The Elderly Issue

Brazilian people are paying a bigger percentage of their income in taxes than many countries of the EU. It is calculated that a Brazilian must work an average of 148 days a year just to pay taxes. It doesn`t sound very fair if we compare Brazil with the social reality of the countries that collect as much taxes from its citizens. In fact it isn`t. There are series of problems to be solved in the country, and to do so, politicians would raise taxes rather than change the tributary system which is draining our money. One of the main issues to be solved is the elderly.

Brazil is still a young country, a little less than 10% of the population is over 65 years old. If we compare it to the UK, Germany or Spain, which pay about the same percentage in taxes (an average of about 36% of the population income), we know where a great part of these taxes are going, since a much bigger slice of their population at a retirement age. In Brazil, though, there is a deficit of 44,5 billion Reais just in retirement money. Last year, the government had to destine 90 billion Reais to retirement. Does it sound fair? Well, it would if 47 billion of this amount wasn`t just for the public service retired, which respond for only 1 million people, while the private sector retired, which are 27 million people, generated a deficit of 42,9 billion. That means the public sector`s benefits are 32 times bigger than the private sector.

So if you work for the government you might get paid an average of 5.600 Reais a month in your retirement. If you don’t, well, then you will have to be satisfied with a monthly average of 722 reais. In order to hide the monstrous contrast, the government stopped publishing the public sector worker`s data every month. This information only comes out annually, now, when the government send the congress the following year`s budget.

The problem will only increase the next few years, since the elderly percentage is expected to grow to 40% of the population until 2030. That means less active workers, less taxes, bigger deficit. A huge change must occur in order to keep the situation under control. If the government doesn`t start choosing wisely how to use our money, it might cause a social crisis very soon. The new president elected, Dilma Roussef, denied the necessity of a change on the tributary system and believes the deficit in the economy can be solved by the economy growth. Could it be that simple? That`s what Brazilian population is about to find out.

Credit Card


I was already pissed off when I answered the phone. I finally had some time to take an afternoon nap before I went back to work, but the phone had to ring right when I closed my eyes.

–          Hello.

–          Hello, can I talk to Susan Barbosa, please?

–          Speaking.

–          Hi, Senhora Susan, my name is Cesar. I must tell you that, for your own security, this call is going to be recorded. Is that ok, Senhora Susan?

–          Yeah.

–           I`m calling in name of Itaú bank, to let you know that we are going to be sending you a brand new credit card and it is going to be arriving at your home in 15 days. Is that ok, Senhora Susan?

I didn`t know if I should be angry by the “Senhora Susan” – which in Portuguese sounds like he`s talking to an old lady, – by the frequent “going to”, by the fact he made me get up for that, by the fact he talked to me as if I had difficulty understanding him (like an old lady) or by the annoying argument I knew I was about to have with poor Cesar. But it is not his fault, really, so I continued.

–          So the card is going to get here and I`ll have to pay its fee.

–          No, Senhora Susan, we are sending it for free.

–          But there are fees every month, right? As any credit card.

–          That`s right, Senhora Susan, it`s only 4,50 a month.

–          Well, I don`t want it.

–          It`s all right, Senhora Susan. We are going to be sending the card, that is going to be arriving in 15 days, and if you choose not to use it, you don`t have to. For the card to work, you need to call us and unblock it. If you don`t do that, we won`t charge you.

–          Don`t I have to cancel it? I heard of many cases like that, you send the card and the person just ignores it or throw it away, and then by the end of the month the bill arrives.

–          That is not going to happen, Senhora Susan, if you don`t unblock the card, there is no charge.

–          So I don`t have to call and cancel, do I?

–          No, senhora Susan, you don`t.

–          Are you sure about that? What`s your name again?

–          It`s Cesar.

–          Are you sure about that, Cesar? Isn`t this call being recorded?

–          Yes, Senhora, I am sure. And yes, the call is being recorded.

