American Winter, Brazilian Summer

HBO will show American Winter next week.  The film is directed by Emmy Award winners, Joe and Harry Gantz.  They follow people in Portland, Oregon and attempt to put a human face on the Great US Recession by using Portland, micro-brew, tony- and-specialty coffee Oregon as a template for the deep and lasting impact of the crisis on families and children.  So basically not Detroit or south Chicago.  The film reminds me of the Brazilian summer.  When it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern half of the world.  Metaphorically, Brazil continues to be boosted, and in some ways, rightly so.  However, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, not everything is as it appears, especially when related to Brazil.  Just as the view of the US from a distance is also distorted and even the picture portrayed in the new film is only a static representation.  Statistically, the US economy is entering year 4 of growth after the recession.  The trouble is growth has been weak, geographically specific and has only very slowly fed into growth in the labor market.  Unemployment (officially) is still 7.6 percent.

In Brazil, President Dilma has continued and expanded the social programs (Bolsa Familia, Minha Casa, Minha Vida) and the theme of her government has been no more misery in a rich country.  While progress has been made, anyone with first hand knowledge of Brazil knows that it has been uneven and that government films or portrayals of Brazil’s summer are certainly open to criticism.  Much remains to be done.  From my perspective, the major issue and challenge in 2013 is: How can Brazil maintain low unemployment with low growth?  Logic seems to dictate that low growth should lead to layoffs and higher unemployment.  So far, at least officially, and more important, anecdotally, sectors such as housing and infra-structure construction are having a hard time finding labor.  So just as in the US, things in Brazil are not simple.

The end of the recession four years ago did not give us the feeling of opportunity and improvement in the US.  The slowing of growth in Brazil has not yet affected employment there.

Surviving the recession has been a serious trial for many here.  Day-to-day life, finding a job, earning an adequate income, getting back and forth without having to deal with the potholes and the bandidos continues to be a challenge in Brazil.

Still, California is beautiful and I love Rio.

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