NY Times Greets Feeble Free Market Moves in Cuba With Pitiful Obsession Over Income Inequality

February 26th, 2015 10:06 AM

The New York Times' left-wing obsession over "income inequality" reached a pathetic nadir in Wednesday's print edition, in Randal Archibold's report on the Communist country injecting some feeble moves toward free enterprise to prop up its rotting economy.

An online photo caption underlined the paper's liberal point: "As Cuba opens the door wider to private enterprise, the gap between the haves and have-nots -- and between whites and blacks -- is growing more evident." (That "haves and have-nots" phrase shows up distressingly often in the supposedly objective news pages of the Times, cropping up in Archibold's text as well.)

The preaching started in the ninth sentence of Archibold's Wednesday story, "As Cuba Opens Door to Private Enterprise, Inequality Rushes In – Income Gaps Become More Visible":

As Cuba opens the door wider to private enterprise, the gap between the haves and have-nots, and between whites and blacks, that the revolution sought to diminish is growing more evident.

That divide is expected to increase now that the United States is raising the amount of money that Americans can send to residents of the island to $8,000 a year from $2,000, as part of President Obama’s historic thaw with Cuba.

Remittances, estimated at $1 billion to nearly $3 billion a year, are already a big source of the capital behind the new small businesses. The cash infusion has been one of the top drivers of the Cuban economy in recent years, rivaling tourism revenue and mineral, pharmaceutical and sugar exports.

Raising the remittance cap, along with allowing more Americans to visit Cuba and other steps toward normal diplomatic relations, will help “support the Cuban people,” the Obama administration contends.

But some will enjoy that support more than others. Cuban economists say that whites are 2.5 times more likely than blacks to receive remittances, leaving many in crumbling neighborhoods like Little Swamp nearly invisible in the rise of commerce, especially the restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts that tourists tend to favor.

“Remittances have produced new forms of inequality, particularly racial inequality,” said Alejandro de la Fuente, director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University. “Now the remittances are being used to fund or establish private companies, that is, not just to fund consumption, as in the past.”

Archibold found plenty of professors to make the shallow link between more economic freedom and the rise in "inequality," and defense of a "welfare state" that kept the vast majority of the country dirt poor for 50 years.

But many poorer Cubans are frustrated by what they see as the deteriorating welfare state and the advantage that Cubans with access to cash from outside the country have in the new economy.

“As Cuba is becoming more capitalist in the last 20 years, it has also become more unequal,” said Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College who studies the Cuban economy. “These shantytowns are all over Latin America, and Cuba’s attempt with revolution to solve that inequality succeeded to a certain degree for a time. But as capitalism increases, you have some people more well positioned to take advantage and others who are not.”

It's not a liberal-media Cuba story without mention of the "free" education and health care (just don't mention the lack of free speech, private property, or freedom of travel).

Many residents mention the free education and health care the government has provided but lament that both seemed better in years past, with shorter lines for care and better teachers. The few poor residents who do receive remittances are known to pay private tutors to ensure that their children advance to upper grades, several people in the neighborhood said.

A front-page story from Havana by Damien Cave last December also bemoaned "nascent inequality," in which (the horror) "property can be bought and sold."

And yet the new Cuba that Raúl is fashioning from the old is a far cry from Fidel’s youthful revolution. Today’s Cuba seems less concerned with ideals than dollars. It is a hatchery of private enterprise and nascent inequality, where property can be bought and sold, along with cars and filet mignon. It is a proud country, tired of struggling, where the poor can see the rich rising along the way to Raúl’s stated goals: economic growth and stability.

Matt Welch at Reason magazine was penetrating in response to Archibald's silliness (h/t Matthew Balan):

There are two main points, absent from this article, to be made about Castro-era inequality (that is, the inequality that existed long before this year, or this decade). One is that while, yes, the earnings gap within the majority of the population is smaller than that in most capitalist countries, THAT'S BECAUSE ALMOST EVERYONE IS POOR. Why, some might even say that those two facts are related!...There is no equivalent inequality in the democratic west than the inequality between a dictatorship's nomenklatura and its captive citizens....The ones that are more equal can travel abroad, shop at stores with actual goods using salaries of actual money, and live mostly free from fear of the omnipresent Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. The less equal can have their entire families barred -- not by lack of income, but through direct government order -- from good schools and good jobs.