–          So you guarantee there won`t be any charges, no headaches over canceling cards I didn`t ask for…

–          Don`t worry, Senhora Susan.

–          Ok.

After all that talk about cards, I thought our conversation was over. He was just a messenger after all, he needed to communicate the card was being sent and that was actually nice. But I was wrong.

–          Ok, Senhora Susan. Can I confirm your home address, please?

–          What?

–          I need to confirm your home address to send you the credit card.

He was a seller after all.

–          So you haven`t sent it yet? How do you even have my address? I don`t have an account in this bank and I never requested a credit card.

He wouldn`t give up now, he was halfway through.

–          Senhora Susan, do you still live on Tonelorio street?

I was so relieved, he got my address wrong. I actually lived on Toneleiros, but I would never let him know that.

–          No, that`s not where I live. And why would you send me a card if I just told you I won`t use it?

–          It`s just a trial, Senhora Susan, have I mentioned the advantages of this card? Do you know about the miles program?

–          Yes, I do! It`s the same with every freaking credit card of any freaking bank! I`m not stupid, Cesar, I know how a credit card works! I know the advantages, and I also know the disadvantages! And based on my knowledge I refuse your offer. Is that ok, Senhor Cesar?

–          But, Senh…

–          Don`t send me the card! This call is being recorded! I hope you don`t send anything against my will, Cesar, that could cost you your job!

–          No, Senhora Susan, listen, if you would just give me a chance…

–          I don`t want any credit card, I`m happy with mine, are we clear?

–          Yes.

–          Thank you, have a nice day.


There was no one home when Melissa got there around six. She was glad, this way no one would see her red eyes and ask why she had been crying. She was tired of being treated as a kid while everyone around her looked way more childish. The sixteen-year-old had spent all the way home wondering why all those things were happening to her, trying to find a solution for all of those problems, trying to find someone to blame. But there was no conclusion. She needed a distraction, so she opened her closet, packed with all sort of things not only hers but her brother and sister`s, and started to look for a book. She pulled the box she kept the old books she liked and something fell right by her feet: a bag of balloons.

George was always off at 6, he hated it. It was the worst time to be headed home, when the traffic at least doubles the time of his journey. In rainy days that time would double once more. He wasn`t feeling lucky anyway on that day, but he cursed the heavens when the rain started and he got stuck on Paulista Avenue. He tried to turn on the radio but then remembered it wasn`t there, he had been robbed on the weekend. He couldn`t help but go through all of his problems. His life didn`t seem to be as meaningful as it had seemed before, his family didn`t seem to be a dream that came true but the root of his problems. Even the thought of his wife, that he loved for 6 years of marriage, didn`t seem to quite please him. He wanted to run away from all that but he knew he couldn`t, he had responsibilities. He hated the responsibilities he got for himself.

It was just a bag of colorful balloons, but it inspired Melissa in such a way that she couldn`t let it pass. She opened the bag and started blowing the balloons. There were pink, blue, white, yellow, green and orange ones, they looked so pretty together, so cheerful. She simply kept blowing them until the bag was empty, the apartment completely filled with them and her lips dry and pale. She looked around and enjoyed the sight of all those colorful things spread all over the floor. But she wasn`t quite satisfied. She got a black marker and started to draw a smiley face on one of them.  She was about to start drawing a heart on the next one when her mom arrived, looking a little confused with all that mess.

When George finally got home, as ironic as it could be, the rain stopped. His wife was having trouble with the three-year-old and trying to feed the baby. The older kid was yelling, complaining of something he wanted. The baby was crying and spiting the food off. George didn`t even get the chance to say hi, for his wife was demanding for help, telling him tons of things to do and asking if he had brought any milk. He had forgotten about the milk. It didn`t take long for the arguing to start and soon both adults were yelling and both kids were crying. George couldn`t stand that anymore, leaving the kids to his wife, he went out to the front porch to get some fresh air.

