The increase in Bolsa Família must be the great battle of Jair Bolsonaro’s counteroffensive. Great and perhaps last, in the universe of rational measures, as it is known that the type may very well call for the explosion of a bomb in the country.
The confrontation has not been given due attention, as the “opinion makers” or “influencers” do not care much for the poor and perhaps because, in this case, the conversation involves a solution for court orders that does not drop the spending ceiling or mess it up too much. Just hearing the words “precatory” and “ceiling” makes ordinary people fall into the unique torpor of boredom. However, that decision should define the socio-economic and political environment in which Bolsonaro and his congressional cronies must make their next moves.
Bolsonaro’s prestige was shaped because he lost the support of the poorest, as is quite obvious in a country where poverty is made worse by inequality, such as Brazil. The biggest difference is that almost any other ruler, at least one with characteristics similar to that of average humanity, could have some other resource of persuasion and sympathy: hope, charity, a minimal attempt to rule.
The peak of Bolsonaro’s popularity was in December 2020, according to surveys by Datafolha. It had 37% of “great or good” and 32% of “bad or terrible”. Among the poorest, people from families with an income of two minimum wages or less, it was more or less the same: 37% approval, 27% disapproval. In this week’s Datafolha, 17% of the poor approved of the government; 52% disapproved. Among the “richest” (family income equal to or greater than ten minimum wages), it remained the same.
In December, the difference between approval and disapproval was 5 positive points in the total population and 10 positive points among the poorest; now it is negative 37 points overall and negative 50 points among the poorest.
Bolsonaro needs to deceive some of the poor in order to survive politically or electorally. Therefore, there is not much more than a Bolsa Família. Thus, it needs the support of Congress and the Supreme in order to pass a workaround in the precatoria: somehow, to stop paying this debt in order to have money left over for aid for the poor. If it doesn’t work, it will have to resort to an even more audacious legal workaround, such as approving an extraordinary credit in 2021 and, more aberrant, in 2022.
A Bolsa Família costs around R$35 billion per year, which brings about 14 million families with an average benefit of around R$190 per month. In order to make some significant changes to the program, reaching more people or also transferring more money, it needs at least R$30 billion.
Maybe even that doesn’t solve it. Perhaps a very poor person took outright disgust with Bolsonaro. On the other hand, it can get some popularity points because there will be more people employed or with some kind of income from work. If Bolsonaro stopped blowing up the economy, so much the better; but it is perverse, demented and incapable. Also because of this, it contributes to inflation don’t fall. It is possible that the effect of inflation on the poor who still have some income from work is so negative that the improvement in employment is not enough to make up for this disgrace.
In any case, less speculative, with a possible real effect, there is the increase in Bolsa Família. Even if it works, it is not the passport for Bolsonaro to rise in the polls to the point of turning the electoral game around. But it may well be a way to maintain political-parliamentary support to try other shots — and suffocate for good the “third way”.
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