact, the government is about to exempt individuals with monthly wages over AR$3,300 (single) or AR$4,500 (married with children) from the profit tax, detracting from the total collection.
The government actually benefits from the "inflation tax". Every month it proudly exhibits huge and increasing tax collection figures, which is easy when your main source of revenue is tied to the prices of consumer goods. Coupled with INDEC's low inflation rates pulled from Guillermo Moreno's ass, it lets them believe or pretend that the country is growing fast, although that plainly happens only in nominal terms.
"From the total subsidies to the energy sector, the generous Argentine State will provide this year AR$9bn to subsidize the consumption of that higher-income social group. Incredibly, there are still well-off middle-class people who complain that the State "gives away" Jefes de Hogar welfare plans, which today are received by extremely poor households mostly headed by women. The 2008 budget for the Unemployed Heads of Household programme is only AR$1.8 billion."Yes, many in the middle class are really angry that the poor "don't work, don't pay taxes and get money from the government", while "decent hard-working citizens" have to struggle to go on vacations or change the car every few years. I've heard borderline middle-class citizens demand that the government "sends those lazy bums to work", disregarding the fact that most of them are single women with small children, or young men who have no qualifications at all. This is the state's fault, but taking away their welfare payments is not a viable remedy.
"So as to dispell all doubt regarding the magnitude of the redistribution exercised by [Julio De Vido's] Ministry of Federal Planning: the nine billion pesos devoted to subsidize the consumption of well-off citizens are well above this year's budget for the Ministry of Social Development (AR$7.6bn); they're on par with the annual budget of the Ministry of Education (AR$9.3bn); and they represent 2.5 times the budget of the Ministry of Health (AR$3.5bn)."This was just the first part of the article devoted to the "Musketeers of Redistribution", who (as you see) wield huge power over the lives and fortunes of Argentinians, and who are accountable only to the office of the President. If and when I have the time, I'll translate another part.