Headline of the Day: 'Cuba shuts factories, cuts energy to save economy'
Life in the Workers' Paradise of Cuba is a bit less than perfect these days. So is the absurd headline that begins an Associated Press story by writer Will Weissert:
Oh come on.
This isn't about "saving the economy." This is about saving the Cuban government on the backs of its long-suffering people, as will be seen shortly in Weissert's own text.
Readers will see grim humor in several of Weissert's other excerpted paragraphs, especially the last one:
.... More likely, the shortages result from a global recession that hit an already struggling economy still reeling from last year's hurricanes. President Raul Castro scolded Cubans in a national address Sunday to work harder because they have no one to blame but themselves.
"The only thing I know is that this is lousy," said one 27-year-old who only gave the name Raul because he sells cement and housing materials on the black market. "I don't work. I find a way to survive."
.... Cuba may be trying to save unused oil to bolster strategic reserves while prices are still relatively low, said Dan Erikson of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.
But he also said the strict measures lend credence to whispers that Cuba is selling Venezuelan oil overseas - something the communist government did with some of the discounted oil it got from the Soviet Union.
"It's been alleged they've been selling Venezuelan oil on the side. They've denied that, but if they are open to doing it, now would be the time," Erikson said. "Cuba's in a real cash crunch."
Beginning June 1, the government ordered energy conservation measures as part of a broader plan to cut the national budget by 6 percent. Central planners also announced Friday they were revising their economic growth projections downward, from 2.5 percent to 1.7 percent. As recently as December, they had projected 6 percent economic growth in Cuba.
These days, most countries would cheer any economic growth. But Cuba counts what it spends on free health care and education, monthly food rations and other social programs as production - making economic growth figures dubious.
Since Cubans have no income or resources to tax, the government in effect is taxing its citizens by cutting the services and products they can consume. Just lovely.
It is also worth asking whether the average Cuban thinks health care and education are "free," when they are "paying" for it by doing without defenses against the summer heat and eating less. P.J. O'Rourke's smart-aleck remark about statist medicine ("If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free") comes to mind. The other thought is that, using typical establishment media parlance, women, children, and the elderly must be among those who are most affected by the island nation's austere situation.
We also see from the Cuban example that there might be an ulterior motive in forcing state-run health care into the US. If costs spiral out of control upon enactment, as is expected, the value of services rendered will go up for a while, increasing the country's gross domestic product in what may perhaps be the only way remaining at that point to demonstrate any kind of meaningful economic growth.
As is said in the Guinness Beer commercials: "Brilliant!"
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.