Melissa said hi to her mom but got back to what she was doing. It took her a few seconds to notice how her mom was just standing there, looking at her with a surprised expression, without even letting go of her shoulder bag. Melissa reached another marker and offered her. They were now both doing all sorts of cute drawings on the balloons, writing some kind words and even some funny ones too. They were laughing and having such a great time, it seemed right to spread that to other people. They took the balloons out on the balcony and started letting them go with the wind, from the 15th floor of the building. It took them a while to go back inside; they watched the balloons flying away until the last one of them was out of sight.

Even though he was trying to quit, George lit a cigarette. He had been wandering in front of the house for a few minutes when he saw, coming from a high level of a near building, a bunch of balloons flouting and dancing in the air. It was a pretty sight, he thought. There were pink, blue, white, yellow, green and orange balloons flying over that middle class district. He watched as some of them came to his direction. George tossed his cigarette in time to grab an orange balloon with a smiley carrot drawn on it. He laughed at the nonsense. But something on that senseless orange balloon brought him up. He got back inside with it, his wife had almost completely calmed the baby down, but his son was still wining. As soon as he saw the balloon on his father`s hand, the kid completely forgot what he was wining about and went out to the yard to play with it. The house was suddenly back to normal. George kissed his wife and went to the kitchen to help her get dinner ready.


If you like big cities, São Paulo is a great place to live. Loads of things to do, awesome nightlife, expositions, parties, crazy people everywhere and art is all over the city. But as one of the biggest cities in the world, Sao Paulo has its problems too. One of them, that is probably among the most serious ones, is the crime. Although crime could happen anywhere, in a huge city with millions of people living together, it tends to happen more often. Robbery is no exception. Last time I read news about it, they announced that something around 80.000 cases of robbery, of all kinds, happen per semester in the city. Statistically thinking, if you are part of the 18 million “paulistanos” who spent most part of their lives in the city, you`re more likely to be killed by lightning than die without ever being robbed. So if you are not part of that statistic yet, you should be worried!
That`s how I used to feel every time someone got robbed, worried. If you ever get robbed in Sao Paulo and tell anyone about it, you will notice how the group of people around you will raise, as they each tell their own exciting robbery stories. It felt strange every time they looked at me expecting a story and I simply had nothing to tell. I was the lucky one. But everyone knew, and I knew it well myself, that sooner or later I`d either get robbed or struck by lightning. All I had left was the expectation: when is it going to happen?
When the time came I was well prepared. It was 3 in the afternoon, the sun was shining. I was on my way to work, pretty distracted, and didn`t realize how deserted that street was. I felt someone walking past me, so I looked only in time to hear him say: “I just want your wallet and your cell-phone”. At this point you feel like someone just punched your stomach, but I remained calm. I noticed the second man behind me and evaluated my chances. The street was completely empty. For some reason not even cars were passing by. So I decided there was no point on running or screaming. I always planned what I would do if I saw myself in that situation, but I never actually thought I would put it in practice. I realized then, that plan B was on. I would have a lot of trouble substituting all the documents and cards I had in my wallet, so I announced to have medicine in my wallet, and asked if I could give them just the money. The guy in front of me seemed to hesitate as I calmly negotiated with my robbers. The other one behind me simply said: “Yeah, let her keep the medicine, we`ll take the money”. The other one agreed, as I took 12 bucks out of my wallet. “That`s all I have”, I said, while one of them tried to reach for my phone in my purse. “Ok”, one of them said, “here, keep two”, and he handed me 2 Reais back. I didn`t know what to say, so I said “thank you”, realizing the other one had not only found my phone, but also my Ipod. They disappeared behind some trees, telling me to keep walking.
After stopping at a cafeteria to call the mobile company to block my stolen phone, I got to work with that “I can`t believe it finally happened” expression on my face and told my story to my co-workers. Someone bought me a pastry and a soda, and we were soon telling each other our stories. It almost felt like a celebration, I had finally become statistically normal.