Another democratic principle at risk in Brazil is free speech. Mr. Biden may have to avoid that topic too. During the presidential campaign last year Mr. da Silva benefited from an electoral tribunal that censored his critics. His new government will use speech police to shut down what it judges to be fake news and misinformation. This is an obvious violation of civil liberties and no way to run a democracy. But it’s also an idea that Mr. Biden tried last year and had to withdraw when it was widely mocked by Americans as a ministry of truth.
Mr. da Silva won election on a promise to make poor Brazilians better off. But if he cares about making a dent in poverty, he has to care about growth, which he won’t get if he automatically reverses the constructive policies that worked for his predecessor. Mr. Bolsonaro had a recovery going earlier than other developing countries thanks to some deregulation and a partial pension reform that reduced fiscal pressure. Turning those gains back merely for revenge or to show his ideological chops would be a slap in the face of Brazilians. Yet he’s already signaling that reckless spending and an end to privatization will be at the heart of his economic agenda.
Investors are important to Brazil, whether foreign or domestic. But they’re not likely to bet on a country that is making utopian socialism its highest priority. Mr. Biden also might have trouble making that case to Lula.
For exactly that reason, the great civil rights leader Bayard Rustin — the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and a close adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr. — rejected calls for reparations as “ridiculous.” He regarded Forman’s demand for $500 million as demeaning. “If my great-grandfather picked cotton for 50 years, then he may deserve some money,” Rustin said, “but he’s dead and gone and nobody owes me anything.”
To date the War on Poverty has spent $25 trillion (not including Medicare), and whether those outlays ultimately helped or hurt Black Americans has been widely debated. But there is no disputing that they were intended, to a significant degree, to redress the harms caused by the racist policies of the past — to give Black people “the same chance as every other American,” as LBJ put it. That’s even truer of affirmative action in all its varieties — the decades of racial preferences by federal, state, and local governments, the minority set-asides, the de facto racial quotas in hiring and contracting.
In short, there has been for years in America a considerable, well-funded attempt to make amends for the legacy of slavery and segregation. Those today who wish to argue that an outstanding debt is owed to Black America have an obligation to account for all that has been done, in good faith and at great expense, to pay down that debt.
When all is said and done, the reparations movement is grounded in a belief in collective racial entitlement and collective racial guilt. No belief could be more repugnant to America’s ideals — however imperfectly realized — of tolerance, individual equality, and the right of each of us to be judged on our own merits, not by our bloodline or skin color or ancestry. Perhaps reparations promoters mean no harm. What they are seeking would prove harmful indeed.
The instant that a person or an institution becomes closely identified with one political “tribe,” members of that tribe become reflexively protective and are inclined to write off scandals as “isolated” or the work of “a few bad apples.”
Conversely, the instant an institution is perceived as part of an opposing political tribe, the opposite instinct kicks in: We’re far more likely to see each individual scandal as evidence of systemic malice or corruption, further proof that the other side is just as bad as we already believed.
Extreme anti-vaxxers are pushing an equally simplistic view. They effectively claim that excess deaths equal vaccine deaths. If that were true, then why does Sweden, which has a high Covid vaccination rate, have so little excess mortality? And why haven’t there been big death spikes in the heavily vaccinated 15-44 demographic? Vaccines have provided useful protection for those most at risk. They broke the link between infections and deaths in 2021. Even with the Omicron wave in 2022, the over-80s of South Korea and Singapore – extensively vaccinated with mRNA products – recorded proportionately fewer deaths than the over-80s of Hong Kong, who were often unvaccinated or vaccinated with inferior Chinese products.
The bulk of the evidence points to lockdowns as the main cause of excess mortality. After all, lockdowns disrupted healthcare in myriad ways from which it has yet to recover. During the pandemic, the National Health Service was transformed into the National Covid Service. Routine activity was cancelled. Patients avoided seeking out healthcare, despite their symptoms. Either they feared catching Covid in hospital, they didn’t want to be a nuisance or they were frightened to leave the house thanks to the orders to ‘stay at home’.
Authorities no doubt worry that alerting the public to potential safety risks could discourage vaccination, but their lack of transparency and dismissal of critics fuels the distrust in vaccines. Information about potential side effects is inevitably emerging in viral videos and Twitter threads. It would be better for Americans to hear it from their government.