March 5, 2013 9:09AM

Buying Votes with Taxpayers’ Money — in India

When it comes to India, Washington Post reporter Rama Lakshmi seems to have no trouble recognizing that government benefits just might attract votes:

Trying to rekindle the fire of India’s economy, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram promised Thursday to rein in a runaway deficit even as he raised spending on welfare schemes that the government hopes will woo voters in elections scheduled for next year.…

“The finance minister faced two counter‐​veiling pressures: to present a populist, voter‐​friendly budget and also control the huge fiscal deficit,” said Vir Sanghvi, a political analyst. “What he presented was a ‘this‐​is‐​the‐​best‐​we‐​can‐​manage‐​under‐​the‐​circumstances’ kind of a budget. . . . He is hoping that the economy will improve and prices will come down by the time of the election. That is a big political gamble.”

Chidambaram promised to increase spending on rural welfare schemes, rural roads and jobs, food guarantees for the poor, women’s safety programs, tax breaks on loans for first‐​time home buyers and a women’s bank.

Is it really impossible to suspect that similar programs might have similar effects in the United States?