A chance to bash Mr Bush

May 6, 2008

Fed by a sensation-hungry media, India’s politicians got another chance to flex their nationalist muscles and bash the United States over the weekend.

U.S. President George W. Bush waves as he walks across the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, April 25, 2008. REUTERS/Jim YoungThe object of their ire was none other than George W. Bush, who was reported as having blamed India for rising global food prices.

“A cruel joke,” said Defence Minister A.K. Antony. The United States appeared to believe “the rest of the world should starve”, the CPM was reported as having said.

A more detailed look at Bush’s remarks suggest this might be overstating things a touch.
The first thing he said was this: “There turns out to be prosperity in the developing world, which is good….. the more prosperous the world is, the more opportunity there is”.

It also, however, increases demand. So, for example, just as an interesting thought for you, there are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That’s bigger than America.

“Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food. And so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.”

Bush also said that higher energy prices were pushing up costs to farmers, rather than American efforts to promote renewable fuels like ethanol.

And, less controversially, that changing weather patterns, and drought in particular, have pushed up food prices.”

“No question that ethanol has had a part of it,” he concluded, “but I simply do not subscribe to the notion that it is the main cost-driver for your food going up.”

I am not qualified to tell you whether Bush was right or wrong on the question of ethanol. But I did not see any suggestion that the rest of the world should starve. Indeed Bush also talked about the need to eliminate food scarcity worldwide and support farmers in Africa by buying their produce.

What does stand out like a sore thumb from his remarks is his estimate of the size of India’s middle class. At 350 million, that is way above most people’s numbers.

Consider this: Only 30 million people in India paid income tax in 2002, and only 27 million were formally employed that year, the last in which data is available.

The National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) estimated there were 56 million people in households earning $4,400 to $21,800 a year, which it defines as middle class.

So where did Mr Bush get his extra 300 million or so middle-class Indians from?

Perhaps from the NCAER’s 220 million “aspiring Indians”, living in households earning between $2,000 and $4,400 a year, who can afford a motorbike, a refrigerator and a television.

Together that makes a “consuming class” almost as large as the population of the United States.

What Mr Bush did not mention is that these Indians consume far, far less food and fuel than middle-class Americans.

It is arguable that a little more attention to the numbers and a little more tact might have avoided this particular controversy. But then, what would the TV channels have had to fill their weekend airtime?

That brings me to another thought. Are India’s politicians, and to extent middle-aged editors, out of step with ordinary people when they rush to bash the States?

Polls show the United States and Bush are more popular in India than in most other countries.
It might be convenient to have headlines about Bush’s supposed gaffe than face the reality of rising inflation and the need to boost Indian agriculture.

What do you think? Were the politicians wrong to bash Bush or should he be careful about what he says and the way he says it?

9 comments

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This guy is so stupid. No one can take him seriously.

I totally agree with Mr.Bush. He’s a nice guy.
what can I say abt communists who kill their own ppl for land.
Let us not forget a similiar statement was made by Mr. Praful Patel, a cabinet minister of UPA govt. abt changing south-indian food habit.

There was no furore.
First, our politicians cannot decide what is good for ur country. Communists have decided to sell our country to China.

Indian inflation is governed by:
1)Indian middle class have money. So, they want better nutrition. Food is an elementary demand and u can’t control it by tweaking interest rates and levying heavy taxes.
2)they levy abt 10 to 32 kind of taxes on finishing mills of wheat and rice.
3)they levy heavy taxes on fuel which is required for transportation of food to cities.Fuel prices are rising globally.
4)pathetic road conditions which increases the time to deliver and causes gap b/w supply and demand.

solution:
1) reduce taxes on fuel and food products.
2) increase production by providing grains from FCI to poor farmers of India. (stop corruption in FCI and food inflation will come down)
3)stop blaming others!

Posted by Babu Priyavrat | Report as abusive

Last I heard, our population was 360 million, not less than 350 million. But that’s minor. I’m shocked that George Bush has a problem with people from other countries eating. It’s okay to plant corn to feed our cars, but not okay for people around the world to eat? Wow! Talk about messed up. He’s a spoiled child running a spoiled nation and he does not represent the working class of America, so who does he represent? Apparently, just the spoiled rich class. Someone compared him to Reagan. Reagan represented all of the people all around the world. No comparison. Bush, like HRC, needs to learn how to communicate. Are you with me or against me? Bush is against me and everyone else apparently.

Well, I am not sure Mr Simon as to what you are trying to say about Uncle Sam’s expert comments.
Your argument about the “sensation-hungry” media is a cheap gimmick to take US sides. Our media is very much sensible to interpret exactly the dumb words of “Mr. Bush” who has got the presidency in inheritance. We are very much aware of Bush’s economics and geographical and common sense scores!
Bush has no idea about any figures! He boasts about not having built a single oil refinery. Have been indebted to China for all needs, and now big mouths about the oil price rise. Who is Mr. Bush?!?

-Representing Sensible Indians

Posted by KB | Report as abusive

What an “Idiot” American elected as a President. The man is absolute jerk!!

India produces enough of its own crop and meat to feed its population. Since when it became responsibilty of India to feed US? The Americans waste two thirds of the food and expect poor countires to feed them and give less food to thier own so rich can have enough of food.

I wish US elects another self-centered president as Hillary so that the proud can be humbled. US does not need great leaders like Obama.

Bush go and take care of your home before pointing the fingers to other nations.

Posted by mithu | Report as abusive

Not to mention 60% of Indian population is vegetarian , which means more meat for Americans! Grow up and look at facts. There is starvation and extreme poverty in India and to blame them for food price hike is really cruel.Its this insensitivity that bothers other countries.

Posted by NG | Report as abusive

Time to add some more knowledge!
First INDIA does not import food grain goods from other countries, we (indians) have always known as an exporters.
Second thing is.. if we demand nutritional food whats harm in it? Is it a crime? We are consuming our own resources so why America is so worried about it? Its not alone America’s right to consume nutritional food, its our right as well.

whoa! hang on people, before you verbally slaughter the poor fellow. he’s really a lovable old chap, more like the village bumpkin, who no one takes seriously, not even himself, but is quite necessary to keep things humorous. am certain he didn’t mean it the way it came out – nothing he says ever does – besides, he’ll say anything to sound matter-of-fact in a desperate hurry to get off the podium and away from the questions that make him squirm. he loves india for sure and don’t forget he’s a lame duck who’s not taken anymore seriously than leno or colbert or stewart. everyone knows the numbers are wrong and that is not the real reason for rising food prices so why sweat in mock nationalistic fervor?! let’s focus that fervor on getting the sky high inflation and commodity prices down so more of our people can have one good meal a day!

Posted by Anil | Report as abusive

Indeed Mr Bush represents selfcentered policies of US.
Mr Simon tried to cover the hidden intention behind Bush’s comment. But Mr Simon please remeber that there are no fools out here.
From 1990 to 2005, world grain consumption, driven largely by population.
Then came the explosion in demand for grain used in U.S. ethanol distilleries, which jumped from 54 million tons in 2006 to 81 million tons in 2007.This 27 million ton jump more than doubled the annual growth in world demand for grain.
The use of ethanol is promoted by the policies of Bush govt. which gives subsidy equivalent to equal to $1.43 per bushel of corn. (which inturn paid back in the terms of high food prices by ordinary american public)
Thus it is US which dragging the whole world into food inflation for fueling their luxury cars.
We the people of the world requesting Mr Bush to revisit his boi-fuel policies & save the humanity.

Posted by Prashant | Report as abusive