Opinion, by Antonio Brassil

RIO DE JANEIO, BRAZIL – A most clever VEJA magazine cover recently showcased Brazil’s richest man, tycoon Eike Batista, dressed in Chinese Communist garb, proclaiming, “Enrequecer e glorioso!”, (To become rich is glorious!), a quote attributed to Former Chinese Communist Premier Deng Xiaoping at the start of China’s quasi-capitalistic “Great Leap Forward”.

The corresponding article highlights – in the most positive light – the ascendency of Brazil’s new capitalist class, featuring pictures of various millionaires at their businesses, on their yachts, and lounging in the lap of luxury.

No one person more exuberantly struts his substantial wealth than the King of Rio himself. Eike sits with his German Shepherd in a lavish Louis 15th chair, surround by gold trimmed works of art and most prominently, a Mercedes Benz and Lamborghini in his home’s extravagant entrance. Eike waxes eloquently about the success of his new book, his companies, and his polished image, all of which seem to be strong buys at the moment. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is that this man’s image is so positive in a nation with one of the worst distributions of wealth on the planet. Brazil – don’t you know – ranks well behind Zambia, Nicaragua, and even the Congo.

Eike proudly displays his affluence and expounds his appraisal for the benefits and blessings of the profit motive. And he does so with an understanding of Brazilian cultural fanfare. Brazilians would like to be Eike. He simply says, “I work twenty hours a day, create wealth and give back to society through taxes, jobs, and donations. Why should I hide [my wealth]?” For better or for worse he fancies himself as a stellar example to the Brazilian nouveau riche as well as to the poor, encouraging them to work their way out of poverty.

In stark contrast VEJA features an article in the same issue about Republican presidential candidate Willard “Mitt” Romney and his difficulties in connecting to U.S. voters. Despite being a constant front-runner {at least in the mind of the media}, Mitt Romney has failed to spark a passionate following. Why? More than anything he simply can’t seem to connect on a gut level with everyday people because he’s a really, really rich guy, who doesn’t strut like Eike, but missteps, waffles, hems & haws and sometimes trips.

On a debate stage he’ll wager a US$10,000 bet to a Republican challenger, not understanding that such a blatant display of wealth in a critical, widely televised debate demeans the typical American “John Q. Public” voter. Even worse, Romney miscalculates when he states that his annual income from speaking fees was only $375,000”. Ooops! Then, the former Massachusetts governor even states that there were times when he was afraid for his job and is massacred in the media for what is at best a quarter-truth from a near billionaire.

Meanwhile, the American left has also been no safe haven from attacks by people angry at the abundance of the rich. For instance, Michelle Obama recently has been portrayed by the political right as a modern day Marie Antoinette, hosting Hollywood stars at the White House and eating at lavish restaurants on a regular basis, while the American poor are told to eat cake.

Mitt Romney, the Obamas, and the “one percenters” at the top of the American tax bracket have been vilified, while the cover boy for Brazilian billionaires, Senhor Eike, enjoys an elevated, envied, and even admired status. He flaunts his position and the average Brazilian does not begrudge him, they venerate him. In contrast American billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett remain notoriously low-key and non-ostentatious.

The difference between the Brazilian love for Eike and the American scorn for Romney and others is twofold. First, there is the obvious fact of difference in authenticity. Romney and the American rich have taken an approach that is almost apologetic to their wealth while Eike and the Brazilian upper crust make no apologies and proudly parade their success.

Second, the United States is struggling to rediscover its soul for innovation, entrepreneurship, and being at peace with its affluent class. Perhaps looking south to Eike and Brazilians might serve US citizens and consumers in reconciling its longstanding economic success with the changing patterns of global wealth distribution.

If you are rich, own it, share it, and what the heck, flaunt it. When Eike comments that he will undoubtedly earn his status as the richest man on earth by 2016, Brazilians will smile; they will see jobs, prosperity, and opportunity and pursue the dream to one day park three luxury cars on their very own estates.


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Antonio Brassil is a Brazilian-American that travels throughout Brazil’s largest cities as Director of South American operations for an International Fiber-Optics company. He lived in Rio de Janeiro for years as a missionary and English teacher. He authored an Honors Thesis on the ascendency of Brazil and the BRIC nations at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

3 COMMENTS

  1. The main difference between Mitt and Eike is that Eike made his billions in industries like mining, manufacturing, logistics and most recently oil and gas, whereas Mitt made his billions in the financial markets, equity capital and such. Most people regard industry as productive and finance as non-productive. So, Mitt’s wealth is suspect, whereas Eike’s is laudable, because he’s created jobs and money, just like he says.

  2. Mr. Brassil, I agree a lot with what you are saying. I think Americans need to realize that the problem isn’t that the rich aren’t taxed enough, it’s that the poor don’t work enough. I’m not talking about number of hours, a lot put in a lot of hours. Those with money have worked hard to obtain that money (other than trust fund kids whose parents worked hard). Those seeking entitlements need to go get a job or an education that will help them get a better job or make a job, and do something to make their own wealth. Then they will be entitled to do nothing. Humans have the right to life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.

  3. Yes, brilliant article! I think it’s better for a rich man to create jobs for others to work at rather than to just send the money out randomly, like teaching a man to fish rather than giving him the fish, way to go Mr. Eike for giving some of your wealth to help others create their own!

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