Friday, June 3, 2011

Cordero's Gaffe

Ernesto Cordero is taking a fair amount of flak for his assertion that Mexico is not a poor country. This is a bit unfair; by all of the accepted international standards, Mexico is not poor! It is a middle-income nation. It's poorer than the US, but with a GDP per capita of more than $10,000, it's wealthier than the majority of Latin American nations. And as Leo Zuckermann points out, the majority of the country is classified middle-class. (Though I hasten to add that middle class in Mexico is a different ballgame from what we see as middle class in the US.) So why pretend that it is poor? And why slam someone who merely points out accepted economic fact? Not to minimize the plight of the poor or to overlook the policies that have caused horrible inequality (which Cordero did not do either), but that's anti-reason right there.

At the same time, Cordero is probably not the best messenger for anything that smacks of economic optimism, thanks to his much-derided claim that one can live like a champ on 6,000 pesos a month. Also, from the standpoint of naked self-interest, I imagine Cordero wants to build his presidential candidacy around the middle class, but he doesn't want to simultaneously embrace the role of the candidate who ignores the poor. Though it turned out to be ill-fitting, Calderón's self-label as the candidate of jobs has a broader appeal.

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