Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bien venidos a Venezuela

In the 1980's and early 1990's I worked in the finance department of an international heavy equipment manufacturer. One of our larger accounts was in Venezuela. I traveled there and found the country and people to be not that different from home. There was a healthy middle class, an entrepreneurial class, and all the rest. Over the years, I've watched as Hugo Chavez has gained and consolidated power, and observed warily the nationalization of the petroleum, cement, and steel industries. I've thought: "How sad for the people that I used to work with."

Amigos mios, bien venidos a Venezuela.

This morning, I read an article in the Washington Post titled: "President of Everything." I expected it to be a criticism of the power grab by President Obama's administration. The article even begins: "This is a presidency on steroids." This is something that you would have expected critics of the Bush administration to utter. But, no, opinionist Eugene Robinson thinks that a presidency on steriods is now a GOOD thing.

Here's some more from the article: "Now it's time for the administration to get to work. For his next act, Obama must set the parameters of a new presidential role that he did not seek but cannot avoid: managing the big chunks of the private-sector economy that are now more accurately described as semi-private at best. "

My heart sank as I read this paragraph, and it made me think of my old friends in Venezuela. You see, it's unavoidable (and not a bad thing in the view of this columnist) that big chunks of the American private-sector economy are now nationalized. Just like in Venezuela.

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