In his speech to the Argentine people today after being sworn in as President, neoliberal Libertarian Javier Milei delivered a speech best described as “shock and awe,” with an emphasis on “shock.” Not only did Milei not abandon his chainsaw rhetoric, but he promised a future of brutal austerity, suffering and pain, to which, he said, “there is no alternative.” Argentina has been in a state of decadence for 100 years, he said, and that cannot be undone in one day. Although he insisted that the state—not the private sector—would bear the brunt of these harsh policies, he later admitted that everyone would have to feel the pain, but they should understand that this will be for their own good. “The Argentine situation is critical, it’s in an emergency” and gradualism isn’t an option.
No one disputes that Argentina is in a terrible crisis for reasons this news service has frequently described, not the least of which is the ferocious financial warfare waged against the country by the IMF and affiliated Wall Street and London banks over the past several years. But Milei spent virtually the entirety of his speech, with statistics and percentages, blaming the current crisis entirely on “Kirchnerism”—referring to the outgoing government of Alberto Fernández, in which Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was Vice President, as well as to the 2003-2007 government of Nestor Kirchner and the two terms of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015). “No government has received a legacy worse than what we are receiving right now,” he said, warning that hyperinflation is looming, poverty growing, and “our lives have been ruined.”
Thus, he warned—at least four times—"there is no possible alternative to austerity, and there is no alternative to shock. Naturally, this will have a negative impact on the level of activity, employment, real wages, the number of poor and indigent. There will be inflation, it’s true, but this won’t be very different from what’s happened in these last 12 years.” From somewhere outside the universe, he explained that gradualism never worked “while all shock programs—except the 1959 one—were successful.”
In any known universe, attempting to impose this shock program in crisis-ridden Argentina is an act of insanity. Those who voted for Milei thinking he was offering positive change will quickly be disabused of their illusions and will start protesting, as utility rates begin to increase and transportation and other subsidies are eliminated. That’s why Milei has promised to use brute police force to squelch any social protest.
On Nov. 20 The Economist editorial had warned Milei to quickly build consensus for his economic agenda to prevent people “from taking to the streets” and was nervous about his ability to do that. Divisions are already evident within his new cabinet. Finance Minister Luis Caputo was scheduled to go before Congress first thing tomorrow morning to announce the new austerity measures, but that has now been canceled, and measures will be announced more gradually in the course of the next few weeks.